By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Plans to bring a high-end adult congregate living facility with independent, assisted and memory care units to downtown Boca Raton were shot down by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board over concerns about the number of emergency service calls and parking.
The project “The Concierge” proposed adding a $75 million, 10-story building at 22 S.E. 6th St., east of Dixie Highway, on just over half an acre of land.
Pitched by developer Group P6 and land owner Robert Buehl, the project included 110 units with 129 beds ranging in size from 550 square feet to about 1,300-square-feet. The building would have its own restaurants, salon, fitness area, theater, cafe, lounge and rooftop pool.
The project was supported by the city’s community appearance and planning and zoning boards as well as city staff. Buehl said the team has spent two years on this project so far.
The council members acting as the CRA recently approved a larger senior living project downtown on East Royal Palm Road and then acting as council members approved a facility on about five acres on Congress Avenue. Both of those projects passed unanimously, but officials did raise concerns about the number of emergency calls the facilities will generate.
This time, those concerns were reflected in a 3-1 vote. Only Councilman Jeremy Rodgers supported the project.
“I think we are satisfying a need,” Rodgers said.
He said the project has great architecture, minimal impact on traffic and will add no additional students to Boca schools, which are overcrowded.
The biggest concern was adding more stress on the fire department, which Fire Chief Tom Wood said is already looking for more employees.
“We are in desperate need of additional EMS services as we speak now,” Wood said.
He said even if the project attracts current Boca residents, their old homes will be occupied by new residents; therefore, creating a net gain the number of emergency services calls.
“The addition of not only this project but other projects that have been approved are going to cause us to have additional EMS services,” he said.
City staff said the assisted living facilities have a higher demand for emergency medical services than other multi-family projects. According to the city’s presentation, emergency services are requested more often at senior living facilities, more time is spent on each call and the calls result in more transports to hospitals.
But the development team said studies show a reduced number of calls because there are nurses and technicians on site to help.
Chairwoman Andrea O’Rourke said those extra calls are of “grave concern.”
Commissioner Monica Mayotte agreed.
“It’s already a high-volume area,” she said. “To add to this could be troubling.”
Since the project failed, developers will have to make changes and start the process over if they want to bring a project to the property.
Council members proposed having a future discussion on whether to create a mitigation fund for developers to possibly pay into to help fund additional resources that the fire department will need.