The 5-0 vote by city council came at nearly midnight after 63 speakers, pro and con.
“I think we’re making the right choice today. Time will tell,” Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers said after council approved a long-term lease for $1 a year.
That gives Brightline approval to build a Boca train station and 455-car parking garage on city land at the Downtown Library site.
Brightline president Patrick Goddard was predictably pleased after he and his team sat through a nearly six-hour final public hearing Tuesday.
“We think it’s a great destination, in addition to being an origin station…. That connectivity will be a game changer for this market,” he said at a planned press conference after the vote.
What happens next?
The company, renamed Virgin Trains USA in January, now has to start from scratch with approvals and permits. They will have to submit a site plan with designs for the station and garage. The 1.8-acre site is on the tracks near Palmetto Park Road and Dixie Highway.
The lease gives them a start date of no later than 2021 and completion by 2023. But Goddard said they hope to be up and running in a year. After construction begins, he predicted a nine-month build.
The revised garage budget has the city paying $11.4 million to design and build.
But Mayor Scott Singer made it clear the paid parking garage will be open to the public. It’s not just for train users and free for library patrons, he said.
“Brightline will be responsible for all the operating expenses of the garage and the parties will split the profits,” according to a city statement.
The business community came out in force to speak in favor of the project. So did the Junior League, approving the move to Meadows Park for their displaced community garden. Brightline will pay for the relocation not to exceed $300,000, a lease assurance.
Resident pushback centered around using taxpayer funds for a private firm, public safety and Brightline’s financial viability. But when push came to shove, “we have to look at the greater good,” Singer said. “We pushed for a better deal. If they’re not successful, we have default protections.”
By Marci Shatzman