Source: Boca Raton Magazine
The vote Monday on the most prominent piece of land in Boca Raton was oddly anticlimactic.
For decades, the city council had sought a suitable project for the southeast corner of Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway. Success finally came Monday afternoon. Acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, the council unanimously approved DDRI I.D.A. No. CRP-08-03R2—the plan for a Hyatt Place hotel.
The 200-room hotel will be 140 feet tall, with structures on the roof making the overall height 160 feet. It will be part of Ram Realty’s mixed-use Mark at Cityscape project. Hyatt Hotels pitches its Hyatt Place brand to business travelers, but the Hyatt Place in Delray Beach, which opened in 2012, also draws vacationers. The hotel’s general manager says things have been “terrific.”
Since Boca had tried to fill that downtown hole for about 30 years, you might have expected applause and Champagne after Monday’s vote. Instead, the discussion featured only a few questions from council members and just the faintest squawking from holdout critics who misunderstood setback rules for the hotel. The clerk recorded the vote, and CRA Chairman Scott Singer moved on to the next agenda item.
But make no mistake; this is a big deal. In downtown Boca, this vacant lot has stood out like a missing tooth. The city believed that you couldn’t just fill it with, well, anything. It had to be special. There were repeated references Monday to a “landmark project” on a “landmark corner.” Councilman Mike Mullaugh called it a “new benchmark” for downtown development.
Despite fears among some residents that a hotel will overwhelm the property, the Hyatt Place seems like a good fit. The one in Delray Beach works well in the Pineapple Grove neighborhood north of Atlantic Avenue. Though the Boca Hyatt Place will be one-third larger, the site also is more urban. In addition, the design is stylish, and the developers worked with the city’s staff and consultants to maximize the hotel’s compatibility with what the city wants to be a pedestrian-friendly section of downtown after all the buildings is done.
“We wanted to break the project down to a human scale, and I think we achieved that for the most part,” says Paul Slattery, whose Boca Raton firm did the architectural work for the Hyatt Place, as it did for the Hyatt Place in Delray. The main issue, he says, is how to “mass” the building—to make it work with the surroundings.
A key meeting, Slattery says, took place in February with Urban Design Associates, the city’s downtown consultant. Councilman Robert Weinroth praised the cooperation between the development team and the city. Slattery agreed: “It was a good team effort.” Changes were made to ease the impact from traffic. Example: Valet parking will be available only for the restaurant, not the hotel itself. Other requirements will encourage carpooling and the use of bicycles and buses.
Though Hyatt Hotels is a global company with more than 550 properties, the team for this Hyatt Place is intensely local. The engineering firm, like Slattery’s company, is from Boca. The landscape architect is from Delray Beach. West Palm Beach-based Kolter is developing the hotel, as it developed Hyatt Place Delray.
Slattery says Hyatt Place Boca will be a “visual landmark,” with recessed lighting at the top making the building visible to guests arriving on Palmetto Park Road after leaving Interstate 95. He says construction should start in March, with the hotel opening 16 to 18 months later, in time for the 2016 high season. If that happens, expect the city to throw a party that will be 30 years in the making.