How do we want to shape our future?
It is hard to avoid the unrelenting pursuits of commercial interest. However, we the people, along with our Community Leaders, must be vigilant to develop and progress responsibly and properly in order to maintain the unique culture and the fabric of what makes Boca Raton such a special place.
I have sat through many meetings and workshops where there are lengthy discussions of current and future development. This includes dialogue and analysis of our city codes and ordinances, heights, size, density, architecture, open space, public space, setbacks and design…
While the Wildflower property has been chain linked and locked up in disrepair for all to see, we have discussed the publicly owned land since the city purchased it in 2009. Should it be a park? Should it be a restaurant? Now there has been a successful petition with a couple thousand signatures gathered asking to take the decision to a vote of the people.
Yet, with all of these conversations what I haven’t heard discussed is what I call “THE BIG PICTURE”…the overall vision of what we envision as ‘the city’ we would like to see in the future…as a whole.
What makes people love a place? What makes people want to stay in a city, or come visit, or tell your friends or family to visit? Is it a restaurant? Is it a restaurant on the water? Is it a park? Is it a building? I think it is so much more than that.
I think it something that we never seem to discuss…and that’s called “PLACE MAKING.”
Place making, and I’ll quote from several different sources…“capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being.”*
“Place making inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of their community…. strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. It refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.”*
“Place making is a people-centered approach to the planning, design and management of spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place.”**
So when did the discussion of the Wildflower Property become…A park is for old people and a restaurant is for the young? When did a treasured piece of city owned waterfront property become the place that must offer jobs and create revenue for our city? This property and the approach to the future of our city is a MUCH BIGGER PICTURE.
I have not visited any city that has a downtown waterfront that isn’t utilized in some way as a place making experience. Wouldn’t we be doing the younger people in our community, or people yet to come, a justice by creating a PLACE and an environment to remember?
Just Imagine…here, in our very own downtown, a place where you can your bring boat, rent kayaks or paddle boards, maybe grab a a bite to eat, go fishing, your kids can play in the water fountain while their grandma watches. Maybe even have a treasured piece of interactive public art that draws people to it.
“It is essential to keep in mind that the inherent public interest in waterfronts is reflected in public ownership of the water itself. Water is a defining force that fundamentally shapes the character of each place it touches. Urban waterfronts help define dynamic spaces. Waterfront concepts and projects should flow from the nature of each place and embody its essential spirit. People of all income levels and all cultures should feel welcome. Distinctive places for children, as well as the elderly, should be included. Waterfronts present unparalleled opportunities for interpretation and education of natural values, community history, and culture.”***
I don’t come back from Chicago or New York City with pictures of restaurants that I ate at…I come back with pictures of the High Line, Millennial Park, and the Bean.
The future of this important downtown waterfront property is not about development, it is about humanity.
We have a tremendous opportunity here; I hope we don’t waste away the chance for real, memorable PLACE MAKING that we can be proud of, for us… and for generations to come.
Just some ideas…