A Different Perspective on Boca Raton’s Midtown Project

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The developers looking for the rezoning of the Midtown project would present a flowery picture of an interactive community where people stay just within that community and have no real need to travel beyond their borders. They catch the Tri-rail every day to go to work and its one big happy family. They will tell you that having an additional Tri-rail station will entice people in other local communities to use more mass transit. They dwell on all the enticing aspects of what they want to “create” and how surrounding communities will have the capability to take advantage of the many recreational and shopping opportunities.

What they don’t do is focus much on the 2500 dwellings and the thousands of additional people it will bring into our city.

Let me present a different perspective. I know very few people here in my community that have the capability to use Tri-rail for their commute. If you have a job that lends itself to the Tri-rail scenario then you likely use the station at Yamato where you can park. The Midtown station will not have parking unless the riders choose to park in any of the retail spaces set aside. This will likely be a problem and will need to be closely enforced, but it will be difficult. I don’t see a lot of local Boca residents moving from where they are now into these rentals, unless they have the capability to use Tri-rail for their commute.

The prime candidate to move into these 2500 rentals would be workers from mainly Dade, Broward and other cities that work close to the Tri-rail line and want to live here in Boca. The prime demographic for these rentals are those that want to live here to enroll their children into the Boca School System, because we have a great reputation for schools. Other Boca citizens have expressed concern that this rental campus environment with very low square foot per unit, could serve as a mecca for the rehab community. Entire floors or buildings could easily be rented and controlled by local rehab agencies as we have continually seen in communities North of us.

So in essence we are not creating a solution that is best for Boca but a solution that supports the needs and desires of other cities and counties. At what cost to us?

The developers and the workers from Broward and Dade reap the benefits. The city gets the additional tax money, but needs to turn that around and reinvest in schools and other infrastructure issues. Then there’s the traffic. The developer said the new development will have a “calming effect” on the Military trail traffic. So I guess what they are saying are we will have more cars on Military but they will all be going slower. Our traffic jams will crawl at a slower pace?

But hey, what about the shops and new restaurants? That should be a cool thing right? Let me first say that we have cool shops and restaurants at Boca Center now. Even though it is somewhat difficult now to gain access, at least it’s doable. Imagine trying to get in there with five to ten thousand new residents clustered right around those shops and multiple vertical structures eating up the open space. Yet, they tell us about some of the unique businesses they want to put in there like specialty shops and an avenue like Worth Avenue. The fact is, the businesses that survive there will be the businesses that cater to the 2500 rental units. If they want Pizza it will be Pizza, if they want Chick-Filet that’s what they will get. It could end up looking like a food court with an Aldi’s where Joseph’s is now, if that’s what they want. It’s the demographic of the renters that will drive most the retail there, even if the developers started with a different approach.

I don’t know if anyone has seen the Las Ventanas Development in Boynton Beach where the lumber yard used to be. They did mixed use townhouses and shops and last time I looked, after several years since completion, many of the shops are still up for lease. You can bet, if they can get a tattoo shop or scotch tape store in there now, they will, rather than leave them empty.

Mixed use doesn’t always work.

Your ability to get in Midtown Center with a car will likely be difficult and so will parking. If you can get there you might be able to join in with the masses. The Arts and Craft show days will be gone because they intend to eat up the parking lot with vertical rental structures.

This concepts of TOD (Transit Oriented Development) and Planned Mobility can be a good thing if a community plans for it right up front and has a comprehensive plan, but this is not that. It’s an effort to mimic that scenario, but all the right elements are not in place. It’s an afterthought that would never have materialized, except for the fact that there is now some opportunity to develop something there. It’s like the proverbial square peg in the round hole. It does nothing to enhance our communities, our traffic problems, or our quality of life.

I’m all for development if there is benefit in it for many and the first consideration should be the citizens and the surrounding communities, because they are the ones most affected by it. Our community is twice the size of this area and we have just over 300 homes. Why do these developers get special consideration to add such high density when it is not commensurate with the surrounding communities? It’s like, the last one in gets the most consideration to ruin it for the rest. It’s crazy! They’re coming late to the party. We have been living here, working here, paying taxes here, yet our voice is not being heard.

A good example of inappropriate density is the Palmetto Promenade apartment project on East Palmetto Park Road. This was developed over the objections of the local residents and is totally out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods. It contains 389 units, which is a fraction of the number of units proposed for Midtown. Check it out!

The developers continually tout the fact that a few of the local communities have submitted letters of support for the Midtown redevelopment project. While this may be true even for our development Paradise Palms, the letters were submitted early on without a clear indication of the intended scope of this development and without the collective agreement of the residents. After a ground swell of concern and opposition, our development is in the process of submitting a written retraction. Similar situations are evident in some of the other surrounding communities.

The current Midtown project will certainly benefit some, mostly those who currently do not live here and the developers who can enjoy their home on the Intracoastal Waterway insulated from it and rake in the five to seven million dollars in monthly rental charges. The rest of us in the surrounding residential developments will all suffer severely and look back on what we lost.

We need to stand up and indicate that we will not accept the rezoning of the midtown area to residential unless it has strict limitations on the quantity and types of dwellings considered. 2500 rental units are not it.

Midtown Boca Raton is truly – A Solution Looking for a Problem

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33 year resident of Paradise Palms in Boca Raton. Married 38 years and has raised 2 children here. Initially started in 1984 at the IBM Yamato facility as a Service Planner In 1988 accepted position as IBM as a Service Delivery Manager in Ft Lauderdale office. Worked with numerous large and mid range system accounts along the Gold coast. Managed hardware support for IBM/RICOH print products for the State of Florida Retired, April, 2011. After 37 years service in the technology industry.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t realize that a project of this size is being considered on that vacant land along Military Trail. That’s crazy. Military Trail is a nightmare during rush hour especially since the middle school hours were changed. I live in unincorporated PBC, just to the west of Military and 2 years ago when I drove to my job on Yamato Rd, it took 30-35 minutes to do those 6 miles. That is pathetic. Of course, I could sit in the parking lot called I-95 to get to my job as well. Boca needs to realize and plan for the fact that many people use Military Trail who do not live in Boca. If they are going to put a large development in that area, they better be prepared to improve the roads. The developers are only giving their unfair share even though they are the ones causing the overflow. People moved here for a better quality of life but the greed of government and developers are taking that away from us. Boca is still a great place to live but for much longer?

  2. Well wrti. Wiil our elected officials rebuked the ‘deep pocket’ self -interests or will a ‘smoke filled back room’ deal make it a reality.?

  3. What a great post and spot on!
    From someone living in Delray Beach, please note the drug rehab point the author brings up.
    The rehabbers are a nightmare, and this spot would be perfect for them.
    IMO, there are some areas on that section of Military that could be redeveloped, but absolutely nothing of the size and scope that is being talked about by the developer.
    Stay strong my Boca friends and stand your ground!

  4. Current zoning is a result of due process, and as such developers have a right to build so long as they comply with all applicable statutes and ordinances. This was the case at Palmetto Promenade and The Mark, and with recent 200 East proposals, all designed to fit “within the zoning envelope” and comply with mandated design criteria.

    (When neighbors along the north side of Townsend Place purchased their condos, the zoning next door permitted 100 foot tall buildings by right. They thus cannot complain that their views are obstructed when a developer next door decides to build within the same height limit as theirs.)

    Rezonings are another matter entirely, and bring into question such qualitative issues as the adequacy of surrounding public facilities, community interests and due process.

    My views are shaped by my 50-year career as an architect and developer, who has not once sought a rezoning or “special exception.” The proposed Tri-rail and Midtown projects are legitimate rezoning issues that deserve consideration and constructive debate. The challenge is to filter out the kind of Inappropriate, mean-spirited and myopic NIMBY sentiments that riddle your letter. Your words scream out, “Now that we’re here, slam the door and keep everyone else out!” That’s disengenius, xenophobic and selfish.

    • Spot on John! “As Right” development is fine. Variances are up for debate. If they cannot build “as right”, someone should reimburse them for their losses.

    • Mr. Colby, with all due respect to your credentials, BocaWatch must take exception to your assessment of Palmetto Promenade (PP) and The Mark. Both developments violate the vision for the downtown as put forth in the Downtown Master Plan and city code. Specifically, for Palmetto Promenade, the Downtown Master Plan calls for “ground floor retail” throughout the downtown. PP has ground floor residential. Our code calls for projects to have interior circular traffic within the project from one parking garage to the other. This is not the case for PP. You must exit onto Palmetto Park Rd to reenter the second garage of the project. There are other technical deviations regarding traffic for this project such as turn lanes.
      Regarding The Mark, aside from the prison like appearance on the western side, this project defies the requirement of walkability.

    • Mr Colby, I guess it’s now the trend. If you don’t agree with them, then label them and try to demonize them. My article did not use the derogatory words that you associate with my comments and my character.

      You seem to take the position that that developers have nothing to do with the intended use, zoning and plans for development. That they just implement what the city has already decided as part of due process. If that was true, then I do believe the downtown area would look a lot different than what it looks like today. I believe Crocker Partners repurchased the land at Boca Center with the intentions and sole purpose to move it in a direction they are pushing it. I don’t believe it was the other way around. Developers have a huge influence on the “due process” endgame.. It certainly appears that they have a lot more influence than us residents. I mean come ‘on, who in their right mind would consider 2500 efficiency type rental units on that small area around Boca Center? That’s a developers dream and a residents nightmare.

      We both have an agenda, my agenda, unlike possibly yours, has nothing to do with money. We are fighting for our way of life that has already deteriorated to a great degree over the 33 years I have lived here. You can label me any way you want, but there comes a time when the saturation of buildings and people in a community starts to overflow. If you think we should continue to “march on” well beyond that point, then you will never understand the average resident’s point of view.

      I don’t know where you live, but I’m sure you would not stand for 2500 efficiency rentals in your backyard when it’s already overcrowded. If that makes me a “NIMBY” then I guess I am. Maybe the right circumstances would make you one too.

    • Existing zoning and re zoning must first of all relate to common sense. This is a “typical Tom Crocker deal “screams of money only as the main drive with no concern to the results. This is a fully established (basically ) residential area with all the amenities in place .Also it is not planned for a 2500 unit rental community with somewhat of a transient type occupancy environment .The idea of a ten year ongoing construction project which has the extreme possibility of a colossal failure is definitely an idea that should not be considered. Our community would suffer the consequences while Crocker would simply move on to the next WHITE ELEPHANT

  5. Your comments about Joseph’s being replaced with an Aldi, rental communities being infiltrated with rehab residents, and residents using a school district that they are zoned for are pretty idiotic. Boca caters to a high end market and that’s not going to change. Even though everyone hates the new projects in downtown, they still command rents that rival (and in some cases exceed) the monthly outlay for a $500k -$750k mortgage. Young professionals will move from Broward and Dade because they are at a different stage in life, much like many seasonal residents did when they moved to Boca (or are looking to do in the future). If these are built or not, these people will still move here, it will just cause pricing for current housing to increase further than it already is. This article reads like a Trump piece with someone who wants to build a wall around Boca. I am all for responsible development and not all development is bad, but some of these points are just unfounded.

    • Mr. BocaMan, I’m not sure you have really considered the scope of this intended project. Maybe if you lived close by you would. The developer is looking to build 2500 small efficiency rental high rise apartments, the square footage of which are 500, 700 and 1200 max. There is no comparison in Boca today that could emulate the density of this intended project. Considering the targeted acreage which is extremely tight, this will be unlike anything we have seen before. It is not known
      what the demographic will be, but historical norms may not apply.

      I’m for development, the right kind of development. I have watched for years and put my trust I the process to allow development that makes sense for our city and the people who live here. What I have seen over the years has tarnished that trust. This project will be the worst of them if allowed to play out.

      I’m not looking to put a wall around Boca but let me put it in simple human terms.

      Imagine you are in a crowded elevator packed to capacity and it moves to the next floor. The door opens and there’s the hotel valet with a loaded luggage dolly and two other people standing there. What’s the right thing to do? Do you smile and say sorry, there will be another one coming soon. Or do you try to squeeze them in, possibly hurting some of the passengers and exceeding the elevator weight capacity. If the door closed on them would you chastise the passengers for not allowing them to come on?

      Like the elevator there comes a time when the saturation of buildings and people in a community starts to overflow beyond the limits of its infrastructure. You may feel we have plenty of room and space to absorb more population and more housing, but there are many others here that feel otherwise.

      Our infrastructure is screaming from traffic congestion to overcrowded schools. Businesses are hurting too and everyone wants to blame it on online shopping, but more and more people who want to shop locally and support their local businesses are discouraged because they just don’t want to fight the traffic. Then there’s just the plain old quality of life issue.
      You may find that hard to measure but it is real to all of us. The ability to get into a restaurant, a park or a festival, a local concert even the beach. All these things are affected in a negative way when we over build and overpopulate an area.

      You may label me Trump like, but I don’t feel we have an obligation to absorb additional population if we are already over capacity. There are plenty of areas north of us like Stuart, Port St Lucie and Sebastion that have that capacity. Developers continue to push Boca beyond it’s limits due to the high dollar per square foot value. It’s really not fair to the residents and citizens of this town.

      I hope to meet you someday BocaMan. Just hope its not in a crowded elevator…..Joke!

      Sincerely, Bill

  6. Knowing Bill DeAngelis as I do, your unwarranted attack that his words are “disengenius, xenophobic, and selfish” definitely do not apply to him.

    I do remember reading in the paper that there was a problem in that the buildings downtown were approved using a clarification memo instead of the original zoning regulations and that mistake was admitted. So don’t tell us that we are mean-spirited and myopic. Rather, we are cautious and not naive.

    For instance, why did it take so long for the residents to be made aware of this project? Why is a flyer from Boca Center being called MidTown Boca Center? If this project hasn’t even gone through P&Z, how is it they are already calling themselves by the project name? Something stinks about this. It’s a matter of trust and so far all I’ve seen is smokescreens.

    We read in the paper quite awhile ago that the Boca Center was going to undergo renovations. Period. Next thing we know Crocker is planning to build a transit village in our neighborhood, including stores, a Tri-Rail Station and 2500 condos. And you tell us we are selfish?

    Mr. Colby, I fully understand where you are coming from. What you don’t understand is that we don’t want a city within our area blocking and clogging our roads more than they are now. We are not against the Boca Center renovation, it’s those 2500 condos and their side effects that we feel will overwhelm our area with too much density.

  7. Mr. Colby, due process has not been enforced here. We residents here in Paradise Palms and surrounding areas were not notified of the “Midtown project” until very recently. Our homes constitute an older WELL ESTABLISHED community. To have these 2500 units shoved down our throats is more than a slap in the face. And you dare speak of NIMBY? If you’re so in favor, PUT IT IN YOUR BACK YARD.

  8. After reading the comments of Bill DeAngelis, I say “right on”. I too have lived in Paradise Palms for 36 years and I have never heard of a more preposterous idea. Military Trail was widened several years ago and designated a hurricane evacuation route. This “Midtown” idea goes directly against the arguments that were used back when the discussion of the widening of Military trail was taking place. We don’t need the congestion that the new housing, the Trirail station and the new commercial endeavours would bring. Both my wife and I say emphatically NO to this project and trust that the planning and zoning commission as well as the mayor and city council will see it for what it really is

  9. The last three sentences in Mr. Colby’s comments are mean-spirited. When people choose a place to live, whether it is purchase or rental, they do their due diligence. They pick a place they think that suits their needs and don’t think that those conditions will change significantly. I lived for 30 years in a Boca location that seemed perfect until a shopping center was constructed adjacent to my property. It should not have been allowed to be there. Without going into detail it caused my health to be significantly degraded along with the quality of my life. I had to move and, because ‘special needs’ housing was required, a custom home had to be built, This was a very difficult period of my life. So people who thoughtfully complain about changes to their home environment are not being ‘selfish’. They are just trying to maintain their home without having to think about where they might move to next.

  10. Your different perspective on a great midtown project is not actually different, but completely conventional and conformist. It is in line with suburban sprawl, auto dependent policy that is the norm across the land. Older Paradise Palms, where the author live does not even have sidewalks-this is discriminatory against the non drivers, young, old people. Author cannot possibly imagine that there could be alternatives to driving.

    • Bob, sounds like you already drank the Kool Aid. I would like to know where you think your going to walk to that isn’t there already. The main avenue will be what’s there today, the existing plaza, except for the fact that the west side of it will be walled by massive buildings. Across Military will be more housing, lots of high rise housing, with some retail but it will not have the draw that the plaza side will. Crossing Military to walk over there will get old very fast, because the retail will cater mostly to the housing not to the external residents. The parking garages will take up a lot of the sidewalk space. The action will be on the east side and it will be the same walk you have today. Along the front of the current plaza and back to the Marriott.

      They are really creating nothing new for the surrounding communities except the threat of more traffic. You need to take a closer look because this is really more about housing and profit than it is about planned mobility. I would certainly be in favor of this redevelopment if the developer brought the density way down. The density is way out of line with the planned mobility aspect of this small area, but housing density is the cash cow.

      Yes, I live in OLD Paradise Palms and you’re right we have no sidewalks. Neither does Le Lac the really high end multi million dollar community off of Clint Moore. What we do have are trees, grass birds, squirrels, fresh air and and friendly neighbors who have a sense of community. I doubt you will find much of that in a massive 2500 unit transient rental community.

      As for the walking aspect, people in my neighborhood are walking, biking and jogging all the time, young and old alike. In my 33 years here I have never heard of an incident associated with the lack of sidewalks. This is a captive community the only traffic that comes in here is traffic that needs to be here. It’s not optimum, but with the 25 Mph speed limit it is relatively safe.

      So we will walk in our rural country setting and you can walk in your concrete jungle. But frankly, I don’t think where I currently live or lack of sidewalks disqualifies me from understanding a TRUE Planed Mobility environment. I probably understand it better than you.

      If this project goes through the way they are advocating it and you’re here 10 years from now, you will look back and say to yourself, wow how did I not see the down side to the huge housing aspect of this project..

  11. Hi Bill, that’s the whole problem that a rural country setting does not belong inside the city in the first place, unless it’s suburban sprawl. Nobody walks there to actually go somewhere, since this “somewhere” is 30 minutes away and the community is isolated by extremely wide roads with extremely high speed limits, making it uncomfortable to walk. Power walkers and dog walkers don’t count. Whose fault is it? Of course it’s not yours, since the car dependent suburbs is the environment that you grew up in. Just understand that it is unsustainable in the long run. The city needs to have more mixed-use zoning areas, preferably by default, this is the only way for the city to grow. And these great high density projects is just a beginning.

  12. At last nights meeting at the Marriott, Mizner Park was held up as what midtown could be. If Google is right, Mizner Park has only 272 residential units. Why must midtown have 2500 units? Who can possibly believe this will create zero traffic increase on Military Trail (as promised)?. How about the City require the developers hold enough $$ in reserve to tear every bit of it down when this doesn’t happen? Why is no one mentioning 90′ buildings (9 story) fronting Military Trail in the parking lot of Boca Center? I keep reading no ‘high’ buildings, but 90′ is HIGH. Why does the proposal not include eliminating Military Trail in front of the Marriott by closing it at Verde Trail and extending it due North through Butts Road and then extend Butts Rd to 6 lanes? Have any studies been done (worldwide) of mixed use planned mobility development with 2500 units where it rains 55″ a year? Has it every worked? Anywhere? I’m all for re-development of this area, but 2500 new rental units seems like the wrong plan. Is there no money to be made for all concerned with something more reasonable…like 272 units, like Mizner Park?

  13. Which candidates are against this kind of development? We don’t want our property values destroyed while developers get rich. Nor do we want our city or beaches clogged with further traffic.

    Thanks!

    • Vote Al Zucaro for Mayor. Vote Andrea Levine O’Rourke for City Council. Vote Patti Dervishi or Scott Singer for City Council.
      Any other choice ensures overdevelopment and puts our city owned waterfront properties at risk for development.

  14. I live and work in this area and can unequivocally tell you that adding 2500 condos and a tri-rail station in this area will have a dramatic impact on the already bad traffic on Military Trail. What’s very disconcerting is how this proposed project has been somewhat of a secret. My company occupies two floors in the towers next to Rocco’s Tacos and we have 8 years remaining on our lease-yet no one, except the two employees here who live in Paradise Palms, knows about this project. How can anyone legitimately think a kiss and ride tri-rail is going to work? This is South Florida and people will have cars. I support the project only if the residential number is greatly decreased and they do away with the idea of the tri-rail station. Why is that needed when there is a station just down the road by Yamato/95?

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