Trolley tour spotlights Boca Raton’s fast-growing downtown

All aboard the trolley for a tour of one of South Florida’s fastest-growing downtowns: Boca Raton‘s.

At least four high-rise buildings are under construction between Palmetto Park Road and Camino Real, and even more are set to break ground soon.

When everything is completed, eight new high-rise developments, at least one of them reaching as high as 12 stories, will provide nearly 2,000 residential units.

The housing boom is expected to lure thousands of new residents and visitors to live, play and shop downtown.

Wednesday evening, the Boca Raton Historical Society packed about 150 people onto five trolleys to tour the developments, giving them a chance to “meet the new downtown,” as Executive Director Mary Csar put it.

327 Royal Palm Road

Tour-goers shuffled off the red and green trolleys through a light drizzle of rain into sales offices or ornately decorated lobbies of the upcoming downtown developments.

The first stop on one of the trolleys was the sales office for the 327 Royal Palm Road apartment. Two developers stood by to answer questions as staff swooped in with trays of food.

Construction on 327 Royal Palm Road will be complete by February 2017. The nine-story building will offer 25 units starting at $1.6 million.

Palmetto Promenade

The next destination boasted its mini bar and encouraged guests to rummage through it.

“That’s important,” said participant Ellen Eisen, 65, as she peered around the corner into the bedroom of a Palmetto Promenade model unit.

Palmetto Promenade, at 369 E. Palmetto Park Rd., will offer three buildings: two nine-story buildings and one 10-story building.

The Palmetto Promenade is across the street from Eye Catchers Optique. After the business staff for months saw the Palmetto Promenade’s construction underway, they finally got to take a tour of the development.

The store’s co-owner Lauri Saunders was familiar with the Promenade, but she took the tour, curious about the other developments and how they will affect downtown and her business, she said.

In the 20 years since Eye Catchers opened, she said she has seen Palmetto Park Road change considerably.

“I like to see what’s going on down here,” she said. “It’s good to see where the people will be, the type of people they’re trying to attract downtown and whether they might be possible clients for us.”

101 Via Mizner

Tour-goers visiting 101 Via Mizner learned of the apartment’s exclusive resort and golf club memberships while sipping blue beverages from champagne glasses.

101 Via Mizner at 101 E. Camino Real offers 366 units, with a studio starting at $1,700 and a three-bedroom apartment starting at $4,255.

Vanessa Nieporte lived in Manhattan before moving to Boca Raton in 2001, so the sight of high-rises doesn’t bother her, she said. But she wondered who would be living downtown.

“I wanted to find out what was going on in our town with all this building,” she said. “I was wondering who they are selling and renting all these apartments to, and then to find the occupancy is quite high, it’s interesting.”

Nieporte, 55, said she and her husband have discussed moving into an apartment when they eventually retire, so it was useful to see inside the developments.

Boca City Walk

Guests were greeted with music, sangria and chefs grilling paella on the courtyard patio at Boca City Walk.

It was similar to other stops, in that they consumed all the beverages, appetizers and information they could muster in the alloted 20 minutes.

Since its August opening, Boca City Walk has reached 20 percent occupancy for its apartments. A 1,330-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment starts at $3,610, and amenities include a courtyard patio and pool, where the paella was served.

Tower 155

In the sales office of Tower 155, which has not yet broken ground, guests listened to tales of rooftop decks and ocean views as they scarfed down lobster rolls.

A representative explained a lenient renter’s policy that allows owners to rent out their units for three months twice a year.

Condominiums range from $500,000 to $2.2 million.

Tour-goers discovered what the developments will offer upon completion, including prices, floor plans and amenities.

Participants seemed especially impressed by rooftop decks and towel services.

Residences at Mandarin Oriental

The tour, reaching its final destination, wrapped up about 9 p.m.

Everyone stepped out of their trolleys and walked to a tent behind the History Museum. There, representatives for the Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Boca Raton, gave a short presentation and participants were again offered more food and drinks.

The plan for the Residences has been approved, but ground has not yet been broken. Even though the tour had wrapped up, the crowd stuck around recapping what they had just experienced.

Saunders said she’s readying for Boca’s future.

“It’s kind of like everything is coming up around us, and it’s no mystery we have some trepidation about it,” she said. “But it’s here, and we need to embrace it. From a business perspective, we’re excited about it.”

Csar called Wednesday night’s tour a success.

“What we’re doing is we’re trying to introduce our residents to the developments so they can learn about them,” Csar said. “This is evolving history right in front of us.”