Mrs Wachtel has gone before City Council numerous times with the following information. She has asked over and over again for Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center financial reports and has gotten no response. Please read the following that she recently has written to City officials and has asked us to share with our readers…
Have you heard of the Boca’s “Cultural Arts Center”? It sits in the south end of Mizner Park and this property was designed for Culture Only when the public voted for it. But due to the failure of the Cartoon Museum and numerous bad decisions, the First Floor consisting of more than 40,000 s.f. was leased to GGP (General Growth Properties, the owners of the commercial buildings and the garages in MIZNER PARK) for the nominal amount of $10,000 per yr. for 45 yrs. They had invested the money needed to build out the second floor. However, they were supposed to have a Bookstore on the First Floor, a semi-cultural usage (it didn’t work out.) We gave MPCAA (Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center), a non profit run by Charlie Siemon, the lease to the whole building 80,000 s.f. of our property, with a Board basically of his choosing, that almost never meets.
There were sections in the lease that were to control it’s usage. The most important being: Section 10.11 (ii), “The second floor of the Building shall only be uses for the following cultural and civic purposes: (i) museum(s) and/or a 150 seat auditorium/lecture hall, which shall be available for community use for civic and cultural purposes…” Section 22.2 “Tenant shall obtain Cultural Subtenants to occupy the second and third floors (the third floor was eliminated) within (6) months… and ensure that the premises are open to the public at least thirty-five (35) hours per week during at least forty-eight (48) weeks of the year.”
Charlie Siemon obtained an amendment that allows him to rent portions of the Second Floor to non-profits (basically of his choice) for very nominal rates. He let Elad National Properties use the 8,000 s.f. area on the second floor for an event promoting it’s new “Mizner on the Green” vision of four buildings, the largest being 460′ tall, offering complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres to a select group of supporters. It is rumored that Charles Sieman has Bar Mitzvahs there, etc.
The main provision that Charlie Siemon has violated is Article 23: Tenant will furnish Landlord annually, within sixty (60) days next following the end of each fiscal year of Tenant, with (i) a complete executed copy of an audited financial statement prepared by a Certified Public Accountant acceptable to Landlord…containing a fully itemized statement of profit & loss and of surplus and a balance sheet…” It’s been 10 years. The City has requested it every year. Charles Siemon has never complied. IT IS TIME TO CALL THE LEASE IN DEFAULT! The City should take it over with an active, caring board. It did it with the Amphitheater very successfully. Is the CRA afraid of Charlie Siemon? Why?
NOW IS THE TIME!! The City is negotiating with GGP over its option to buy the land (which we, the citizens own) under the commercial buildings and garages in Mizner Park. In the lease, GGP has the right to use 5,609 s.f. on the second floor “only be used as a bookstore and shall be part of the bookstore on the first floor”. Since there is no bookstore and will never be one on the first floor, GGP must give up that space and the City should add it to the Cultural/Museum space available to be used for said purposes.
The Amphitheater has become a valuable asset to the citizens of Boca. Do not let it be sold to GGP! Let’s use the money received from the sale of the land to build a Garage on the vacant land adjoining the Amphitheatre with a regular shuttle through the Downtown. We will need it because GGP will now totally control the use of the present parking garages.
If this concerns you as well, contact your elected officials and ask them for financial statements now, and to take back the Cultural Arts Center before it’s to late.
Mayor Susan Haynie – firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth – email@example.com
Councilman Mike Mullaugh – firstname.lastname@example.org
CRA Chair,Councilman Scott Singer – email@example.com
Jeremy Rodgers – firstname.lastname@example.org
City Manager Leif Ahnell – BocaCM@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Thank you Lenore for your constant effort to bring this to the community’s attention. Approximately 4-5 years ago I tried to determine how Charlie Siemon and his band of merry men operated and I even took one of his board members, Al Travsos to lunch. Unfortunately I learned nothing from this Board Member because he said they never meet and he really didn’t know what was going on. In my frustration I made an appointment w/then Mayor Whelchel to speak to her about the situation and lack of community involvement. She said she would definitely look into it and get back to me. Well of course that never happened. Yes, I became involved in other things and never followed thru so I applaud you for continuing the “fight.” This very valuable and viable property is being used as a VALET station!!! What a shame! Hopefully w/your continued interest and this article we can gather some steam to get the city council to do something!
I agree with this post. This center has gone downhill since GGP acquired it. Better use is needed for the facilities. It’s for our community! I have stopped going to Mizner for these very reasons.
Fiduciary responsibilities should not be taken lightly for all parties involved. GGP is acting in their best interest with a public asset. The CRA will need to justify their oversight role or face the consequences of their actions.
Do what is right for the citizens of Boca. You are working for us. This goes for the cultural center, the Chabad and all the high rise apartments that you are allowing to be built that not only look ugly but causing over crowded areas in our town and beaches
Thank you Lenore. No one, I repeat, no one has been more steadfast or involved in matters affecting the residents of Boca Raton than you. I admire both your tenacity and perserverance in helping the citizens receive a fair shake from our local government.
On this particular issue, I have personally seen you ask for these MANDATORY financial statements year-after-year and getting nothing but lip service from Council members and in most cases totally ignored. It is shameful the extent that the elected officials will go to in an effort to protect Charlie Siemon. Mr. Siemon has taken a quasi-public entity with specified reporting requirements and turned it into his own private entity while disregarding the required reporting element for years. This seems “criminal”.
To add further insult to injury, you and you alone Lenore, campaigned to add an extra seat for the Board of Directors to Charlie’s entity to be held by a citizen at large. Lo and behold, the Council agreed to add that seat. No one deserved that seat more than you, and you rightfully applied for it. When it came time to select the new Board member, the City Council chose to once more “lick the boots” of Mr. Siemon and selected a candidate who had ties to Charlie and was new to our community.
The City Council will talk a good game about representing the residents but actions speak louder than words. The residents are low on their priority list.