Boca postpones some of Wildflower property decision


By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
The once-popular nightclub spot is back on track to become a Boca Raton waterfront restaurant.
But the city council won’t decide on leasing the city-owned land to become a restaurant until after the November election.
The former location of the Wildflower night club is poised to become a restaurant operated by Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc. The topic was originally scheduled to be up for discussion and final approvals on July 26.
But the council agreed to hold off on deciding what to do with the property because of a citizen-initiated petition to put a referendum on an upcoming ballot that asks whether all city-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway should be used for public recreation. The referendum makes no mention of the Wildflower property specifically.
Residents have obtained enough signatures to move the referendum forward. The council will have to vote to put the referendum on the ballot. It is likely the council will do so in August.
The lease up for approval is a 20-year deal that states Hillstone would pay the city $600,000 a year in lease payments for five years. The payments would increase every five years.
Once the contract is up, the city and Hillstone can renew the lease in five-year increments for another 25 years. Then, the lease agreement would start with monthly rent totaling more than $700,000 and could end up around the $900,000 mark.
Over 45 years, Boca is poised to make $33 million.
The restaurant would sit on a little more than 2 acres along the Intracoastal, just north of the Palmetto Park Road Bridge at 55 E. Palmetto Park Road. The property has sat vacant for years.
The city purchased the land in 2009 for $7.5 million. In 2013, the council made it a top priority to get the property back on the tax rolls. That top priority remained a council goal in 2016.
Hillstone is behind another Boca hot spot for eating out, Houston’s. But the group has told the city the new location will not be a second Houston’s.
Once approved, the restaurant group estimates it will take between 15 and 18 months to complete construction.
The proposal has been full of controversy. A vocal group of residents say they want to see the area dedicated to the public and turned into a park or a public space. Some have said they don’t want the restaurant to open because it would exclude the minorities who live in Pearl City and can’t afford to eat there.
The city and chamber have been pushing to develop the property.
Supporters of the restaurant say it will clean up an overgrown eyesore, bring revenue into the city and provide more jobs to locals.
While the lease was put on hold until November, the council introduced two ordinances to change the land use and zoning of the property. Those two actions are required for the restaurant to be built.
A vote on those rule changes is still scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. meeting July 26 at City Hall, 201 W. Palmetto Park Road.