The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council had high praise Tuesday, Feb. 7 for most parts of a plan regarding a new medical office building in the community but expressed concerns about whether the project’s overall design elements fit with the characteristics of the town.
At issue was the site plan for a new Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute building, which is slated to be part of the Groves Town Center project on the north side of Southern Blvd., just east of B Road.
At nearly two acres, the parcel is just north of the existing Aldi store at Groves Town Center in a site designed as Pod C of the overall project. It will be at the intersection of Tangerine Drive and Mango Street, both streets that are platted as internal Groves Town Center roadways.
The Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute plans to build a 20,200-square-foot, two-story building, which is 45.9 percent of the 44,000 square feet of approved commercial office space in the Groves Town Center project.
The proposed medical office and surgical center will provide outpatient surgery and medical office services. On-site physical therapy will be included, so that the facility provides a one-stop location for a multitude of cross-treatment medical services. The surgery center will operate up to six days a week with no overnight patient stays.
The project was approved unanimously by the Loxahatchee Groves Planning & Zoning Board in December and was recommended for approval by town staff, subject to a list of 29 conditions.
Leading the presentation before the council was Brian Cheguis of iPlan & Design, agent for the Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute. He went over the landscaping plan, access points and overall design elements, noting that no variances have been requested.
“As far as the architecture, we have endeavored to incorporate as many of town’s Rural Vista guidelines as possible,” he said. “We think we have hit all eight of the standards.”
These included decorative railings and canopies, as well as windows and columns that have been squared to give more of a rural appearance.
“We are very proud of our landscaping for the site,” Cheguis added. “We have incorporated a lot of new plantings on the site.”
He noted that the applicant had agreed to all 29 conditions of approval suggested by town staff.
However, in discussions, council members said that the overall design still looks very modern and not rural.
Councilwoman Marge Herzog suggested using a split rail fence on the property somewhere to allow more of a rural look. Cheguis said he would work on that, perhaps as an entrance feature.
Mayor Robert Shorr also expressed strong concerns with the overall look. “You checked the boxes for Rural Vista, but the building doesn’t look rural,” he said. “It looks like a Palm Beach medical office building with some stone features on the first floor.”
He asked them to consider some changes to the railing and columns to make them look more rural.
The applicant noted that part of the issue is that in the end, it still has to look like a building that patients recognize as a modern medical office.
Councilwoman Marianne Miles agreed. “I like the design. I have visited many of these facilities,” she said. “It speaks to me that it is a surgical center and not a country store.”
During public comment, resident Cassie Suchy urged changes to the look.
“This is not representative of the town we are in,” she said. “They can change the architectural look. Have them put in some type of architectural design to have it more fit in.”
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski tried to summarize the concerns.
“The building is stark; make it softer,” she said.
Cheguis said that some changes could be made to the aesthetic.
“I have heard your concerns, and we are more than willing to bring on some of those elements,” he said.
Shorr asked about the proposed timeline for the project.
“I’m not here to stall this project,” he said. “I appreciate it, and I am looking forward to it in the town.”
Cheguis said that they anticipate moving forward rapidly.
“We are anxious to get started,” he said, adding that he hopes to be in construction over the next three or four months, followed by 15 months of total construction time.
Dr. Gary Wexler, representing the Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute, said that he wanted to work with the town to make the design work.
“I agree with all of your comments,” he said. “We want to be harmonious with the town and your design features.”
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia made a motion to approve the project, but request other options on the railing, canopy, shutters, landscaping and roofline.
However, town staff suggested that the most efficient way to get the project moving would be to continue the item until the Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting to work out the design elements.
A motion to continue passed 4-1 with Miles dissenting.
“We will see you in two weeks with a couple of tweaks,” Shorr said.