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Time for an Update…
BOCA TAKES IRMA’S GLANCING BLOW
Whew! What was bad could have been worse. Hurricane Irma is now part of Boca Raton history and will be the subject of future conversations for years to come. However, as of this writing, Boca residents are regrouping, cleaning up and getting back to business as usual. While our city dodged the worst winds and potential damage of Irma, the impact on trees, landscaping and our power infrastructure was severe. Our city did an excellent job preparing and staying on top of serious issues. It is a good idea to now discuss and do even better for what nature holds in store.
MY FIRST SIX MONTHS has been packed with hard work, city events, meeting community and charitable leaders along with numerous city meetings…. some lasting up to 9 hours. Boca does not take a vacation in the summer anymore!
The city has hired renown landscape designers EDSA for consulting on the design/upgrade of 13 waterfront parks. There was community outreach and information gathering during the process. As part of this study I am hoping to direct focus toward the Wildflower property. This would include the connecting parks along the Intracoastal “blue way”. This jewel of a property is the entrance to the beach side (heading east) and our downtown (heading west). My vision is to direct EDSA to come up with alternative designs that would offer the opportunity of active, urban green space and develop a creative, street level “place making” vibrancy to our downtown and would contribute to surrounding business. Downtowns, especially on waterfronts, are more than buildings and restaurants…they have personality, public art, photo-ops, potential access to the water through kayaking, water tour/taxi, and offer moments to stop and remember. Imagine the possibilities! There will be an overview of the future potential of the waterfront at the Monday, September 25th City Council Workshop meeting, following the 1:30pm CRA meeting. The following month there will be a presentation by EDSA.
This is the area between Glades Rd and Palmetto Park Rd on Military Trail. It includes Boca Center (aka Crocker Center), Town Center and Glades Plaza. Several developers have come before City Council asking for approval/consideration of an ordinance that addresses zoning to allow for 2500 rental units. I requested staff to take over the writing of this ordinance. In my view this is more of a city planning and land development issue, as opposed to a developer driven ordinance. I believe it is important for our city to decide the direction for conforming uses and density. SFRTA (Tri-Rail) is studying the possibility/need of adding another train station that would service that area.
One of my goals, during my service to the city, is to see Downtown come alive with more than just buildings. I would like to see an active streetscape with attractive lighting, charming way-finding signs, shade trees, public art and a true pedestrian friendly environment. Of course, parking is an issue that must and is being addressed. Good news…an app driven company called Slidr (similar to the Downtowner) has started point-to-point transportation for the Downtown area, along with a pedi-cab company. Check out the latest addition, Lunch on the Lawn. Watch for more news on Downtown.
Song + Associates was hired by the city as consultants to take a comprehensive look at the potential of the future of our city campus. Our main buildings are undersized, worn out and in need of an update. The campus would include City Hall, Community Center, Police Station, parking, outdoor public space, recreation and a potential entertainment area. There was community outreach and information gathering held at the Community Center. Look for a presentation and recommendations from Song + Assoc in the near future.
An important added note: There was a recent article in the Sun Sentinel about the Related Group wanting to be a part of this City Campus Plan. Their idea is to help fund a performing arts center in exchange for building apartments at the location of the Mizner Park Amphitheater. I am always willing to hear new ideas, however, I will state for the record that I am not in favor of converting our open space at Mizner Park for residential units.
The defunct golf course in the Boca Teeca community has been the center of much discussion. It has a rather long complicated history. At this time, the Beach & Parks (Taxing) District is committed to the purchase, with the support of the city. The goal is to preserve precious green space and to “Keep Golf in Boca”. The details have not been worked out at this time. There is a joint meeting currently scheduled between Beach and Parks District & City Council for September 26, at 3:00pm at the 6500 Congress building. For more details, please attend.
MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE SALE
The City of Boca Raton owns the municipal golf course outside of the city limits on Glades Rd. There have been three vocal parties wishing to purchase this land. Offers have been submitted for up to $73 million. The city has prepared a contract that will be put to the three bidders for a fair comparison. This process will take place from September…to the final hearing November 14th, 2017. There have not been discussions about the use of the money from the sale.
SKIMMER BOAT FOR WATERWAYS
Upon taking office, one of my first endeavors was to accept an invitation from a concerned resident to tour the El Rio canal and some of its connector canals via small boat. I was introduced to a new perspective of our beautiful city. The objective of this tour was to witness, first-hand, the incredible amount of debris, both man-made and natural, that clogs and harms our waterways and distracts from the natural beauty. During a subsequent City Council meeting I put forth the idea of the need for a skimmer boat to help with ongoing cleanup of our canal system. Our Marine Advisory Board endorsed this idea, and I’m proud to say a line item in the new budget provides for this worthy cause. I owe a personal thank you to Rocco DeMella, the resident whom I met while campaigning, that brought this issue to my attention.
DO-IT-YOURSELF BEACH CLEANUP
Another project that I was proud to assist in initiating is an ongoing beach cleanup effort. It will be fun for adults and kids alike! Resident David Sergi approached me with the wonderful idea of providing buckets and picks to remove trash from the beach. He noticed while he was doing clean-up on his own, he was continually stopped and asked where he got the equipment and could others get involved. He brought me the idea, we then got approval from the city. He then spoke to the Ocean Side beach chair and umbrella vendor who agreed to stock them and loan them out. From there Mr Sergi got buckets and picks donated. When you have a vision and a passion it’s that easy! Stay on the lookout for this new feature coming soon…and you too can help keep Boca beaches beautiful.
• Mizner 200 – Was approved after a several years approval process. Elad’s Mizner 200 (aka Mizner on the Green), transformed into a 384 unit, high-end condo. This project went back to the drawing board many times. At the direction of the City Council, and at long last, the developer sat down with neighboring residents and business owners which resulted in a positive collaboration. One must be aware that a land owner has rights to build according to our zoning codes and Downtown Building Ordinance #4035. The developer met those parameters and more. They agreed to more building separation, open space, public art, enhancing the public experience with benches, landscaping and creating a safe crosswalk to encourage pedestrian activity.
• Royal Palm Assisted Living Facility (ALF)*, 375 East Royal Palm Road. Penn Florida’s 193 unit Assisted Living Facility sits one block south of Palmetto Park Rd on a residential street. This type of project is a less intense use than regular residential. As more of these facilities pop up in Boca Raton, we have to be sure we can meet the medical/emergency services required. As we grow, we have to face the necessity to increase services and space to meet these needs.
• The Goray-Rosemurgy ALF on North Congress Avenue*. This new ALF is in the north part of Boca near the Congress and I-95 interchange. Boca Raton Regional Hospital has agreed to provide an urgent care facility and a memory care unit that will be affiliated with the hospital’s Marcus Neuroscience Center. There will also be a partnership with Florida Atlantic University (School of Nursing). This project is touted to be high-end, similar to the 375 Royal Palm Facility in Downtown. It did require a zoning change, as the zoning went back many years to industrial commercial.
*As our community ages or the sandwich generation wants their aging parents close by, there is a need for ALFs in the community. Each ALF was approved unanimously with quite a few conditions to ensure the best medical care for residents, encouraging the least demand on city services.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE
• Waste Management – Municipal Services is in need of more space to maintain, repair and store city equipment. As a result, there is consideration and recommendation from staff to look at the potential of hiring outside private services for our sanitation, waste and trash removal.
The consequences of growth show us that there is the need for well thought out infrastructure and vision of what we see for the future of our community. If we continue to grow at a fast pace, we must consider the impacts first.
• Royal Palm Place – Redevelopment. A ten-year plan to redevelop Royal Palm Place (aka Pink Plaza) will be coming forward. This area is major component and key location in our Downtown. My position is to encourage the developer to reach out to the community and neighbors for input and collaboration.
• Ocean Palm Condo – A1A and Palmetto Park Rd. This has not come forward at this time. The developers have previously met with neighbors. The word is, that changes were made since the original meeting and there is some concern from surrounding residents. I will encourage collaboration before this comes forward.
• Winn Dixie Site – Redevelopment. Two separate developers, with fifty percent marked for residential rentals and the other fifty percent for retail. Has not come forward for approval yet.
• Train Depot – This historic site is for sale by the Historical Society. The sale carries the caveat to maintain its historical value. Stay tuned as nothing has come forward for approval at the present time.
FOR THE FUN OF IT!
Boca Raton Bowl – We are going into our 4th year of our very own Bowl Game held at Florida Atlantic University. I have been a Boca Bowl Captain and a cheerleader for this great event since its inception. Produced by ESPN, all eyes will be on Boca December 19th in our hometown stadium. Mark your calendar for the Kick-Off event, the Chef’s Tailgate, at the Renaissance Hotel on November 9th. And don’t miss “game day”…it’s such a fun way to celebrate around the holidays.
TO SUM IT UP
My purpose for serving our community is to be a voice of the residents. Please let me hear from you. I will always do my best to represent your needs. Our community is growing. Baby boomers are retiring and anxious to be in beautiful Boca Raton. Our local universities are thriving with the younger community looking to settle here. Creating a future with a solid infrastructure, sustainability, and an approach to growth with vision of our Boca Brand and the legacy we leave is my highest priority.
Andrea Levine O’Rourke
Boca Raton City Council Member
561-393-7706 – office
561-962-5874 – cell