AIRPORT BELIEVES NEW RESTAURANTS COULD TAKE OFF

Boca authority seeks FAA approval on land use


If the Boca Raton Airport Authority has its way, the airport could soon be home to Boca's newest high-end restaurant.

The FAA is reviewing plans for a land-use change for 4.67 acres at the Boca Raton Airport from aeronautical to revenue-producing/non-aeronautical use. The request comes after the Boca Raton Airport Authority hired a consulting firm to study the best use of the vacant land.

The marketability study argues that the land is not needed for aviation or aviation support uses, and that a restaurant would generate needed income for the BRAA. The parcel is on the east side of Airport Road, approximately a mile north of Glades Road. The study mentions the location because the land is adjacent to Airport Road and has no direct access to the air operation area.

The BRAA originally planned to build an administration building on the vacant land, in which space could be rented to both aviation and non-aviation tenants. But the study has the BRAA thinking twice about its plans.

"The report found that a restaurant, particularly a high-end steakhouse, would be the most beneficial as far as revenue for the (BRAA)," said airport spokeswoman Kim Singer.

She said that while the BRAA receives money from grants, it's not enough. In order to maintain the airport, the BRAA rents airport property to tenants such as the 20-theater Muvico Palace and Boomers recreation center.

Non-aviation tenant Boomers brought in about $298,000 for the BRAA during the 2005-2006 fiscal year, and Muvico brought in about $580,000. Singer said that monthly rents for office space are about $1,000 and therefore don't generate much income for the airport.

The FAA recently finished accepting comments from the public about the proposed land-use change. Singer said that during the review the FAA will be looking for a "justification factor" as to why this particular land-use change would be beneficial for the airport community.

The FAA can come back with a decision at any time, but that decision would just be for the overall land use. Any specific plans for development on the land still would have to be submitted to the FAA and go through a separate approval, Singer said.

The study looked at different non-aviation development options based on the site's location and financial constraints. The ideas were then categorized based on their feasibility.

Some ideas that were rejected included a shopping center, a warehouse and a multi-family residential development. A restaurant was listed in the maximally feasible category for having "good visibility, and the ability to command the highest rents and sale prices in the surrounding area." The study also mentions that the BRAA could develop two restaurants on the available land, each one being as large as 8,000 square feet.

Currently the only restaurant on the airport property is Bogart's Bar & Grille, which is in Muvico.

Premier Aviation, a fixed-based operator on the airport property, has some open space on its 15 acres and is further along than the BRAA with plans for a restaurant, which is expected to open in early 2009.

"More restaurant choices is a good thing for moviegoers," said Michael Whalen, president of Premier Aviation.

The company already received FAA approval for building a restaurant and an office building on the available land, but now Premier Aviation is thinking about changing most of the office building to a City Furniture store, in which case, it would have to submit new plans to the FAA. Whalen said he hopes to build a "synergistic relationship" between the neighboring retail properties.

Overall plans are in the early stages, but it's never too early to start planning, Singer said.

"We're looking down the road here and we want to keep this airport going."

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