|The Wildflower issue, with its related ballot question, should never have come to this! The leadership of our community should have had the vision to bring our community together…not divide it. What a shame…and over one restaurant, one out of town business, on city owned property.
A number of our prominent and outspoken ‘powers that be’ in the city now state that it was “always meant to be a revenue generating restaurant” which, if true, sadly indicates that there was a lack of transparency from the get-go since there is no public record that affirms that statement. It also indicates a lack of vision, an absence of both leadership and collaboration, and a denial of good urban design for our downtown.
I personally have spoken many times in public forums of the benefits of creativity and ‘place-making’ as it relates to the ongoing buildout of Boca Raton, particularly as it relates to and affects economic development. That vision sadly seems to be lacking here. There is no doubt in my mind, and the minds of many, that a YES answer to the ballot question facing the citizens of Boca Raton on November 8th is less restrictive in application than a single use, large restaurant. The effective sale of city owned waterfront property to an entity for a single commercial use restaurant, while keeping citizens on the hook for the property taxes, with no guarantee of return on investment, is just bad business.
With a YES vote, there is a possibility of downtown recreation and activities for ALL Boca Raton residents and visitors. These activities can draw residents from all sectors of our community, as well as visitors, tourists and their children to our urban waterfront. They could enjoy activities such as boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, interactive and public art, food concessions, walkability, green market, creative play areas…not to mention whatever other creative, visionary, collaborative ideas open-minds may bring to the table.
The trend among today’s forward thinking cities is to do just that: create enjoyable features and activities that draw citizens to a gathering place at urban waterfronts and stimulate economic development surrounding it. Every city I visit around our country and the world has addressed their urban waterfronts with this mindset. I have often said, “when I visited Chicago and NYC, I came home and showed off pictures of The Bean and The HighLine, not a restaurant!”. It takes forethought, planning and leadership to do the right thing for the long term. We should be thinking of the legacy we are leaving!
Heavily invested in promoting the restaurant on public land is the city’s Chamber of Commerce. As a former Director of Communications for this entity, it surprises me that so much energy and money has been dedicated into this voting process for this one business. I always believed The Chamber’s true mission was the economic development of all businesses in the entire City of Boca Raton. Focusing a concerted effort and spending an incredible amount of money to support one restaurant to be built on a piece of publicly owned land seems out of balance.
There are also Tallahassee based funded PAC’s and developer money, which are pulling out all efforts to show the residents that money talks, and ultimately rules the day.
The tactic of name calling opponents NIMBY (not in my back yard) is just a diversion from the issue. As inevitable growth continues, residents from all over Boca have noticed the lack of green space as part of the development plan. Concern over this property is not an anti-development cry. This is a pro good urban design and responsible development plea!
Lastly, as it relates to the scare tactics of inhibiting future commercial development on our city’s other intracoastal waterfront properties, I cannot imagine anyone would be in favor of the commercialization on Spanish River Park, Red Reef Park, Gumbo Limbo, Lake Wyman or Rutherford Park. We may disagree on many things…but after all, these are the jewels that make Boca Raton the special community we are so proud of.
This is an opportunity for residents to win the day by preserving green space for generations to come and continue the legacy of a ‘City Within a Park’ that Boca Raton is known for. This is the very last question on the ballot. A Yes vote can make that happen.
With Best Regards,