Boca study recommends no high-rise apartments in Midtown district

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@luluramadan

Moving away from a plan to allow 2,500 apartments in the commercial district Midtown Boca Raton, a city study instead recommends no housing near Town Center Mall.

BOCA RATON — About a year ago, Boca Raton was poised to allow high-rises with 2,500 apartments to go up near Town Center Mall.

A city study released Tuesday backtracked that move and recommended no housing in the commercial district known as Midtown Boca Raton. The study also calls for a special tax levied against landowners in Midtown to pay for desired landscaping and road improvements.

The study, 10 months in the making, concluded on the heels of two lawsuits filed by landowners in Midtown, who accuse Boca Raton officials of trying to stonewall building efforts in the area.

Brandon Schaad, the city’s director of development services, said “constraints” on local parks and schools makes housing in the area less than ideal.

The study is a recommendation to the Boca Raton City Council, which ultimately will decide whether to allow apartments in the one-square-mile district south of Glades Road along Military Trail.

The recommendations are a blow to landowners in the area who for years have planned a development renaissance that includes apartments, shops and offices in the district. Two landowners, Crocker Partners and Cypress Realty of Florida, have filed lawsuits that accuse Boca Raton officials of using the study to stymie development.

Crocker Partners, a Boca-based builder, is suing for $137 million. Cypress Realty in October asked a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge to force Boca Raton to approve the rezoning that would allow the high-rise apartments to go up in Midtown.

Instead of new zoning regulations in the area, the study calls for street-scaping that would make the area more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly, including the addition of bike lanes, shade trees and roundabouts on some streets to alleviate traffic.

The study recommends medians between the north and south lanes of the heavily-traveled Military Trail to give pedestrians a safe place to wait while crossing the six-lane thoroughfare.

The improvements would take at least five years, Schaad said.

The study recommends a special taxing district, where a tax is levied solely on landowners in the area, to pay for the improvements.

In January, Boca Raton officials were on the cusp of approving the massive rezoning. The council instead asked for a small-area study after several homeowners near Midtown complained that development would aggravate traffic congestion and spark unwanted urban sprawl.

lramadan@pbpost.com

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