As the new year begins, we’re betting All Aboard Florida’s plans for an intercity rail system in Florida will continue to be one of our top business stories.
Here are five things you need to know about the massive project.
1. It’s truly massive. The downtown Miami station is slated to have a footprint that spans six city blocks. The West Palm Beach station will be 60,000 square feet, and it’s paired with a plan for a rail-side apartment complex.
2. You could ride a Brightline train by the end of 2017. The company plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Service between Miami and West Palm Beach is set to begin in 2017, with the West Palm-to-Orlando route set to open by the end of 2017.
Included in the Weston store is an ice cream counter serving 32 flavors, in addition to Hoffman’s Chocolates’ selection of more than 70 types of treats.
“We are thrilled to join the Weston community and continue expanding our legendary brand in Broward County,” Jarett Levan, president of Hoffman’s parent company BBX Capital and CEO of BBX Sweet Holdings, said in the news release.
Hoffman’s began its expansion into Broward County in late 2014 and now has four stores there.
Frequest flier miles based on dollars spent instead of miles traveled
This year, three airlines switched up their frequent flier programs in a big way: issuing rewards based on the amount of money spent, instead of how many miles were traveled.
And American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines might be leading a bigger charge, CNN reports.
“We saw some of the first hints globally from international carriers,” Skift.com co-founder Jason Clampet told CNN.
The rise of Uber and Airbnb in business travel
With the addition of Uber for Business, the increasingly popular ride-hailing app made it easier for companies and employees to expense trips. Companies now can set up corporate accounts, set rules and monitor rides more closely.
Airbnb also has risen in popularity for corporate travel, CNN reports. Instead of booking costly hotel rooms, for example, a company might book a large condo through Airbnb.
Restaurateur Tim Gannon, co-founder of Outback restaurant and creator of the “Bloomin’ Onion,” has a knack for knowing what people want to eat.
Now Gannon and son, Chris, are out with a new concept: Bolay, a hip, fun eatery opening in Wellington in February 2016. Bolay will open in the newly-built Buckingham Plaza at 250 S. State Road 7.
Bolay promises to be a fast-casual concept featuring bowls “packed with nutrient-rich super foods” and proteins.
Translation: Look for items such as gluten-free cilantro noodles, Peruvian quinoa and marinated kale and currant salad.
Featured vegetables include Paleo sprouts, smoky cauliflower and and maple-roasted butternut squash. Proteins will include tuna, spiced steak, lemon chicken and tofu.
The concept will allow people to walk through a line and direct a Bolay employee to include the desired food items.
The food is intended to be healthy, nutritious and loaded with energy. “We want people to feel good about what they’re about to compose and eat,” Tim Gannon said.
Bolay, in fact, is the polar-opposite of the heavy, fried meal. “We’re going to be food-coma free,” Chris Gannon quipped.
“Every molecule in the building is going to be healthy,” Tim Gannon added.
But taste is important, too. The Gannons hail from New Orleans, where flavor and spice are important. “As much as the Bloom’ Onion send you flavor-wise into a special place, we’ll do the same thing without the heavy feeling or caloric content,” Tim Gannon said.
Gannon, who now lives on Palm Beach, is a former Wellington resident and polo aficionado. He said Wellington is dedicated to being physical and healthy, making it a good fit for the first Bolay store.
But Gannon expects to expand quickly once open. He’d like to open in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, and throughout South Florida. Franchising is an option down the road, too, he said.
For now, though, Tim Gannon said he’s happy to work with son, Chris, to get Bolay off the ground.
In addition to food, Bolay also will feature cold-pressed juices, wine and craft beer from nearby breweries, Chris Gannon said.
As much as possible, food will be locally sourced and seasonal, Chris added.
Chef Martin Oswald, former protégé of Wolfgang Puck, helped curate Bolay’s menu. Oswald is known for cooking food based on a Nutritarian diet, a way of eating based on food choices that maximize the micronutrients per calorie.
Tim Gannon expects the bowls to be priced from between $8 to $11 for lunch, and he said they will be large enough for people to save some to eat later for dinner, too.
Bolay will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. A grand opening date is not yet known but will be announced in the future.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority on Friday unanimously approved an agreement that would bring Tri–Rail to All Aboard Florida‘s station in downtown Miami — a move that would ultimately allow the commuter rail service to run between Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
Of the 50 daily Tri–Rail trains, 26 are expected to travel to AllAboard’s Miami station.
Under the agreement, a handful of organizations and government agencies based in Miami-Dade County would set aside $43.61 million to pay for a rail line connecting the CSX tracks, which Tri-Rail currently runs on, to the FEC corridor. The money would also be used to link Tri-Rail to All Aboard’s MiamiCentral station.
Before the plan can move forward, the state’s Department of Transportation must also pledge an additional $17.2 million to fund the connection.
The hoteloccupancy rate in Palm Beach County grew slightly in October, while the cost of a nightly hotel stay continued to climb.
In October, there were 499,255 nightly bookings available in the county’s hotels and motels, according to the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council. Roughly 345,500 of those nightly bookings were sold to out-of-town visitors and other guests.
The bookings mark a 2.9 percent increase over Oct. 2014, according to the council.
The cost of a nightly hotel stay in October was $132.27, up 5.6 percent from Oct. 2014.
Meanwhile, the countywide hotel occupancy rate stood at 69.2 percent in October, up just under a percent from Oct. 2014.
WestJet touched down at Palm Beach International Airport on Friday, offering twice a week service to Toronto.
The low-cost carrier’s inaugural flight between Palm Beach County and Toronto Pearson International Airport arrived at about 10:30 a.m. with 96 passengers on board. The Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 series aircraft was one of WestJet’s two “Magic Planes” which feature custom paint jobs displaying Disney characters.
Canada is the county’s largest international tourism market, with visitors from the north making up about 46 percent of the international tourists who come to Palm Beach County.
This year, airlines are expected to offer roughly 49,500 seats between Canadian cities and PBIA. That number is expected to grow to nearly 60,000 next year, according to Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing organization.
On a weekly basis, airlines offer more than 3,500 seats into PBIA from Canada. Between Jan. 30 and April, charter flights are expected to offered nearly 6,000 seats from Canada.
“We are hopeful that this will be a successful flight and will generate additional service into the airport from Canada,” Bruce Pelly, the director of Palm Beach County’s Department of Airports, said of WestJet’s new service.
Robert Palmer, WestJet’s manager of public relations, said Florida is a key destination for Canadian snowbirds and tourists. WestJet offers 105 weekly flights from 12 Canadian cities to 6 destinations in Florida.
But Palmer, who flew to PBIA on the inaugural flight, said the airline hopes the new service will also bring Palm Beach County residents to Canada.
“We are looking forward to not only bringing Canadians back home, but to bringing some of you to Toronto and beyond,” Palmer said Friday.
WestJet will operate twice weekly — Monday and Friday — between PBIA and Toronto The seasonal service runs through April 29. Palmer said bookings on the flights “look strong.”
Palm Beach County tourism leaders heralded the new flight.
“We’re thrilled that WestJet is providing another easy and convenient direct flight option for our Canadian visitors,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches. “The highest percentage of our destination’s international tourists are traveling from Canada, because we truly offer what Canadians are specifically seeking in a vacation. We’re confident that with our significantly increased marketing and sales investment in the Toronto market, this additional direct flight option will result in increased Canadian visitation. This WestJet route will encourage even more Canadians to discover what makes The Palm Beaches the best way to experience Florida.”