Boca Raton’s 2020 Vision: Economic Development Through Art, Culture, and Public Space – Part 3

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Publisher’s Comment:

Saturday evening’s Boat Parade unquestionably answered the, now, rhetorical question,  ‘Wildflower:  Park for All or Restaurant for the Few ?‘   Estimates are that over a thousand people lined the Intracoastal Waterfront at the Wildflower Park.  What a magical night….Dozens of boats decked out in ‘holiday cheer’;  a perfect Boca Raton evening;  and a community responding to this new ‘resident friendly’ venue;  a venue only now beginning to explore the ‘quality of life’ opportunities for residents and visitors alike.  Boca Raton…Stand up and be Proud….We are creating ‘World-Class’ parks!

BocaWatch video team captured the event for you to view….….Click Below to enjoy just a bit of the evening’s excitement and revelry.

Al Zucaro, Publisher

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody” – Jane Jacobs

In an attempt to combat divisiveness rather than exacerbate it, the express intent of the 2020 Vision is to break down the dichotomy that is often drawn between “stakeholders” and “stockholders.” Typically, stakeholders consist of residents, small business owners, employees, and all those who do not have a major controlling or financial interest in a given project. Stockholders, in contrast, consist of city officials, investors, and corporate/large-scale interests. As research has shown, one of the most frequently cited issues associated with revitalization and development projects is that those with power coopt the project for themselves, saying one thing but doing another (1). Fortunately, the grassroots, community driven foundation of the 2020 Vision is a response to such concerns and is specifically designed by and for Boca residents.

To be clear, this is not just a matter of rhetoric; resident and local participation is built into the very fabric of the 2020 Vision. For example, it is the express intent of the 2020 Vision team to (2):

  • Hold focus groups for project related issues and concerns, which will be led by local experts in public forums such as the library.
  • Develop surveys and interview guides as a means to gather data from local residents and businesses owners, especially those immediately surrounding the proposed project.
  • Work directly with our local colleges, universities, and students to elicit feedback and give young people a direct hand in making Boca a more attractive place for them to live, learn, play, and ideally, stay.
  • Create a centralized database (e.g., Facebook and/or external website) where all 2020 Vision concerns and updates (as well as sources cited) and can posted, located, and most importantly, debated.

If executed correctly, the 2020 Vision will include a diverse cross section of the community, be an exemplar of transparency, and ensure open and balanced communication takes place among all interested parties. As listed elsewhere, the 2020 Vision’s team currently consists of local residents, businesses, cultural organizations, environmental and design professionals, developers, city officials, and others.

A central challenge and motivating concern of the 2020 Vision is ensuring socioeconomic equity. In order to be successful, this project will have to carefully consider the different types of people who could and should benefit from this area. The downtown area is already prohibitively expensive. Instead of worrying about redevelopment pricing people out, Boca has the inverse problem of finding ways to make itself more accessible. The area needs to be attractive to young people, empty nesters, retirees, and everything in between. Boca is not only a place to retire but also a place where thousands of young and middle-aged individuals live, learn, work, and play. As Mr. Michael Liss has pointed out in a previous BocaWatch piece (3), Boca, along with many other South Florida localities, suffers from an unfortunate brain drain, as thousands of our city’s graduates move elsewhere after they graduate year after year (4). Instead of allowing this to continue, we could use the 2020 Vision as a way to capitalize on our local college and university populations, making the area more appealing as a place to remain permanently, start a career, build a family, etc.

Although many factors contribute to regional brain drain, one major issue cited was simply a lack of appealing opportunities, and the 2020 Vision could be used to combat this. For example, research has shown that regions that are broadly tolerant of difference, welcome newcomers, and attract creative talent also experience more people taking the risk of founding new businesses, which leads to increased economic growth (5). Further, as Hackler and Mayer (2008) point out, women and people of color are among the fastest growing groups of business owners, “and [given] their potential effect on regions, policymakers are well advised to tailor their policies to these groups” (6). Given South Florida’s young and diverse populations, there is a massive potential to capitalize on talent that has been traditionally overlooked. To be clear, I am not suggesting the 2020 Vision is going to magically solve all of our issues or turn Boca into the perfect, “kumbaya” melting pot, but given the discussion above, if the project can make Boca more appealing to new ideas and people, which can in turn attract more businesses, this seems like a step in the right direction, and could be a substantial resource for Boca’s future generations.

By setting clear goals, defining concepts and theories, creating measurements to track progress, and encouraging maximum community participation, Boca’s 2020 Vision can be a catalyst for infusing the downtown area with a renewed sense of social, cultural, and economic life. If you are interested in following or becoming a part of the 2020 Vision, you can email 2020visionboca@gmail.com or follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Boca-Ratons-2020-Vision-128032454588305/.

(1) Grodach, Carl. 2013. “Cultural Economy Planning in Creative Cities: Discourse and Practice.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37(5): 1747-1765.

(2) Fitzsimons, Margaret. 2017. “Boca Raton’s 2020 Vision.” BocaWatch https://bocawatch.org/waterfront-and-economic-development-vision-2020/

(3) Liss, Michael J., Esq. 2017. “Boca Raton’s 2020 Vision: Moving From Coast to Campus.” BocaWatch https://bocawatch.org/boca-ratons-2020-vision-moving-from-coast-to-campus/

(4) Husdon, Tom. 2016. “The Battle Against Brain Drain in South Florida.” WLRN http://wlrn.org/post/battle-against-brain-drain-south-florida

(5) Lee, Sam Youl, Richard Florida, and Zoltan Acs. 2004. “Creativity and Entrepreneurship: A Regional Analysis of New Firm Formation. Regional Studies 38(8): 879891.

(6) Hackler, Darrene and Heike Mayer. 2008. “Diversity, Entrepreneurship, and the Urban Envrionment.” Journal of Urban Affairs 30(3): 273-307.

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Eric Sevell was born and raised in Boca Raton, and is currently in graduate school finishing his PhDs in Sociology and Criminal Justice at Indiana University (IU). Eric has published on topics ranging from political attitudes to community and crime, and regularly teaches Criminology and Deviant Behavior classes in person and online as an Associate Instructor for IU. He has a commitment to social justice and is interested in seeing Boca become a more equitable and inclusive place. In addition to his own engagement with local politics, his father Arnold Sevell is currently Vice-Chair of Boca Raton’s Planning and Zoning Board.

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