Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer sighed, “We’ve been trying to poke fun at ‘Seinfeld’ for 25 years that we’re a retirement community.” “I don’t think we even have a retirement community in the city limits!”
Boca Raton has actually transitioned into a younger, more livable area, with a median age of 48, according to census records.
Major companies have set up shop. Brightline Trains opened a Boca station this year that takes passengers to Miami in 40 minutes and West Palm Beach in 25 minutes. The Mandarin Oriental will open the city’s first new ultra-luxe hotel in nearly 100 years.
“I see Boca as the pearl in the oyster,” said Mitchell Robbins, who owns the popular Boca restaurant Farmers Table, and is partnering with developer Malcolm Butters on the 120,000-square-foot Class A office building. “Miami and West Palm are the two strongest office markets now, with tremendous growth and rents up to $150 per foot, while we see office buildings in New York 50% to 60% vacant. Boca hasn’t had a new Class A office project in 20 years. Now, major companies from the Northeast are starting to move towards Boca, so a boom is inevitable.”
Robbins’ new building, with his Chinese restaurant and lounge called Red Pine, would be unveiled near the town center in an area now being referred to as “Midtown”. DC is bursting forth with youth-oriented eateries including El Camino and Pubbelli Sushi, an offshoot of Michelin-starred restaurant Sfoglina. The district will also have retail shops and over 800 residential units.
“The area is exploding and we are inundated with restaurants trying to find a Boca location,” said Tom Prakash, president of real estate company Prakash & Co.
Nine o’clock has always been referred to as “boca midnight,” but those hours are expanding with all the new arrivals. “We’re keeping our kitchen open until 1 a.m.,” said Francis Lake, VP of operations for Modern Restaurant Group, which owns El Camino.
The Renaissance Hotel in Midtown will provide the full South Beach experience with DJs and a swim-up bar.
Even older institutions like Boca’s upscale fitness club Life Time are feeling the increased pulse. “Our membership has increased 33% since last January,” said Donna Wright-Everhart, the club’s general manager.
Like the rest of Florida, home prices have risen with demand.
“Old homes are being ripped from downtown and replaced by mega-mansions,” said Ben Schechter, president of Signature Real Estate. “Most of the buyers are New Yorkers in finance.”
For those who are not ready to leave, there is great news on the hotel front.
The iconic Boca Raton Resort & Club has undergone major changes since being purchased by Michael Dell and rebranded simply Boca Raton.
“Ninety-five percent of new members are 40 to 50,” said Daniel Hostetler, the resort’s president and CEO. The resort also brought in major food groups (Carbon, Lobster Club) to open some upscale restaurants, and unveiled the Flybridge exclusively for adult members and yacht club guests, where a tasting dinner runs $145. .
Meanwhile, the Mandarin Oriental will open later this year with a 154-room hotel and 85 condos ranging in price from $4 million to $27 million.
It will feature an athletic club, a spa, a rooftop restaurant, a private club and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. The ground floor houses 65,000 square feet of luxury retail.
“If you wanted luxury shopping before, you went to Palm Beach or Bal Harbor,” said David Warne, COO of Penn-Florida, developer of the Mandarin. “Now, with so many people coming here, it’s especially timely.”