This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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A Comprehensive Waterfront Plan is a much needed and important idea that our City Council has brought forward. Our waterfront, Boca Raton greatest natural asset, is not just many miles along the coast – but it’s pockets of beautiful land and spaces beside the ocean and along the east and west side of the intracoastal… all to be enjoyed by residents and our visitors.
Two very important areas that will be addressed are Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park and the Wildflower Property.
Lake Wyman Park is an active, successful and popular and multi-use park with athletic fields, a well used fitness track and attractions for adults as well as older children and tots. However, the adjacent Rutherford Park on the waterfront, has fallen by the wayside. It had a wonderful boardwalk that gave people the unique opportunity to stroll along the intracoastal waterway. I the past one could even rent canoes, or just watch the wildlife, but sadly those are days of past. The boardwalk has fallen into disrepair. The area has become inhabited by the homeless and it is now basically ‘off-limits’. Frankly it’s scary, unsafe and it desperate need of attention. Hopefully the City will revisit the once talked about offer regarding a restoration project offered to Boca Raton by the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), but those details are for another day.
Now, on to the ‘controversial’ Wildflower Property…
With the meter still ticking we have paid about $1 million for Urban Design Associates to help plan our Downtown. And yet this important piece of waterfront property that the people own, that is a crucial component to the Downtown, was ignored. I would not consider this a holistic approach to urban planning or design. It seems that the costly plan of UDA was just about building, without a real focus on living.
That being said, and now that Hillstone Restaurant Group has pulled their proposal, we must move forward and consider what is best for this important piece property. There was a survey taken by our city on the city website several years ago that has recently come into question which I think needs to be addressed. There is controversy around it and it cannot be ignored. The people own this property and their feelings have to be taken into account.
I believe the future planning of this space can be a healing and a community-building project. I know the Chamber of Commerce and others feel that the answer must be a revenue generating, brick & mortar type restaurant…Period! But it certainly doesn’t have to be just that. If we are creative, if we have vision, if we are open-minded & compromising maybe, just maybe, it can be something more…Maybe we can morph into something even better!
Some very interesting and thought-provoking ideas have been put forth by local residents as a jumping-off-point to create a destination that makes our city stand out and stand above. Something that has the potential to create a real “sense of place”.
We’re not talking about just throwing down some grass and bringing in food trucks. That idea really diminishes what the people feel about the future vision & potential of this property being something truly special…something World Class…a destination that would mix art and culture and perhaps dining as well.
In our plans for the future we have to consider the 5th Ave & Palmetto Pk Rd traffic study being conducting at this time. And let’s not forget our original idea for Palmetto Park Rd as described in our own Downtown Master Plan. It says “This area has the potential to become the Champs Elysee of Boca Raton with well landscaped, garden like pedestrian walks which terminates with public access to our Intracoastal Waterway.”
Now with Palmetto Promenade (Archstone), we have lost quite a bit of walkability since we have very little ground level retail or opportunity for outdoor cafes along this 900 foot corridor. So we will have to work even harder to maintain our vision.
I do agree however, that this planning is going to take yet more time …. And we have already lived with this eyesore for over 7 years. I don’t know why it has been so long, but it has.
On October 24th, over 20,000 people walked by this property in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk. Is this what we want people to see as they walk by the intracoastal in Boca Raton? Councilman Jeremy Rodgers has agreed to take the lead and direct our City Manager to investigate costs in taking the padlock off, removing the ‘no trespassing’ sign, cleaning up the property, removing the unsightly walls and putting some grass down while we figure out our next move. The people have asked our city leaders to please take some pride in our property and open it up so they can enjoy the waterfront that belongs to them. No more chain link gate and unsightly mess…Please. The people of Boca and our guests deserve better. Hopefully that will happen soon, as we move forward.
As we plan for the future of this gem of a piece of land, I’d like to end by sharing with you a quote by international architect and Urban Planner David Sim. Watch his you tube. He talks about inspiring people. He talks about planning & design as a love story. He talks about incorporating art & culture into the environment. He talks about cities with soul and how to use space. He talks about loveable cities.
“Cities are full of overlapping memories; overlapping stories. The city is not just bricks and mortar. It’s about love; of the people for their space. It’s not possible for the master plan to answer all the questions, but we can create a robust framework that allows life to take place. Invitations to walk. To sit. To stay. A better way to cross the street. A better way to live your life.” David Sim
Innovative ideas by residents – Click Here
One more piece of invaluable information to get a full understanding of Urban Green Space. Click Here