The Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board has denied a recent residential redevelopment project for the empty shopping center at Camino Real that once held a Winn Dixie and a Tuesday Morning, reported the Delray Newspaper.
On Tuesday, January 16th, only two day prior to the denial decision, the Boca Raton Community Appearance Board (CAB) had provided the requested Individual Development Approval, a vote of 5 to 0 in favor of Camino Square Parcel 1 development, with two conditions, said the newspaper: to revise the elevations of buildings 1 and 2, and revise the landscaping plan.
According to Delray Newspaper, the site plan for the 9-acre space at Camino Square was divided into two parcels. The 4.59-acre east parcel (Parcel 1) is intended for residential development. A proposal by FCI Residential, whose parent company is Florida Crystals sugar cane, suggested a 350-unit rental apartment complex comprised of two eight-story buildings with parking garages. Such project is expected to produce $800,000 in net annual tax increment revenue. The 4.54-acre west parcel (Parcel 2), on the other hand, was proposed for retail development.
At the January Planning and Zoning meeting, the focus of the discussion was on Parcel 1 only, further explained the newspaper. Although Parcel 2 has already been reviewed, said City of Boca Raton Senior Planner Susan Lesser, that project is not yet scheduled for a final platting hearing.
The project for residential development of Parcel 1 was still pending review by the Boca Community Redevelopment Agency Board. However, by recommendations of City Planners, the Traffic Engineer, and outside consultant Calvin Giordano & Associates, the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning decided to deny the project, announced the newspaper.
The Delray Newspaper described the project presentation of Camino Square Parcel 1 as follows:
The response was a mixture of concerns and a desire for redeveloping the area which has been vacant for years. Residents, city professionals, and other experts, as well as the Planning and Zoning Board, voiced their opinions. The Delray Newspaper reported the different responses in the following manner:
A Simpler time VS. development
In its heyday in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, the then-busy shopping center at 171 W. Camino Real also contained a barber shop, a beauty shop, a postal shop with gift items, Whistle Stop bar & lounge, Chinese take-out, and George’s Italian Restaurant, according to 30-year Boca Square resident Melba Hebert.
“There was a little dog named Ruffles [that greeted everyone] at the postal shop. Everyone adored Ruffles, who was very popular in the shop…
“They’ve taken our sleepy little city, and now all this development!” Hebert said.
Senior Director of Development for KIMCO Realty Peter Flint of Wilton Manors said his firm has owned the shopping plaza for over 50 years. He said they’ve spent the last four years trying to decide how to develop it.
Flint said he has worked with quite a few retailers and has had at least four retailers submit plans and pull out — in his effort to bring retail development to Camino Square.
“Retail is in trouble. There have been a lot of bankruptcies, store closings. [The location] is too far out from the city center. The visibility is terrible,” he detailed his challenges. “Once we get a decent retailer in, it will bring in more business traffic,” he said of trying to find an anchor store.
He said the old Winn Dixie could possibly be retrofitted as an organic grocer, which he called “the highest and best use” for the property. “We don’t want to get rid of this [shopping] center. As soon as we have something to sell to the retail community, we’ll be back here [before P & Z] with a site plan,” he added.
The Professionals and Developers Response
South Florida External Affairs Manager for FCI Residential Caroline Villenueva said parent company Florida Crystals has a history of six generations of agriculture and employs 2,000 people. The company has chosen FAU Research Park in Boca to locate its Research Center, where it employs 22 people, she said.
Attorney Ele Zachariades of Dunay, Miskel, and Backman, LLP said of the Camino Square site, “While we are part of the downtown, we are somewhat isolated – one of the slum and blight parcels.” Zachariades said the people she talked to are sick of looking at it as it is now and want it redeveloped. She said the only businesses currently located in the vicinity are a Sober House, a Quick Stop [and a Valero gas station].
Architect Beatriz Hernandez Beatriz of MSA Architects in Miami called Camino Real “a road to nowhere, a dead-end road.”
In her drawings for Camino Square – Parcel I, she said she created a series of arcades, sidewalks, with none of it fenced in. “Residents can meander through the project to the leasing center, and can keep going with the colonnade.” She spoke of a fitness center, clubroom, and gated FOB access for residents to walk through. “At street- and second floor-level are open spaces, arcades, and loggias (a covered exterior gallery or corridor with an outer wall open to the elements, usually supported by columns or arches.)
“We feel we’ve created a very pedestrian-friendly environment,” said Hernandez.
Planning and Zoning Concerns
P & Z Board Member/Secretary Larry Cellon asked why the two buildings in the residential development were designed so tilted to the street. Rather than running parallel to Camino Real, they appear at an angle, with a diagonal orientation, he noted.
Cellon and others asked how they could move forward with an incomplete plan—saying the applicant had broken up the site and not provided for consistent approval. (No drawings for the west parcel were yet available for P & Z Board review.)
Regarding the addition of a possible roundabout to mitigate traffic at the intersection of Camino Real and Camino Gardens Boulevard (something Camino Gardens residents spoke in favor of at the meeting), P & Z Board Member Janice Rustin said a roundabout “seems to be something Camino Gardens wants. I don’t have enough information whether this is good for the city.”
“Why would they bring this project forward with three denials?” she asked.