NEW: Boynton gives final OK for new $118 million downtown

Downtown Boynton Beach is a go.

City officials gave the final OK on Tuesday to pay about $118 million to redevelop 16 acres off Boynton Beach Boulevard into a pedestrian-friendly, town center to live, work and play.

The Town Square project calls for the historic high school to become a cultural center with a 500-seat auditorium and restaurant space, a fire station, library and City Hall in a four-story building, an amphitheater, parking garages, apartments, retail space, a hotel and a police headquarters off site.

The Schoolhouse Children’s Museum and Learning Center will remain. Also, a district energy plant will provide cold water for air conditioning for the entire project through a central chilled water plant.

Boynton will use money from a $76,117,844 tax-exempt bond and pay it back over about 25 years with money from the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency. The bond will be obtained through a company called CFP Boynton Beach Town Square LLC, a 501 C3 run by Minnesota-based Community Facility Partners, for tax-exempt reasons. Once the bond is paid off, the land and the buildings revert back to the city. The remaining $42,214,508 will come from sources including city and utility budgets, the CRA, federal tax credits and land value prices.

“I just want to say thank you,” City Manager Lori LaVerriere said to the City Commission. “I’m shaking, I’m so excited.”

She added that the project will “transform” the city.

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Town Square, a private/public partnership, is about four blocks off Boynton Beach Boulevard east of Interstate 95. It stretches from Boynton Beach Boulevard south to Southeast Second Avenue and from Seacrest Boulevard east to Northeast First Street. The project has been in the works for at least a decade with a pointed focus for the past two years.

Demolition of city buildings including the City Hall, library, police station, fire station and civic center is expected to begin in July. The city is working to find locations to temporary house the library, City Hall and the first responders.

The high school/cultural center is expected to be finished in November with the remainder in 2019 and 2020. The buildings will be built to a Category 4 hurricane design, Assistant City Manager Colin Groff said.

Demolition of the library has been a touchy topic for some residents as the building is fairly new. But the building has water intrusion problems and the current plan is more cost effective, Vice Mayor Justin Katz previously said. The change in venue will result in about 10,000 square feet less of library space.

Also, the location of the new police station, currently next to City Hall on Boynton Beach Boulevard, has been debated. The new building will be at High Ridge Road and Gateway Boulevard next to Fire Station 5, which is also the city’s emergency operations center. The station will be two stories and 58,000 square feet on land the city bought years ago with the intention that a police headquarters would be built there.

Commissioner Joe Casello has unsuccessfully fought for police headquarters to be either on Town Square land or near it.

And Commissioner Mack McCray said he was prepared to vote against the project but after hearing the presentation changed his mind.

“We are not really happy with the progress we have seen over the years in the northeast section,” McCray said. “My vote was totally going to be against this entire project but I’m not going to stand in the way. I’m going to trust your judgment… with the assumption that we will see more progress in District 2 when it comes to redevelopment.”

He said he was also against tearing down the library but wanted the commission’s vote to be unanimous.

The private part of the project — to be built by JKM Developers and E2L Real Estate Solutions — is expected to be complete in 2020. It calls for a 120-room hotel at Seacrest and Boynton Beach boulevards with 15,000 square feet of retail space and about 700 residential units in three buildings — up to eight, six and three stories each — with about 15,000 square feet of office and retail space and 13,800 square feet of restaurant space. The developer plans to include affordable housing to start at $1,000 per month.

The tallest residential building, which will also have ground floor commercial space, is expected to be along Boynton Beach Boulevard at Northeast First Street. It can be a maximum of eight stories at 99 feet.

Meanwhile, the owner of the U.S. Postal Office property across Seacrest Boulevard from City Hall is also interested in redevelopment. The city has spoken with the company that owns the property, run by attorney Michael Weiner, and it is interested in redeveloping the site and is working with the post office, said Groff.

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