August 2014

  • Aug
    26

Boca’s first downtown hotel moving closer to reality

August 26, 2014

By Anne Geggis | Via the Sun Sentinel

Downtown Boca Raton’s first hotel will add 12 stories to the skyline, according to plans that will go before the City Council next month.

If built, the Hyatt Place Hotel Boca Raton at 120 E. Palmetto Park Road will be the third downtown building to rise higher than the 100-foot limit that historically has kept Boca a decidedly low-rise city. This could be as tall as 140 feet with another 20 feet for architectural features.

Plans show the 200-room hotel will be one building at the southeast corner of Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway. The site is now being used as a staging area for construction of the Mark at CityScape, a 208-unit rental complex.

This project will also include an 8,000-square-foot restaurant. City documents have the logo of upscale restaurant chain Del Frisco’s on them. But a representative from the company would not confirm plans to open the restaurant in Boca.

The restaurant will have valet parking, but the hotel will have a garage where guests will park. City documents show that the project has 32 more spaces than the number that city codes require.

Last week, the city’s planning board added its unanimous support for the project that also got a green light from the city’s Community Appearance Board. A downtown hotel has long been a goal for the city.

“That has definitely been a missing piece,” said Alana Cohen, a member of the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee and owner of Cohen Window Fashion, which will be almost directly across the street if the hotel is built. “Most cities have a downtown hotel.”

The plan won high praise from the city’s design firm, Urban Design Associates, for its streetscape, the way the building is stacked and the details of the project’s doors, windows, overhangs and balconies.

“This projects shows a remarkable architectural sensitivity to the site and its context,” wrote Eric Osth, an architect with the Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates. It “is a welcome addition to the uses in Downtown Boca Raton, strengthening it as an important destination in the region.”

Cohen said parking is a key consideration for the city.

“It will be a win-win, absolutely, as long as we remain pro-active and keep the parking situation under control,” she said.

The planning board did allow the hotel to have one fewer lane for leaving the property than city codes require. It was allowed in the name of making the driveway more pedestrian-friendly, according to city documents.

The project got the planning board’s approval with the condition that the developer add a bicycle rack on the premises.

  • Aug
    25

140 West Franklin Finalist for ULI Award

August 25, 2014

Earlier this year, the Triangle Business Journal recognized 140 West Franklin with its Best Mixed-Use Project Award. Now the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Triangle Chapter has announced the mixed-use project as a finalist for the J.W. Willie York Community Influence Award. The award is presented to companies and projects that make exceptional contributions to the creation and vitality of thriving communities in the Triangle Region. The award ceremony will be held on September 25 at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

140 West Franklin is located in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill adjacent to the University of North Carolina. The development was a collaborative effort between Ram and the Town of Chapel Hill. While multiple competitive bidders pitched concepts for the 1.73-acre parcel, Ram was chosen because its vision fully aligned with the Town. Today the finished development comprises 139 residential units – including 18 affordable housing units – as well as 26,000 square feet of ground floor retail, two levels of underground parking, and a public art installation by Mikyoung Kim entitled Exhale. As part of the transaction with Chapel Hill, the Town purchased the first level of underground parking to replace the 161 surface parking spaces that were removed to make room for the development.

To date, 129 of the 139 units have closed (93%) and the ground floor retail is over 70% leased. Retail tenants include Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room, Lime Fresh, Gigi’s Cupcakes, Spicy 9, Gentlemen’s Corner and the Eyecarecenter.

“North Carolina is an important market for us,” says Ram Chairman Peter D. Cummings. “We admire the emphasis on quality education and the balancing of environmental preservation and economic development. We are committed to finding additional opportunities like 140 West Franklin.”

  • Aug
    19

Coral Reef Commons Project Updates

August 19, 2014

During the past month, representatives of Ram have met with the Fish and Wildlife Service on three occasions. The Service and Ram have agreed on a protocol for onsite surveys of certain endangered species and habitat at Coral Reef Commons. The Service and Ram are working collaboratively to balance environmental preservation with job creation and economic development in South Miami-Dade.

Surveyors will be on site commencing August 20 and will likely be working through much of September with a focus on two endangered species: the Florida bonneted bat and the Bartrams’s scrub hairstreak butterfly. The bat was listed last November and the butterfly is scheduled for listing next month. A second butterfly, the Florida leafwing, is also scheduled for listing although there have been no sightings of this species in the vicinity of Coral Reef for several years.

Ram has also continued to meet with Miami-Dade County regarding the project. Even though the butterfly is not to be listed until next month, Ram has assured County representatives that no clearing or construction would occur until the open issues are resolved with the Fish and Wildlife Service, regardless of the timing of the listing.

STATEMENT FROM FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICES 7/24/2014

VERO BEACH, Fla. – A team of biologists and others from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s office here met with representatives of the company planning to develop a portion of pine rockland property recently purchased from the University of Miami into a commercial and residential development called “Coral Reef Commons” near Zoo Miami.

The July 22 meeting, which was the first between the Service and the company–Ram Realty Services of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.–was a preliminary exchange of information. Ram presented information about the history of the land at the project site and the status of their development project, while the Service sought to educate Ram about currently protected plant and animal species believed to reside on the site and those that could be protected soon under the Endangered Species Act.

No decisions about the project were made at the meeting. However, both parties agreed to share more information over the coming weeks and to work toward a more formal, detailed meeting in early August.

“We appreciate Ram’s willingness to meet with us and to open lines of communication,” said Larry Williams, the Service’s Florida State Supervisor for Ecological Services. “We’re looking forward to working with Ram, Miami-Dade County and the University of Miami to find a workable solution that balances the need for economic development and protecting this value habitat and any imperiled species that depend on it.”

Peter D. Cummings, Chairman of Ram Realty Services, said, “Until we resolve any potential issues with the Service, Miami-Dade County and the University of Miami, we don’t plan to do anything on the property other than by-hand removal of exotics under the terms of our county permit.”

STATEMENT REGARDING CORAL REEF COMMONS 7/18/2014

Ram Realty Services received the Fish & Wildlife Service’s letter within the last 48 hours and we are reviewing their recommendations carefully. We plan to meet with Service authorities over the coming weeks to discuss the timing and scope of their desired survey. We will take no action that disturbs the natural environment before resolving the Service’s concerns.

We have collaborated with the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resource Management and members of the environmental community to create a thoughtful plan for protecting and maintaining preserve areas on the property in perpetuity, including the present and future removal of invasive species. Our enforceable permit to develop the site outlines this plan in detail.

The environment will be a valuable asset for the community we plan to create at Coral Reef Commons and scientists from Zoo Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and the Institute for Regional Conservation are already in the process of relocating vulnerable plant species.