Property owner, Crocker Partners, has yet to OK land sale
By: Dale King Contributing Writer
After some 10 years of studying possible locations for a second train station in Boca Raton, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees operations of Tri-Rail trains, has chosen a 2.12-acre parcel of land on Military Trail at NW 19 St., site of the former King’s Gourmet Deli, for the rail stop expected to open by 2023.
“The objective is to improve accessibility to the Tri-Rail system and better serve the underutilized markets of downtown Boca Raton, local colleges and universities, area businesses and the growing resident population,” says a flyer distributed at a public information meeting.
Victor Garcia, corporate and community outreach manager for SFRTA, explained the project to members of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce at a meeting of the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee on June 19. SFRTA made the official announcement of a site selection at a hearing the next night at Spanish River Library.
The transportation authority does not yet have a green light for the project. The property being eyed by SFRTA is currently owned by Crocker Partners, a development firm with a long history of constructing retail and residential venues in Boca Raton, among them, Mizner Park and Boca Center.
However, the developer is currently involved in litigation with the city over a plan to develop Midtown Boca, a complex of apartments and retail stores. The train station was originally proposed to be part of Midtown, which would emphasize walkability and encourage residents to walk to the station and stores, a concept called “live-work-play.”
A spokeswoman for Crocker said that as of mid-July, Tri-Rail had not approached the developer about purchasing the land which, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s website, has a value of just over $1.1 million.
Crocker has notified the city of its intent to file a claim against Boca for $137 million in damages, said the spokeswoman for Crocker. Local officials have 150 days to respond before the action is initiated.
In the second legal stroke, she said, Crocker seeks to end the city’s delays in putting development regulations in place so that the developer and other Midtown property owners can bring their projects forward.
The spokeswoman said that when the city annexed the property from the county, it was only with commercial zoning in place. The city has designated it as a planned mobility district which would have allowed for residential development, but did not put that zoning into place, she explained.
SFRTA indicated it would spend an estimated $17 million to acquire the land and build the station. Tri-Rail already has a rail station in Boca, farther north along the train line, at 680 Yamato Road. The flyer handed out at the meeting says the Yamato train station “has one of the highest ridership volumes” of all 18 stations on the 72-mile Tri-Rail line. Garcia said a 19th station – a depot called Miami Central – is scheduled to open next year.
Design features include a total of 75 parking spots, Garcia told the Chamber committee; a drop-off for bus passengers as well as a bus pullout onto Military Trail northbound.
After obtaining the land, SFRTA said it plans to start building the second Tri-Rail station in 2022 and open it in 2023.