Are You Concerned About the Direction of Downtown Development?


UPDATE: Mark Your Calendar

City to Hold Interim Design Guideline (IDG)/Pattern Book Presentation at CRA Meeting on November 9th, 2015 at 1:30pm

To be informed on this topic… read this article written after the IDG review on April 30th, followed by links to three other other articles on this subject.

The Pattern Book:  Get it Done or Get it Gone!  After more than 6 years waiting, the residents are finally given limited insight into the much debated results of the 2007–08 community charrettes leading to the Interim Design Guidelines (IDG), the set of building principals which have given Boca Raton ill-conceived individual projects like “The Mark” and the “Via Mizner”. 

For the first time since these early charrettes, Urban Design Associates (UDA), the city’s consultant, was brought down to conduct a planning session and presentation for the purpose of examining and discussing downtown design guidelines as adopted within Ordinance 4035 and the impacts on downtown development, the Pattern Book and, the now realized, downtown design and development on projects; to wit: the Mark.

This day-long event took place at the community center adjacent to City Hall.  The public was invited to participate but limited to 30 minute morning and afternoon comment periods.  Residents able to attend the weekday function were limited to a 3-minute comment.  All those attending and wanting to speak were heard.  The city videoed taped the event for broadcast. (click here to see video).  All are encouraged to watch this presentation when it becomes available on the city’s website.

The format provided for an overview by the UDA expert to members of three City boards; to wit: Planning and Zoning Board, Downtown Advisory Board, and the Community Appearance Board.  Three hours were provided for this presentation with questions and commentary limited to members of these boards only.

During this session ‘The Mark’ was evaluated with much, after the fact, criticism relating to design implementation flaws covering topics of color, streetscape, tinted window treatments, loggia articulation, etc….

For the most part, one wonders how these items were not addressed in the implementation process.  Some insight into that question was gleaned in that all sides admit that the IDG is a complex document;  meant only to be an interim document while the Pattern Book, a “living document” evolved. 

According to the UDA representative, the IDG was meant to be implemented for a 6 month period only and was never meant to be the guiding light for downtown development; a fact that has been conveniently left out of the recent dialogue on this subject.   

The IDG was not allowed to terminate at the end of the 6 months.  Instead, the IDG has become embedded in the building process and may have actually created an entitlement to land owners, especially those on parcels of land within the designated geography and on a minimum lot of 1.2 acres (changed recently from a minimum lot size of 2.0 acres.)  This is the current day dilemma that has attracted no politically acceptable solution.

Also revealed in this presentation, for the very first time, was an assertion that four case studies were contemplated for privilege under the IDG; a ‘convenient’ assertion to cover the four projects now out of the ground using IDG standards but an assertion never before mentioned and one without a shred of supporting evidence in any of the published materials on this subject.

During the one-on-one sessions, I was privileged to follow up on these two major items.  The UDA lead presenter confirmed the above statements.  He went on to justify the 6 year delay and the continuing dialogue about the, as yet to be completed, Pattern Book on the collapse of the economy and the slowing down of any new construction starts, a reasonable comment.  What is not reasonable is the failure of the City Council, over time, to bring this Pattern Book discussion to completion, but I digress….

Resident comments took issue with the process, the impacts, the look and the general change of direction for Boca Raton.  Residents mostly opposed additional height and generally supported the continued use of Ordinance 4035, the base ordinance for building development over the last few decades. 

Serious criticism was leveled at the presenter for using visuals of the worst building projects implementing 4035 standards while eliminating other visually pleasing examples like 200 East, the Camden, the Jefferson and Mizner Park.  Even the UDA representative conceded to me that 4035 standards could be adjusted with incentives for developers to capture the articulations sought to be implemented through the IDG and the Pattern Book.

Additional height is the real driver of this ongoing public argument.  Additional height is a developer driven need, not a resident driven want. 

Andrea O’Rourke made a very insightful comment characterizing the current situation as a ‘tale of two cities’; the developer vision and justification versus the resident vision and resentment. 

To date, city leadership has not been able to reconcile these differing visions…..Reconciling this will take bold leadership and statesman like patience.  However patience is not a strong sentiment from either side in this public argument.

With that said, I offer the following suggested solution….

Since the UDA expert said that the IDG was originally meant for a 6 month period but has now extended its presence over a 6 year time frame and because there is this divided city sentiment, consider the following as a practical solution:

1)    Go back to the original notion that a 6 month time frame is needed to complete the Pattern Book and eliminate the IDG;

2)    Impose a building moratorium for a six month period beginning immediately;

3)    Develop a ‘Zoning in Progress’ ordinance to accomplish the above moratorium;

4)    Set up a citizen task force of representatives from both sides with the objective of coming to an agreed upon solution; and,

5)    Bring forward a mediated recommendation for the completion of the Pattern Book to the City Council/CRA for ultimate adoption.

After this renewed 6 month period, there ought to be the political resolve to follow the title of this article….The Pattern Book: Get it done or Get it gone!

Other articles that relate to this topic:

Thoughts Regarding The Pattern Book

A New Look Comes to Boca …And With Come Groans

Boca Beautiful Asks: Repeal the IDG,- Scrap the Pattern Book

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