Boca Raton city officials must confirm adequate infrastructure to provide resident safety and enjoyment amid development binge.
Ask any developer or the architects that work for them. They will tell you the importance of a good foundation. What they sometimes don’t realize is that “foundation” includes not only bricks and mortar, but also the infrastructure necessary to support massive development. That, like any good foundation, should be planned for and in place before the buildings are built.
Infrastructure planning was a key element in Ordinance 4035, Boca’s seminal development law. The Ordinance provided the authority for much of what has happened in our downtown, even though the spirit of the law was sometimes ignored. What was not ignored were the numerous requirements for road and other infrastructure improvements before development could proceed. Those improvements were finished years ago, but Boca’s building binge proceeded apace. The infrastructure planning stopped; the building did not.
Our City government has been scrambling to keep up, but they are taking baby steps. Having “beautified” Palmetto Park Road, they scrambled to remove half of the medians to install turning lanes. They fret about what to do about the bottleneck at Palmetto and Fifth Avenue or at Fifth Avenue and Federal Highway. They promise sweeping new traffic solutions, e.g. making Federal one way south to north and Dixie one way north to south, but continue to approve new construction in the meantime. THERE IS NO PLAN.
And roads are not the only infrastructure problem. Pedestrian safety is a growing issue—just try and cross Mizner Boulevard. The City has assured Palm Beach County that Boca has adequate water and sewer to cope with the thousands of new residents and visitors. We hope they are right. These are the same people that have been saying that the roads are adequate to handle all the additional traffic.
Then there is the issue that no one is talking about yet: flooding. When you put an impermeable surface over sand, the water from tropical downpours and storms has nowhere to go. Take a look the next time we get a hard rain.
Equally important is the social foundation upon which so much of the building approval process depends. Developers need to build support among their neighbors and in the community at large. Without that support they are building anger and resentment.
Many of the current massive buildings in our downtown, such as the Mark, Palmetto Promenade and Tower 155, were approved without public support. The proposed massive 200 Mizner project is a poster child for how not to pursue a development project. First the developers surprised the politicians and the public with 30-story glass and steel towers. Rejected. Then they came back with a single building almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Again rejected. Now they are scrambling to tweak that monster as little as possible to gain City Council approval. They are not even talking to their neighbors about what might work for everybody concerned. Development should proceed in close consultation with the people who live and work in Boca. It should have their approval. The best development projects in the best cities in America are built on just such solid foundations. Boca can do better.
Pay a visit to the mammoth excavation that will soon be Tower 155 condominiums. You will notice that Boca Raton is built on sand. When you build on sand, you better have a strong foundation before you start pouring the concrete.