EXCLUSIVE: Hotel and convention center pitched for FAU

Florida Atlantic University is considering a partnership with a private developer that might result in a $250 million complex, with a hotel, convention center, apartments and more, at its Boca Raton campus.

The Related Group — a Miami developer — has been in discussions with FAU for months about a partnership to build out 30 vacant acres on the southeast end of campus.

Last month, Related Group submitted plans that would fulfill the university’s goal of building a hotel and convention center, as well as add apartments, stores and restaurants.

FAU would net $34 million from the deal, although the university would have to pay for the convention center.

It isn’t a done deal, but the proposition is meant to spark a conversation, said William Shewalter, Related’s vice president of development.

“I think something like this could be very place-making for FAU,” Shewalter said. “Maybe it’ll enhance their recruiting program for their football team, create a gathering spot for people to stay at the hotel, visit the shopping center and have fun.”

The proposal was sparked partly by past discussions about building a convention center and hotel at the Boca Raton university, which has a student roster of more than 30,000.

Florida International University breaks ground in March on a hotel and conference center on its main campus in Miami-Dade County. University of Central Florida in Orlando also is planning a hotel on campus, according to media reports.

Florida Atlantic is considering the project and assessing “the challenges and opportunities it may provide,” said Joshua Glanzer, spokesman for FAU.

A letter with development details was sent Nov. 1 to Jeff Atwater, who recently joined FAU as its Chief Financial Officer after serving as the state’s CFO for six years. Atwater could not be reached for comment.

“The letter you have was proactively sent to us by the firm,” Glanzer told a Palm Beach Post reporter. “A number of developers have expressed interest. However, the project will require a lengthy process and no specific plans are being explored at this time.”

The various components of the project would be built on about 30 acres of the campus, on Glades Road just east of Interstate 95.

The pitch includes a 120,000-square-foot apartment complex, with stores and restaurants on the first floor. The developer would lease to three or four full-service, sit-down restaurants, and two fast-casual or fast food restaurants.

The apartment building would house 360 “luxury” units for students, including those in graduate or medical school, the letter reads. The complex would include “entertainment components” and a grocery or pharmacy.

Three acres of the site would serve as the base for a 150-room hotel that either Related Group or a hotel operator would run.

FAU would pay for and design the convention center, which could be as large as 30,000 square feet, about a third of the size of Palm Beach County’s convention center in downtown West Palm Beach.

A 400-spot parking lot near the proposed site would be used for the complex.

If FAU were to partner with a private company, which in Related Group’s case would float the bill for most of the project and oversee its construction, it could save the university a large amount of money in the project’s overall cost.

“Yes, FAU may have the resources, but I’m sure they have lots of other places to put those resources,” Shewalter said. “Related is a financially strong company. We have the resources to pull something like this off.”

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