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Third highrise proposed for downtown Boynton Beach

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Miami developer seeks approval for first hotel-condo in downtown Boynton

By Beth P. Krane

Staff Writer

May 18, 2004

BOYNTON BEACH -- The city that has labored for years to shake off its outdated image now stands to get two novelties in one: downtown hotel rooms set against an emerging high-rise skyline.

A Miami developer wants to build downtown Boynton Beach's first hotel rooms as part of a larger waterfront project that also would mix condominiums, shops and restaurants within its 14-story towers. If approved, The Promenade would be the third high-rise development approved for the low-slung downtown.

"This is really a bet on the future of Boynton Beach," Jeff Krinsky, a principal with project developer Panther Real Estates Partners, said of the hotel piece.

At this point, it would seem to be a modest wager.

The Promenade, which Panther plans to build at Boynton Beach Boulevard between Federal Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway, will feature 317 condominiums and waterfront townhouses but only 38 second-floor hotel suites.

Still, city and county economic development leaders say that number of hotel rooms is better than zero, especially considering Boynton Beach has only three hotels.

"We'd love to see the number doubled or tripled, but you know what? It's a start," said Enid Atwater, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I think it is significant for Boynton Beach."

Attracting the proposed hotel is even more noteworthy because there haven't been many downtown hotels built since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she added.

Community Redevelopment Agency Director Doug Hutchinson agreed the hotel market has been hurting. Starting small, he said, is a good thing: A larger chain hotel could always come into the area later and complement smaller, boutique hotels.

"In this day and age, the panic is, what if you have 400 rooms and no one fills them? This gives investors flexibility," he said. "And I don't have to worry about a big white elephant in the middle of my downtown."

City rules used to require developers interested in downtown hotels to have no fewer than 3 acres, but officials voted recently to reduce that to 1 acre. The city also agreed to let boutique hotels with at least 20 rooms into the downtown.

Hotel-condominium combinations like The Promenade have become increasingly popular nationwide in large part because the condominiums make it easier for developers to secure investors, experts say. Some offer residents extra amenities and services found in upscale hotels.

Miami already boasts three hotel-condo combinations, including the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove, and has four more in the works. In Fort Lauderdale, some older hotels along the beach are advertising units for sale, even though they haven't been approved as a combined hotel-condo project, city Planning Manager Bruce Chatterton said.

Panther Real Estate Partners submitted plans for The Promenade, which it estimates will be worth more than $100 million, to the city late last month. Its plans are likely to be reviewed by the CRA board and City Commission this summer.

Hutchinson said building the hotel suites will help Panther's case if the developer decides to apply for CRA incentive money. That's because hotels bring a major economic boost to an area, he said.

"Visitors spend a disproportionate amount of money on entertainment, food and gifts," he said. "That's why they're here."

On average, each Palm Beach County visitor spends about $123 a day in addition to hotel costs, according to Convention and Visitors Bureau figures.

But they're likely to spend most of their time and money within walking or exploring distance of their hotels, she said. That's one reason it's important for Boynton Beach to lure hotel rooms to its downtown, where more restaurants and shops are planned. The city's existing hotels are along busy commercial corridors like Congress Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.

Panther's Krinsky expects the demand for hotel rooms will come largely from out-of-town family members and friends of Promenade residents.

"You have a project sitting on a public park, sitting on the Intracoastal," he said. "People will fill the rooms."

At least one city planner in Lake Worth, however, said she doesn't think hotels are necessary to revitalize an ailing downtown. Lake Worth has the historic, 100-room Gulfstream Hotel and two bed-and-breakfasts, but the limited number of hotel rooms doesn't deter people from frequenting the area's shops, restaurants and festivals, Community Development Director Sharon Jackson said.

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