A Midtown CRA

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I’ve lived in Midtown for 7 years.  I know the area, many of the people who live there, most of the businesses and the issues.  I am the president of an HOA in Midtown.  I believe that a MIDTOWN CRA should be considered as an option.

The largest pitfall I see within any of the conversations I’ve heard so far, including the present ”Small Area Plan” currently undertaken, is the lack of participation by Palm Beach County in the planning process.   PBC owns and maintains the infrastructure required, namely the schools and main roads.  A new Tri-Rail station is going to open.  How do we maintain the area’s status quo, let alone plan the area’s growth, without PBC at the table?  I am not attached to the notion of a CRA for Midtown (perhaps someone has another way to include PBC in the process which can work), but I do believe a CRA can be created, and, if it were, it could yield some very different results.

A CRA (community redevelopment agency) is a powerful redevelopment tool, and can be created by agreement between two or more governmental entities upon a finding that an area is “blighted.” The downtown’s CRA was created to rid the area of blight.  The CRA acquired the old Boca Mall and built Mizner Park.  Midtown is blighted.  Excerpted (if you want to be a wonk, read Florida Statutes Chapter 163), a CRA could be established by —– one or more of the following factors exist in the area:

  1. Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout, parking facilities, roadways, bridges, or public transportation facilities.
  2. Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness.
  3. Deterioration of site or other improvements.

As I said, Midtown is blighted and all three criteria presently exist.  These criteria are the reasons we are considering the “Small Area Plan,” and calling an area which has never been zoned by the city “Midtown”, and why the City is facing at least one $127 million lawsuit.  We can get this right and get some seriously different results.  For instance, what would become of Crockers’ lawsuit if at trial, Crocker would have to testify that it helped to create the area’s plan and zoning, and got to serve on its commission?  Perhaps by embracing the property owners into the process, rather than by forcing a plan they won’t like upon them (yes I know, “Crocker was mean first”), we can lose a liability of upwards of a quarter billion dollars on our books and create a win/win.  BUT we can’t do that without the County.

 

Palm Beach County must be involved.  If we allowed the property owners to “build, build, build”, and PBC committed to build new schools, widen Glades and Military from the start, and connect the two roadways, and the CRA widened 19th Street to accommodate buses to deliver workers through the Glades corridor in a better fashion, then more housing and commercial density may achieve a fantastic result.  Most of my neighbors can’t wait for a new “district”. But, none of them see how the City is delivering that now on the course that we’re on.  Thus, I present one man’s new approach for an intractable battle of wills through which we will all suffer.

Anyone else have any meaningful suggestions?   This is just a conversation starter.  A conversation between the government and landowners didn’t happen before and that lack of dialogue brought us to the “Small Area Plan” and the present and threatened litigation. Let’s converse with the county and landowners and create something great called MIDTOWN!

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Michael J. Liss, Esq. is a business and real estate attorney whose office is located Downtown. He resides in “Midtown”. He has a son who is graduating Spanish River High and a daughter at college in Tallahassee, who also graduated Spanish River. He is married, and always available to serve his community. Aside from the DBA he co-chairs two committees at the South Palm Beach County Bar Association, serves on the board of his HOA, and is always seeking what is possible by bringing community members together.

5 COMMENTS

  1. PBC should team up with the City in a Midtown CRA for no other reason than that the area initially developed under PBC Zoning and PBC Development Approvals and PBC should help finish what they started.

  2. I agree with MR Liss.

    I would add to the suggestion, since he rightly defines an area which is blighted, as one criteria for a CRA, I enthusiastically nominate the area from: NE 20th Street to Yamato Road, encompassing ALL OF THE NEIGHBORHOODS SANDWICHED BETWEEN DIXIE & FEDERAL, INCLUDING DIXIE, NE 2OTH ST, MOST OF FEDERAL, AND THE FIVE CORNERS SLUM STRIP PLAZAS!

    The past 3 administrations, despite scores of requests from it’s residents, have failed to give this area the attention it deserves AND NEEDS!
    This area suffers from and needs NOW:
    Landscaping Dixie, as it did south of the area, and has been promised by the city for ages!
    It now has one of the highest crime rates in the city!
    During the past several years so called “Investors”, ( AKA carpet baggers, slum lords etc,) gobbled up many of the houses either foreclosed upon or deserted during the recession, and have turned them into among other things, unsavory housing projects, including COLLEGE DORMS, only caring about the CASH COWS they are!
    A mail-carrier told me there are a few in there with “over 10” students living in them!

    Too many of these properties, AND owner occupied ones, are in deplorable condition with GROSS violation of City Codes, which for the most part go UNENFORCED, continue in this state for YEARS, un-cited, and are “petri-dishes” for crime, etc.
    NE 2ND & NE 5TH AVE’S ARE RIFE WITH HOVELS ie: rundown, overpopulated duplexes with no grass, all concrete front yards, crumbling driveways, yards being used as storage for JUNK, vehicles parked on lawns all night, furniture on the lawns, multiple junk cars covered or not!

    Motorists use our areas as speedways to avoid the traffic lights on Federal to cut through to Dixie BLATANTLY IGNORING the “No Through Traffic, and Traffic Calmed” signs.
    Dixie Highway is a grotesque “First Impression” of Boca, especially since the new overpass opened.
    Criminals use Dixie as an entrance and an escape from our areas.
    We have asked for access to be limited to our area as a crime deterrent and to cut traffic, AS HAS BEEN VERY SUCCESSFULLY EXECUTED IN MANY SOUTH FLORIDA TOWNS with PROVEN POSITIVE RESULTS!

    We have asked for beautification, with some residents offering their OWN funds to pay for the installation of shade trees etc, AND “Adopt a Spot” etc. incentives. Give me the guidelines for which trees, etc. I can plant, and where. I’ll buy them and plant them myself! There are many residents like myself willing and able to contribute to making this part of Boca better!
    We receive absolutely NO SINCERE INTEREST FROM THE CITY OF BOCA RATON! NADA, ZILCH!
    Notice the word:
    SINCERE!

    This is an area of 1500 homes with hundreds of residents who understandably feel betrayed and ignored by this city, letting us fall prey to the tentacles of FAU HOUSING etc, the Sober homes, Slum conditions, chronic, poor code enforcement, little or no beautification, increasing crime year over year.

    How do I know this area is “blighted”?
    Because I HAVE LIVED THERE NOW FOR 13 YEARS AND I’M ONE OF THE RESIDENTS WHO HAS BEEN ASKING FOR HELP HERE. We have had community meetings at my home attended by current city officials.
    I COME WITH SOLUTIONS NOT JUST COMPLAINTS, AND I’VE OFFERED OVER AND OVER TO ASSIST!

    There is the “Golden Triangle”. I call our area the ” The Silver, but TARNISHED Triangle”. We have one of the BEST locations in the city, but with the described issues mentioned above…..our shine is dulled and hidden, because we receive so little attention from the city!

    This election, it would certainly behoove any astute candidate to PAY ATTENTION TO US, and make a SINCERE & ACTIVE commitment to our area’s residents to give us CRA, and one WITH TEETH!
    A candidate can receive all the money developers etc wish to donate, but they still have ONLY ONE VOTE!
    A sincere, bonafide “promise” to our area, would be NOTICED. Our areas, knowing, Boca’s traditionally low voter turnout, could certainly swing an election!

    So….YES, Mr Liss by all means push for your CRA and one for ALL the areas of the city in need!
    Let’s see if any of the candidates or for that matter any city council member, offer this to you or us!
    Thanks much for your article!
    Michael French

  3. Mike, I disagree on 1 point but overall you are on the right track. Last week the tri rail consultant said if SFTRA were to decide that a tri rail were to go into boca it would by the old Kings deli, and if funded, and if construction started by 2021 maybe be finished by 2023. That is a lifetime for a developer. Why not encourage the city to rezone at 10 units per acre and let those that want to play go ahead and build and forget the tri rail. Think about this . If you were a business man would you trust the gov’t. Not. Let crocker come forward and show a plan and lets go for it for god’s sake. Otherwise we stare at a blighted area for another 5 to 10 years. Instead of 2500 units have them show that around 1000 would work. This could be an awesome deal. Mike, you need to take a leadership role .

  4. Midtown does not and would never qualify as a CRA–period. All that was needed was to duplicate the PM already approved in the NW but incorporating the ULDC with a lot of roadway fixes that Crocker would have been happy to pay for. The City is going to lose these lawsuits and taxes will go up massively. This is only the start. The City is literally stealing the property values of the Midtown residents. And yes I have lived an worked in the area for 35 years and built the last major project in Midtown the Milan office building–making substantial road fixes in the process. By eliminating residential you will create MORE traffic with office and retail. Its just absurd.

  5. Why has the PBC been absent from this conundrum? One o the seven commissioners is a former mayor of Boca Raton. Has he had his political hearing checked recently or is he just waiting to finish his term. He certainly was aware of this situation. Now we will elect a new commissioner, probably Robert Weinrotth, who must bring this to the attention of the other commissioners.
    He is politically savvy, a great speaker who remains in control of an audience of supporters or detractors, has great presence and should/would be a great advocate for all of Boca, including/especially Midtowwn. If he doesn’t bring PBC into all matters Boca he will be a one term wonder!
    I only bring this up because I have followed Michael Liss’ commentary on BocaWatch. He is sincere in his beliefs, continually forthcoming with thought provoking ideas, erudite and a believer in “all things Boca”.
    BocaWatch has given him an initial printed voice. I believe other publications/news outlets will recognize his relevance.
    This is someone that could lead Boca Raton in the future!

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