Lox Council Gets Groves Town Center Progress Update

The master site plan for Groves Town Center.

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council released the developers of Groves Town Center from a nearly 20-year-old restrictive covenant Tuesday, Aug. 15, agreeing with town staff and the developer that the project’s 23-acre existing conservation easement satisfies the earlier agreement with Palm Beach County.

Also that evening, the council held an informal workshop session with Diane Jenkins of Jenkins Realty, representing Groves Town Center, during which Jenkins updated the council on several businesses she is in negotiations with regarding the nearly 90-acre site, including a top-branded hotel, a small animal veterinarian and a Florida company looking to develop indoor pickleball courts.

During the regular meeting, the council approved the termination of the 2005 restrictive covenant, which predates the town’s incorporation. The covenant transferred to the town upon incorporation.

The town held a restrictive covenant over 3.1 acres within the Groves Town Center property for quality native vegetation. It was originally granted by Sundar Heeraman, previous owner of the property, to Palm Beach County in 2005. At that time, Heeraman was using the land for agricultural purposes and promised that should that use ever end, to either set aside the 3.1 acres or make a cash payment to the county’s natural areas endowment fund.

Since that time, the land was purchased by Solar Sportsystems, developer of Groves Town Center, and merged with the surrounding land. In 2020, the current landowners recorded a restrictive covenant and conservation easement covering approximately 23 acres, including a large part of the former Heeraman property.

“The property owners of Groves Town Center have requested that the town recognize that the requirement to set aside 3.1 acres of native habitat has been satisfied by the granting of the limited access conservation easement in 2020,” Town Attorney Elizabeth Lenihan explained.

Last month, the council was asked to drop the earlier restrictive covenant, but the representative at that meeting did not have maps showing the location and other background details. At the Aug. 15 meeting, Jenkins had more specific maps available.

“We knew this was there,” Jenkins said. “It was discussed with ERM [Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management], and it was understood that this was going to be part of our conservation easement. We all thought this was a non-issue because it was taken care of years ago.”

However, it came up when one potential buyer asked that title for the property be cleared of the old restrictive covenant.

“There was never a question that we would be preserving 3.1 acres,” Jenkins said. “We knew on this property, there would be a lot more to preserve than that.”

During public comment, resident Nina Corning brought more details she found regarding the original agreement and suggested that the developers should add an additional 3.1 acres of preserved native vegetation.

However, in the end, the council agreed unanimously that the current, 23-acre preserve satisfies the old agreement.

Before the meeting, the council held a “developer concept review” workshop on the Groves Town Center site, which is located at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road.

Jenkins’ last presentation before the council was on eliminating the adult living facility (ALF) planned for the site and replacing it with a non-branded “boutique hotel.” While the council preferred a hotel to the ALF, the term “boutique hotel” was confusing.

“Because of the feedback that I received, we went back into the marketplace and found a different developer for a hotel,” Jenkins said. “We do now have somebody with a branded hotel, one of the very top names. Those plans are being finalized now.”

While plans for the hotel will likely be submitted soon, there will be master plan issues and zoning issues to work through. There is also a small animal veterinarian clinic coming into the western part of Pod E, which is located north of the existing Aldi store.

“We have had another interesting group approach us and request the opportunity to join us in Loxahatchee Groves,” Jenkins continued. “That group is called the Pickleball Club, with pickleball being the fastest-growing sport in America.”

The company builds indoor pickleball facilities, along with some non-lit outdoor pickleball and bocce courts. The group, based in Sarasota, already has six locations with approximately 20 planned across Florida. It is a club concept with a membership fee.

The site possible location for the pickleball group is not yet decided and depends upon where the hotel ends up, and how much of the space is left.

During public comment, resident Pat Johnson was not excited about the pickleball idea. “This seems to be an attempt to make us more into Wellington,” she said. “This is not something for our community.”

The council, however, expressed more interest in the idea.

“Thank you for coming and bringing us something different,” Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said.

“It’s a new sport, but I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” Vice Mayor Robert Shorr added.

However, Shorr, along with Councilwoman Marge Herzog, said that the look of the facility would need to fit in with the town’s Rural Vista guidelines and not resemble a big warehouse, like the company’s other locations.

“If they were to come here, they would need to follow the Rural Vista guidelines,” Jenkins agreed. “I give those to everybody, so they see those coming in.”

The overall project is broken into eight pods. Pods A and B are already under development. Pod A has the existing Aldi’s store, as well as the Wawa store under construction and a planned AutoZone store.

Pod B, fronting Southern, has an approved car wash site, as well as the Culver’s Restaurant, which is almost ready to open. Also on that site will be Heartland Dental with one spot still available.

Pod C, just behind the Aldi store, was approved earlier this year for a Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute medical office. Pod D, the final unsold area fronting Southern, is not on the market yet.

This leaves Pod E (fronting B Road), Pod F (an internal area closer to C Road) and Pod G (further north on the site), as well as the Town Commons area at the center of the property.

Jenkins discussed an idea presented previously of switching Pod G with the Town Commons site. Pod G was slated to be the ALF and is closer to residential areas, while the Town Commons site would be a better option for the hotel.

“If that switch is made, Town Commons would end up being bigger,” Jenkins noted.

For the hotel to replace the 120-bed ALF, it would require changes to the master plan. Once the hotel site is finalized, that would determine the location of Town Commons and other amenities, including where the pickleball project might go.

Councilwoman Marianne Miles and Mayor Laura Danowski said they were not opposed to the concepts presented.

“I would love to see the footprints for where these potential places would go,” Danowski said.

Jenkins said that would be the next step.

“It’s a process,” she explained. “We need to do site plans to get to the next phase, but I don’t want to have people spend money on site plans if we come in here and you don’t want it.”

To learn more about the project, visit www.grovestowncenter.com.