An Open Letter to the Florida Atlantic University Community

11

Next Month, at the yearly visioning session being conducted by the City of Boca Raton, we have an opportunity to start the process of making Boca Raton more FAU friendly. In my many years since being an FAU student and, now, as a member of the Alumni Association there has been little progress toward making the city a better experience for members of the FAU community. While the city provides awesome beaches, there could and should be so much more.

I have graduate degrees from two universities, in cities whose off-campus environments for students couldn’t be more different. When I attended Arizona State University (MBA 81) Mill Avenue in Tempe was like a seamless extension of the university. Students don’t need cars to enjoy Mill Avenue and close-by recreation. The City of Tempe is very walkable and bikeable and students enjoy the numerous university themed restaurants and bars. Students can walk to Tempe Town Lake, which has amazing recreation opportunities, including watersport rentals.  Tempe is very welcoming to the ASU community and after Sun Devil football games everyone heads to Mill Avenue to keep the party going.

When I attended FAU (MSCE 04), on the other hand, there seemed to be a social firewall between the university and Boca Raton. Since I graduated, the campus has made tremendous progress including the new stadium, recreation facilities and new dorms. The alumni tailgates are super and the stadium is amazing, but after football games we get in our car and head home. It should and could be so much better.

20th Street in Boca Raton could be like Mill Avenue in Tempe. It is reachable from the FAU campus by walking or bicycle. The Intracoastal Waterway could be like Tempe Town Lake with watersport opportunities like kayaking and stand up paddle boarding and just hanging out on the waterfront.

What is preventing Boca Raton from providing a better experience for the FAU community? The answer is a city council that is all talk and no action. City council members have talked for years about enhancing 20th Street for FAU enjoyment, but little has happened.   This must stop!

Another example of the problem is the current city council’s attitude toward recreation. For five years Boca Raton residents have requested that city-owned lands along the Intracoastal Waterway be dedicated to recreation. The city council has resisted the residents’ requests and within the last year proceeded to start the process of commercializing the lands. The first attempt was to develop an expensive restaurant on an open piece of city-owned land (the Wildflower parcel) on the Intracoastal Waterway. To prevent this, the residents took the decision away from the city council with a referendum in November, 2016. The FAU community supported the Boca Raton residents and the referendum to preserve the lands for recreation passed by a 2-1 majority. It has been over four months since the referendum passed and the city council still has no plan to move forward.

Isn’t it amazing that just prior to recent elections for Mayor and Council members, a big push emerged for a comprehensive waterfront visioning session?   Perhaps this should be commended, perhaps not.  If history is a gauge, we all will be old and gray before the vision becomes a reality.

Past visioning sessions have resulted in numerous yet unfinished priorities; the successful resident referendum continue to see a padlocked fence preventing access to the waterfront ; and, the Chamber of Commerce, by its own admissions, continues to exert its influence to commercialize the Wildflower site as well as other city owned intracoastal waterfront lands.

Let’s end this!

On April 3rd the City will be holding yet another visioning session to come up with a comprehensive plan for the Intracoastal Waterway lands.  Residents are being called upon to once again participate and let elected officials know the ‘will’ of the people.  There is an old trick in local politics where if you keep moving things down the road eventually the resident grows tired and the political elite get their way….We, the resident have come to far over too long a period to let this happen.

In the March election, the residents have now placed two voices on the city council that are major supporters of ‘recreational’ use on the waterfront.  All are encouraged to contact Councilmembers Andrea Levine O’Rourke and Scott Singer and commend them to continue their demonstrated efforts for the creation of a vibrant, exciting waterfront experience.

THEY GET IT!

Now let’s all of us help these Councilmembers, these two advanced thinkers on the City Council, to encourage the other elected officials to support the resident’s wishes and desires as paramount over those voices that would turn every green patch into a concrete slab.

THE TIME IS NOW….Please pass this on and remain involved!

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Jim Wood is a 25-year citizen of Boca Raton. Upon arriving in Boca from Arizona, Jim and his family had a house built in Broken Sound in the western section of the City. After the last of their three children left for college Jim and Trish downsized and relocated to east Boca, where they have lived for 18 years. His volunteering activities include serving eight years on an advisory board in the City. Jim is a computer engineer who advanced into executive positions with telecommunications companies Siemens and Lucent. He holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and management, a master’s degree in computer engineering and an MBA. He is also a veteran who served four years on active duty with the United States Air Force. His interests include cycling (A1A), guitar (acoustic) and cooking (healthy comfort food). He is a member of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club and the FAU Alumni Association.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I have lived in Boca for 30 years. I attended FAU .
    To develop 20 street, sensibly, aesthetically pleasing, and with ALL Boca Raton residents in mind could be a great addition to the city.
    Right now, it’s a collection of unsightly strip plazas except for the recently renovated Plum Plaza, a real diamond yet to be discovered.

    FAU AND its Students must though, remember the university is part of Boca, NOT the other way around. I live in the neighborhood directly adjacent to 20th st.
    Many of the homes have been rented to unruly students who have NO respect for their neighbors.

    These are our homes where we have invested our hearts, souls and our hard earned dollars. Other residents and I KNOW some of these homes have 8 or more students living in them! Thus there are at least 8 vehicles parked where they are NOT permitted to park.
    This MUST stop.
    This is NOT Frat row in our neighborhoods. We are tired of putting up with the hot rods, underage drinking till all hours, beer cans and the like strewn all over our streets, loudspeaker propelled Rap music one can hear blocks away with profane lyrics for all the world to hear including our children, trucks, hotrods, deafening motorcycles parked all over the yards, with garbage overflowing. We chose to live here because at one time Boca was a shining star in South Florida. This star has been dimming for the past several years since the recession when “investors” bought many of the homes in our neighborhood to make cash cows out of them by renting to as many students/people as they can, with not a care about how their selfish needs effect their neighbors.

    We want the codes of Boca Raton enforced. It’s that simple.

    Hey, come on guys, I’m not some “old fart”, and OF COURSE, NOT all students behave this way. THANKS A LOT TO THE ONES WHO DON’T.
    I just want to protect my most important investment called “MY HOME”. and my family!

    If the students , anyone for that matter, want respect, than they MUST be respectful!
    When they graduate, pound the pavement for a decent job, work hard for years , and buy a home, (if they so desire) they won’t want what I’ve written going on next to their home either.

    Boca is NOT a “college town”. It’s a city where a university happens to be located.

    If all concerned would just “Do unto others’ as they wish done to them” all would be golden.

    One final request. PLEASE PLEASE SLOW DOWN! For your own sake and the sake of our kids!
    the speed limit on 20th street is ONLY 30mph! NOT 40, 50 or higher.
    Thanks!

    • I couldn’t agree more with you!!! I too live in the neighborhood. So disturbing and upsetting to see what the city is allowing in our neighborhood. And on Dixie. They need to step it up! I am regularly calling code enforcement only to see nothing happen at all. Three and four calls with no results. Awful!

    • The purpose of recreating 20th Street is to develop a “college district.” It’s not intended for “ALL Boca Raton residents”. It’s a RESPONSE to the rest of the city which doesn’t provide for the needs of students. That is what it’s intending to provide: affordable housing for students only, restaurants that are open late and have meals <$10/person, shops that sell FAU apparel and college essentials,and entertainment options so students can blow off stress and socialize, perhaps meet their future spouse.

      The REST of Boca already HAS a ton of upscale shopping options and housing. You can buy a $100 shirt in 50 different places in Boca but you have to hunt around for a $10 lamp for your dorm. Boca citizens want to take over this project and make it about them, make it their "new Mizner" with "family-friendly, upscale shops and boutiques." That's COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. This is not about you. It's about all the 18-25 year olds that need a place for them. I don't think one single street, from FAU to Dixie, is asking too much within the ENTIRE CONTEXT of Boca Raton.

      If you want students not to live in your neighborhood, you should be pushing for 20th Street more than ever. Consolidate the students where they belong in student housing. People driving too fast, or playing music too loud and too loud, is not an exclusive problem to students, as you point out… that's breaking the law and should be punished accordingly, no matter where or who does it. Let's not demonize students about this, because that's what's happening. Again, these students are living there because it's affordable and close to campus and there aren't more places for them to live. That's a situation Boca created and there's one very clear way out of it.

      Build 20th Street right. Let the students have their college district. Let them have this one place and let it be the way they want it to be. Get it right, give them a place to live, enjoy your neighborhood and enjoy the rest of Boca Raton – that's all for you. For everyone. 20th Street is for students and student needs.

      • Hello “For the Owls”,
        OK.I read your thoughts and appreciate your point of view.
        First, let me point out, as I wrote, I am NOT against students! I was one, more than once. I have always considered FAU a source of vitality for Boca. I attended FAU. My Mom worked in the Psych department for years. I go to the “Living Room” theater often.

        I take issue with ANY HUMAN BEING, not just students, who doesn’t respect other HUMAN BEINGS and who FAILS for what ever reason to consider how THEIR behavior affects the people with whom they SHARE this city!
        That’s pretty simple, and NOT rocket science to execute.

        An individual’s constitutional right to his/her pursuit of happiness, does NOT supersede the constitutional right of peaceful enjoyment of everyone else around them! ONE”S individual rights, and the manner in which they are exercised don’t have more importance than that of the rest of society! The arrogant belief that “I can do what ever I want, because “this is a free country, and you can’t tell me what to do etc” is a pandemic and an eccentric/individualistic AMERICAN dilemma these days!
        Just drive on I-95! Or, for that matter, just drive in Florida period. Driving “language” is the same as body language. How you drive often (not always) indicates what kind of person you are.
        The “It’s ALL about ME” social disease here is exhausting to say the least.

        To dedicate 20th street “just for students” is exclusionary at best. Apparently, you took issue with your perceived “Student’s not welcome” sentiments by myself and others in my neighborhood. So how do you think I am perceiving your quote” “Enjoy your neighborhood, enjoy the rest of Boca Raton, 20th street is for the students and student needs?

        It’s not that I don’t want students in my neighborhood! There is nothing wrong, demonizing or discriminating about NOT wanting people living here who don’t respect their neighbors! If the people in question happen to be students, then they are students who are the guilty party and so on.
        Most students will graduate and leave. For those of us who call Boca home, we understandably want to protect and preserve our homes, and for most of us the many reasons we chose to live here. For myself, that DOES NOT MEAN excluding students, but it DOES mean I want them or anyone to observe the “RULES”.
        Once again, it all comes down to one’s behavior!

        NO ONE, regardless of age, sex etc is ENTITLED to behavior (reckless driving, DUI, music that can be felt in one’s chest, etc) which removes other’s choices of whether they want to be exposed to that or not.

        There is a terrible misconception that Boca Raton is mostly snooty, millionaires. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am NOT a millionaire by any stretch of the imagination.
        I personally would NOT want another Mizner Park. Living so close to 20th St I would not want an area where because I’m NOT a student I might not feel welcome either.
        If, the statement, “Where Students can blow off steam etc” includes underage drinking, drag racing, etc I will have to vehemently not welcome that. You’d have to be more specific about what YOU mean by “Blowing off steam?”

        Isn’t it FAU’s and the state of Florida’s responsibility to provide it’s students, on their turf, enough dedicated areas where they can de-stress etc.so they wouldn’t have to get in their cars etc.

        There have been other replies bemoaning Boca’s lacking services for students.
        Well as one ill informed young lady, who admitted to being one of 5 unrelated people renting a single family home, (Boca’s law is no more than 3) wrote to me, “You chose to live in Boca Raton”. She went on to tell me if “I don’t like the growing college town that Boca is , (not knowing my age) should move to an over 55 or gated community”
        . Hmm. not such a great attitude, and ignorant at best. Well, yes, I DID CHOSE TO LIVE IN BOCA, and SHE chose to live here too! So, WHY should we be so willing to accept her not respecting the law because of her own needs?

        There ARE RULES. FAU has them and so does Boca!

        I could be tersely pragmatic and glibly say, “If you desire a town that is more “student friendly”, than Gainesville, Tallahassee, and the towns could be more satisfying for you. I’m not like that, though. I AM much more the type of person who would welcome sitting down with someone to discuss “Let’s see what we can do to make things better”

        Hey, I agree, Boca is “car centric”. This country, of 300 million “oil addicts”, despite all it’s rhetoric about being “Green”, saving engery blah blah blah is still ruled by the car, and maybe more by the “Truck” these days. It would be great to see a city more dedicated to being progressively aimed at more modes of transportation than the darn combustion engine.

        I’m a hard working guy who just wants myself, my family, town, and what I’ve worked so hard to achieve, be RESPECTED.

        There ARE plenty of places to find a “10 dollar lamp”. I have bought them for less! One can go to garage sales, thrift shops, RESALE by Habitat for Humanity, etc I go to these often. There are many businesses who offer “student discounts”.
        I know of several eateries where anyone can get a decent meal for under $10.
        Businesses have HIGH rents and other expenses to pay here, to be able to hire and prosper. It isn’t “cheap” to live in South Florida period.

        So in closing all of us need not to be defensive, get rid of anger, some bloated beliefs of entitlements, and just behave. It is THAT simple!
        I hope you can appreciate and find understanding in what I’ve expressed.

  2. I hope the FAU students realize it is the long time boca residents (NIMBYs) who do not want further development in boca. The residents around 20th st along with the editors of this website will fight any development there. These residents believe they own Boca and can dictate how the city progresses. Fortunately the election last month repudiated their backward agenda.

  3. The FAU Student Union is 2.5 miles from the Publix on 20th Street. I doubt any college students would walk or bike that distance for anything. Similarly, the Intercoastal at Palmetto Park Road is 3 miles from the Student Union. Unfortunately, people don’t walk or bike. When they can’t drive themselves, they Uber. I have watched people of all ages park at CVS in the Fresh Market plaza, then move their car 3 or 4 rows over to the Fresh Market. Ridiculous. I grew up and went to college in a very walkable city (Pittsburgh), and, when it was too far to walk, could take a bus for a quick ride to the part of town I wished to visit. That, unfortunately, doesn’t exist here, and add to that people in cars are irritated to stop or slow down for a pedestrian or cyclist. I hate to sound negative because I think it’s a problem we could solve, but this isn’t the place with the will or mentality to do the right thing.

    • You’re correct that the Student Union is not ideally placed to connect with 20th Street but:

      1) There is a population of students living on-campus at the University Village apartments and Innovation Village apartments, close to 20th Street, that could walk/bike;

      2) There are several full student housing complexes along the 20th Street right now and some of those tenants can be seen walking/biking to campus on a nice day;

      3) The Administration building already has dedicated space for bus stops that could easily be used for shuttles to bring students from campus to 20th Street if they didn’t want to walk

      4) FAU operates NightOwls golf cart service which could pick up students anywhere on campus and take them to 20th Street
      …meaning there are abundant opportunities to connect campus and 20th Street, whether they want to walk, bike or be transported.

      Creating incentives for students to walk/bike/use public transportation rather than their cars should be seen as a design requirement rather than a dead-end. Boca tends to believe that things will stay exactly as it is because they’ve designed a car-centric city and then point to the fact that everybody uses a car. Okay, but once you make realistic options available, students will use them. Palm Tran is not a realistic solution because it only visits stops once an hour vs other cities where they run every 10-15 minutes; without reliability you can’t build loyalty. But you can’t just run Palm Trans every 10 minutes either; you have to do that IN CONJUNCTION with closer student housing and other reasons for them to USE the Palm Tran. It’s a combined effort. It can be done, it needs to be done, and certainly consideration of the hot weather needs to be part of that design with shaded/covered walkways (and not just “stately palm trees”) to encourage walkability as well. There are solutions, students can adapt very quickly (look how quickly they adapt to technology) but you have to give them the means AND the reason to do so.

  4. Is it possible that students choose FAU because they enjoy the wide open campus and suburban like atmosphere.
    There are hundreds of ‘college towns’ where they could go if that is their choice.
    And there are plenty of recreational places that they can easily reach if that is their choice.
    Is there really a hue and cry from the students to transform that part of the city.
    Is there any reason that part of the huge campus can’t use some of the land for student priced recreation and clothing– like a city within a campus.

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