The tireless volunteers on our Community Appearance Board have maintained Boca Raton’s brand for decades even though a seat on this board can be a thankless position.
Residents owe all CAB members, past and present, a huge debt of gratitude for holding developers accountable for maintaining our brand.
Despite these efforts there are troubling signs that our uniqueness is being irreparably damaged and our city is at risk of being ‘commoditized’.
History has shown that once established, tampering with a well-established brand can have disastrous effects.
In April of 1985 the Coca-Cola Company introduced New Coke; it marked the first formula change in 99 years for one of America’s most iconic products. Public reaction was immediate and hostile; the company reintroduced the original formula only a few months later.
A city’s brand is based on three key attributes; image, uniqueness and authenticity. Simply stated, a brand is a mark of identity. Our brand is Mizner and while Coca-Cola was able to revert back to its original brand, a city cannot.
The term ‘Mizner’ is an architectural design style made famous by Addison Mizner who, along with contemporaries such as Frank Lloyd Wright, left their mark on cities throughout the United States.
Today, many cities have ‘city branding’ on their agenda. If a city is fortunate enough to have a signature architectural icon, like Addison Mizner, they are uniquely positioned to differentiate themselves.
According to Boca’s governing Ordinance 4035, new development in our downtown must contain the influence of Mizner’s iconic architecture. It should be identifiable to the layman and not up for esoteric interpretation.
Unfortunately, our identity is quickly disappearing due to questionable interpretation of ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ the Mizner style as is evident in the designs for downtown projects already approved and those pending approval.
Spokespeople for some current projects have gone to exhaustive lengths to have their non-conforming projects pushed forward.
They have successfully lobbied board members to the point of total confusion with self-serving elucidations of Mizneresque designs. The result – our unique identity is quickly disappearing.
One need only to Google “Boca Raton ordinance 4035” and scroll to page thirty-seven.
The code is very clear about the required architectural style and gives examples of buildings that comply along with photographs of desired details.
The well-being and satisfaction of citizens and visitors are strongly influenced by the image of a city or place; the adherence to our iconic architectural style is not up for interpretation. It does not belong to law makers trying to satisfy a developer’s budget.
Boca Raton’s Mizner brand is part of our heritage if we lose it we become just another commoditized city.