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Boynton’s bloated Town Square costs — an extra $38.8 million — worry some

Boynton Beach must come up with an estimated $133.3 million to roll out the 16.5-acre Town Square redevelopment project — about $38.8 million more than project leaders told city commissioners in June.

Assistant City Manager Colin Groff said he expects the city to release a revenue-generating plan in December. Construction is supposed to begin in March for the new police and fire stations and in June for the parking garage and City Hall and library.

It was clear the news worried the commissioners.

“You said this was going to budget neutral,” Commissioner Joe Casello told Groff at a meeting Tuesday.

Groff said that’s still the plan, but if the budget doesn’t work, the project won’t work.

Casello’s big concern — how will the city’s long-term bond and credit ratings be affected?

“It will certainly have an affect on us because it’s going to be long-term debt for us in one form or fashion,” said Tim Howard, the city’s second assistant city manager, who handles the finances. “We won’t know exactly what that will be until we get the numbers and present the financing package.”

And Commissioner Mack McCray said: “I don’t want us to get in the water and find out we got a small boat and we can’t handle the water.”

Town Square stretches from Boynton Beach Boulevard south to Southeast Second Avenue, and from Seacrest Boulevard east to Northeast First Street. Groff said the land will be transformed into the city’s “family room,” and will be a center for residents and visitors to eat, work, play and even live, something that’s been 20 years in the planning.

Town Square will be redeveloped as a private-public partnership. Private entities will build residential units and a four- or five-story hotel, which will have up to 150 rooms, at the corner of Boynton Beach and Seacrest boulevards. An eight-story apartment complex is planned at Northeast First Avenue and Boynton Beach Boulevard. To the south of that is a six-story building and at the far south end of the project is a three-story building.

The change in price for the public portion came from increasing the size of a residential parking garage, the energy plant, more underground utilities and higher construction costs, according to documents.

But some of those projects are expected to generate money, including the district energy plant that will provide cold water for air conditioning through a central chilled water plant.

Groff said the city has to find $10 million to $12 million of that $38.8 million.

The city plans to lease out some areas such as the historic high school, which will become a cultural arts and civic center, and spaces for start-up business collaborations. Boynton is also exploring offering naming rights for certain buildings to bring in money. A digital board is planned for one of the parking garages and advertising on that could bring up to $100,000 per year. Also, tax credits could be placed on the high school, parking garage and library.

Casellowants the new police station farther east instead of on High Ridge so the city can sell that property. However, he isn’t getting much support.

On Tuesday, commissioners rejected the idea of selling a portion of the site to be privately developed into a Wawa, hotel or restaurant. If that happened, the police station would have to be three or four stories instead of two and they’d need a parking garage. With all that, the cost of the station could double, Groff said.

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