EXCLUSIVE: Boca’s Mizner Park to add new eateries, bars

The nearly 30-year-old dining and shopping center just wrapped up deals to add new life to the aging dining and shopping center in the heart of downtown.

Mizner Park in downtown Boca Raton is ready for its renaissance.

Deals have been wrapped up to add new life to the aging dining and shopping center in the heart of downtown. Coming soon are new restaurants, bars and entertainment.

Among the new tenants signed or in the works:

Lost Weekend, a bar known for pool tables, games, beer and art, is working on a deal to lease a location near the iPic Theater, where the Cheese Course used to be.

— Calaveras Cantina, the Mexican restaurant and bar at Harbourside Place in Jupiter, will take the space vacated by Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake.

The Bluefish, a sushi and Japanese restaurant with nine Texas stores, will open its first Florida location in the space formerly occupied by Rack’s.

Other new tenants are in the works, including the Strike 10 bowling alley that will open this year in the space formerly occupied by Uncle Julio’s restaurant. The move is in line with the trend by other shopping centers seeking more entertainment choices for their customers. Another coffee shop and maybe a gym could be added, too.

It’s all part of a move to reinvigorate Mizner Park by bringing in younger, hipper concepts.

And it follows a move by another mixed-use center, CityPlace, to reinvent itself, starting with a new name, Rosemary Square. New tenants and even changes to the project’s exterior are taking place.

But Mizner Park is unique among other mixed-use centers. Built by Tom Crocker on the site of the old Boca Mall, Mizner Park opened in 1991 and became one of the first projects in the country to combine shopping, dining, housing and offices.

The complex quickly became the city’s gathering spot, which was easy to do with its pleasing, pedestrian-friendly boulevard, Plaza Real, and an outdoor amphitheater featuring live concerts and events.

The old and the young, the trendy and the curious, the rich and the modest all can be seen there. Families, date-night couples and teenagers dine, shop or linger amid the flower beds and gazebos. During prom season, high school students crowd the center fountain to pose for photographs.

“Mizner Park has and will see significant changes in the coming months, as the center welcomes new tenants and evaluates potential tenants,” said Dana Romanelli Schearer, general manager at Mizner Park, which is owned by Brookfield Properties. “We have tremendous interest from brands who want to make their home in Mizner Park.”

Other business, retail and restaurant leaders were also eager to talk about the center.

“Mizner Park is extremely important to (Boca Raton’s) history and a central component of the downtown,” said Troy McLellan, president of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce.

Max’s Grille, an original restaurant tenant, has managed to stay for decades. Other eateries and stores have cycled in and out.

For instance, the beloved Liberties Fine Books & Music bookstore drew readers and authors, but it closed in 2001 after a lease dispute with a former Mizner Park owner. Truluck’s, a popular upscale seafood and steak restaurant, closed last year after more than a decade at Mizner Park. Truluck’s blamed failed lease negotiations.

Orin Rosenfeld, a Boca Raton retail broker, said Mizner Park has never been seen as a major retail destination, overshadowed as it is by the powerful Town Center mall on Glades Road. Instead, like other lifestyle centers, Mizner Park through the years has become a meeting place, very popular for six months of the year when the weather is cool but more iffy during hot, rainy months, said Rosenfeld, of Rosenfeld Realty Advisors.

Among the most successful tenants has been the new breed of eateries and bars: The Dubliner Irish Pub and Kapow! Noodle Bar. They are part of West Palm Beach-based Subculture Group, owned by savvy restaurant operators and nightclub impresarios, Scott Frielich and Rodney Mayo.

Frielich said Brookfield has taken notice of their success, leading to the deal to bring their Lost Weekend concept to Mizner Park.

Lost Weekend, which Frielich dubbed a “younger, hipper Dave ’N Busters,” has locations in West Palm Beach at 519 Clematis St. and also in Miami Beach. Frielich said he and Mayo like the energy of Mizner Park, particularly the customer age range.

If the deal is completed, Lost Weekend Mizner Park will feature five pool tables, vintage video games, ping-pong, air hockey and shuffleboard. Expect good brews, including some eclectic beers, craft cocktails, tacos and a laid-back lounge vibe.

“Millennials and the younger generation are not into the dark, loud club scene,” Frielich said. “They want a social gathering where they can have a conversation and come to play games.” Look for Lost Weekend to open in about 10 months.

Also coming to Mizner Park is Calaveras Cantina, a Mexican restaurant that’s part of the trend of new Mexican eateries, such as El Camino in Delray Beach and Rocco’s Tacos throughout South Florida.

“We had been looking for three to four years in Boca after opening in Jupiter,” owner Curtis Peery said. “We knew the new wave of Mexican restaurants has been blowing up in South Florida, and we are very bullish on downtown Boca Raton. There’s a ton of residential and commercial activity taking place.”

Like Frielich, Peery said he also liked Mizner Park’s demographics: “Anyone from families to 25 year olds to retirees. It’s a melting pot.”

Peery also likes the activity being generated by Kapow! and The Dubliner, which he said underscores Brookfield’s decision to appeal to a more “fun, energetic group.” Plans are to open Calaveras by the first or second quarter of 2020, after a renovation of the old Junior’s space.

The Bluefish, meanwhile, is expected to open by November, said Jeff Sussman, a restaurant broker who did both the Cavaleras and Bluefish deals.

Sussman said even a couple of new tenants can help a center reinvent itself. “But Mizner Park is a tourist attraction, the Godfather of live, work, play,” said Sussman, of Sussman Restaurant Brokerage in Boca Raton.

The area’s new apartments and condominiums will continue to fuel demand for shops and eateries in Boca Raton and throughout South Florida, Sussman said.

In fact, Sussman just wrapped up deals in Palm Beach County’s north end. Those moves include selling Vic & Angelo’s in Palm Beach Gardens to French chef Laurent Tourondel, who will open Scusi Trattoria is expected this fall. And, in Deerfield Beach, JB’s on the Beach was sold to Ark Restaurants Corp., which plans to keep the rare oceanfront restaurant the same.

Even longtimers at Mizner Park are making some changes.

Max’s Grille, which opened along with Mizner Park almost 30 years ago, will remain open for business while it undergoes upgrades this summer, said co-owner Burt Rapoport. Starting in July, plans are to redo the restaurant’s high-ceiling “great room” and change out fixtures, tables and chairs. The renovation is expected to be completed in September.

Still unclear is the future of Lord & Taylor. Last month, Hudson Bay announced Lord & Taylor may be put up for sale.

Lord & Taylor has struggled as more people shop online. Hudson’s Bay has closed some of its stores, including Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which was shut for good earlier this year.

Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay said there are more than 40 Lord & Taylor stores around the country.

If the Mizner Park Lord & Taylor store were to close, real estate sources say there has been talk about building a badly-needed parking garage on the site.

There’s even talk of maybe adding a gym atop a garage. Equinox, the upscale gym from New York, has five locations in Miami-Dade County and has been mentioned as a possibility by real estate sources.

Source: www.palmbeachpost.com
By: Alexandra Clough