Just as the rehabilitation of the city’s historic high school is finally off and running, Boynton Beach received welcomed — and as its lawyers referred to it — “excellent news” regarding the much fought-over building.
An appeals court Thursday threw out a lawsuit against the city, ending a lengthy battle with a developer.
About four years ago a developer filed the suit against the city over its decision to not implement his plan to redevelop the 1927 school into an events and destinations center. A year ago, a circuit court judge threw out the lawsuit by granting the city’s motion to dismiss the developer’s third amended complaint.
The developer — Lake Worth architect Juan Contin — appealed the decision, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal tossed it too.
“We have excellent news,” attorney Michael D. Cirullo, Jr. wrote to the city commissioners.
The 4th DCA issued an order affirming the original dismissal and did so without a written opinion. Because there is no written opinion, review by the Florida Supreme Court is not possible, according to the email to the commissioners.
Vice Mayor Justin Katz said he hopes this brings an end to the “merit-less” lawsuit because it’s “dragged on for years.”
“I’m glad that the courts are continuing to uphold our position that we were not committed to this entity to redo the high school and that’s the end of it really,” he said.
Residents and city leaders have fought over the historic high school’s future for decades. Some wanted it torn down, and others wanted it saved. Contin planned to use private money to build his $4.5 million project, but in June 2013, the commissioners voted it down. They thought Contin was being protective about who the investors were. Miscommunication about who would own the building and pay permit fees wer also issues. Contin, through Boynton Old School Partnership LLC, filed two lawsuits against the city in July 2013.
The one settled Thursday accused the city of breach of contract and asks for a payback. The other lawsuit previously dismissed asked the court to order the City Commission to reverse its vote on the proposed zoning and site plan, which ended the project.
But the debate over the school continued until this year when a new commission decided to save it and turn the building into a new civic, arts and culture building as part of the city’s 16-acre Town Square redevelopment project to be paid for through a public/private partnership.
Construction on the school began in August. It’s expected to be completed by August 2018 and open to the public in September. Private entities will be able to rent space for functions such as weddings, parties and corporate events. The Town Square development team said the building could fit about 600 people, and there is not a facility similar to this in size from Jupiter to Fort Lauderdale.
The building “will look very similar to the way it was built 75 to 80 years ago,” Jeff Hardin, owner of Straticon Construction, previously said. The school’s entire rehab is expected to cost about $10.5 million.