Midtown Boca – YES…‘Resident Friendly’ and Here’s Why

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Publisher’s Comment:

Please view the video below.  It contains evidence that the 2500 residential unit suggestion in the Midtown project may not be the developer’s need but was derived from the 2012 adoption of the PMD ordinance.   In 2015, some members of the current council raised the issue and discussed this element at length.

Councilmen Singer initiated the subject and Councilman Weinroth reacted.  The Mayor affirmatively states in the video that the 2012 PMD ordinance would not have gotten her support without the 2500 cap.

Midtown Boca is attempting to get a regulatory process in place,  Nothing is off the table, nothing is on it either….that is the process we are in…

P&Z is the next step….rational argument will win the day.  Please continue to participate in the public discourse.

Residents do have the power to effect ‘resident friendly’ change.  Take advantage of that power!

Al Zucaro. Publisher

 

As your neighbor and having lived and worked in the Midtown (Town Center) area for nearly 30+ years I am excited to provide these ideas for both residents and developers consideration and appreciate publication by BocaWatch. Not only am I a resident in the area but I developed projects and have undertaken and made infrastructure improvements in the Town Center area as part of the Milan office building re-development.

On Thursday the P&Z Board will take up what is now a City sponsored “Implementing Ordinance” under the Planned Mobility designation the City approved in 2011 for the Town Center area that is being referred to as “Midtown”. It is important to understand there is no specific project being approved anywhere in the affected area. The implementing ordinances are simply a roadmap for prospective development. Similar implementing ordinances have already been effectuated in the Northwest section of the City around the existing Tri-Rail station, BRIC (Boca Raton Innovation Center—formerly IBM/T-Rex) and The Park at Broken Sound. The prospective Ordinance is not that much different than what has already been previously adopted by the City.

This scenario and the area itself provide for the substantial opportunity for direct resident input and cooperation with developers–and the development of a ‘resident friendly’ motif on a macro-economic level. The recent resident interaction with regard to the Ocean Palm project provided a “win-win” framework for cooperation, consensus and compromise between all involved. There are many ideas of a positive nature that can be initiated. Midtown Boca really is a “win-win” opportunity waiting to happen.

One of the first questions that one needs to consider is how to accomplish this goal. In this regard I would present what I call the “Know Your Developer” Rule.

Is the Developer local do they know the area? Are they willing to listen? As regards Crocker Partners and Cypress Realty the answer is a resounding YES. Crocker is based in Boca Raton and they were responsible for building Mizner Park, Boca Center and the two larger office properties. Cypress developed Abacoa, a very resident and pedestrian friendly project and other residential products throughout Palm Beach County.

A follow-up question is has the Developer invested a significant amount of money in Boca Raton and are they long term players. The answer with Simon (the Mall owners) and Trademark is a resounding yes. The Mall has ALWAYS been a first class operation and has invested millions in our community. Trademark purchased Glades Plaza for nearly $400 p.s.f. The Town Center Mall is the second highest tax ratable in the Palm Beach County. It is interesting to note we also have the unusual circumstance where ALL the property owners and developers in the area are in support of these implementing ordinances. This means the ability for great cooperation with residents on an overall level. Also, many changes have been made since these ordinances were first introduced. Crocker has held public forums and the developers and property owners are actively listening.

The next question is whether the area can support ‘resident friendly’ infrastructure and other (landscaping, lighting, street furniture, traffic calming, transit) benefits to residents. The answer once again is a resounding YES! Sometimes there are material conditions that create insurmountable issues in fixing things such as traffic, beautification and positive pedestrian friendly change. SUCH IS NOT THE CASE with Midtown.

Having actually constructed infrastructure improvements in the area, I can tell you unequivocally that there are amazing opportunities to address traffic and other issues in the area through turn lanes, parallel parking, median landscape, traffic calming, sidewalks, etc.  I intend to suggest these as a resident of the Midtown Boca area and on behalf of residents in general. I have no doubt that when individual projects move forward that they will be good ones where the interaction will be similar to the Ocean Palm success story.

The developers involved have clearly indicated their intent to listen to residents and address these issues. We need to interact and the stewards of BocaWatch can clearly provide (and should provide) positive input on behalf of all residents. I have no doubt that this will occur and intend to participate.

That being said it is also important to note the following bullet points:

  1. The land mass area in Midtown Boca where any residential development would occur is actually greater than the Northwest because there are no PM developments in the BRIC (Former IBM property) and border properties which consist of roughly 183 acres which must be subtracted from the gross NW area.
  1. There are pre-existing development rights in the area which consist of office and retail (Midtown Boca is in CG Zoning District.) These development rights are for more “intense” type developments than residential. This may seem counterintuitive but residential produces LESS traffic than either retail or office; with office being the most intense.
  1. The City of Boca Raton has never increased “density” in the area. Pursuant to the last Comprehensive Plan, density in Midtown Boca is 20 units per acre (20 d.u.) as just as it is everywhere else in the City except Downtown. If this area had remained in Palm Beach County it could have been rezoned to a greater density.
  1. Don’t be fixated on the cap of 2500 units, I live off Verde Trail there are two apartment complexes of about 500 units plus nearly 500 SFR’s which border a single lane undivided road. There are no traffic problems until you get to Military Trail at peak PM times. Under the former County Rules these apartments were developed under a density of nearly 30 units per acre—and all of Midtown Boca could have been rezoned to that density. When the City annexed this part of the County, it REDUCED the possible density. Since 2011, nearly six (6) years now, the NW section of the City has roughly seen about 1500 units approved and it is unlikely 2500 units will be built in the Midtown Boca area.
  1. Midtown Boca has a higher concentration (the office buildings) of employment centers closer together than the Northwest. This is perfectly conducive to a TOD development especially with the new Tri-Rail station. From Boca Center you could actually comfortably walk or take a “Downtowner” type vehicle to most of the area—not so in the NW where things are spread out. The proposed shuttle will be just as convenient. Providing such a shuttle service is expected to be part of any development order that is put in place.
  1. The City of Boca Raton is a tax and impact fee “donor” City. Required off-site roadway improvements and infrastructure can often be reimbursed from impact fees thus returning tax and impact fee money back to Boca Raton where it belongs. The only thing more exciting about doing infrastructure improvements is getting the County to pay part of it! Right now a lot of Boca money is being used to fix or build roads in Jupiter……
  1. Every project will require a site specific traffic study which will provide the opportunity for traffic improvements in the area affected.

So what will be the result of a ‘resident friendly’ cooperative interaction with the Midtown developers and property owners, here are a few:

  1. Better and more fluid traffic flow in peak and off-peak hours. Traffic calming, and on-street parking.
  1. Increase in property values, with the greatest increases coming for areas like Paradise Palms and Boca Bath & Tennis where residents can make material improvements and additions to their properties–just as occurred behind Mizner Park in the Golden Triangle.
  1. Beautiful medians, direct access to mass-transit and genuine place-making.
  1. New landscaping, place-making signage and street furniture and exciting new venues to experience and explore.

Direct interaction with residents and the sharing of ideas will make this one of the most pre-eminent and valuable destinations to live, work and play. After all we have done this before—Mizner Park is world renowned—

Let’s make Midtown the same! Positive ideas create incredible places…..

Crocker Partners – Midtown Boca Traffic Fact Sheet

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Glenn Gromann is a 30+ year resident of Boca Raton and graduated from Rider University (B.A., Magna Cum Laude) in 1982, Seton Hall University School of Law in 1985 (J.D.) and The University of Miami School of Law in 1994 (LL.M, Real Property Development) graduating at the top of his LL.M class. He is a member of the State Bars of NY, NJ, TX, MI, MO, DC and HI, he was a former Authorized In-House Counsel under Florida Bar 17 from 1996-2010. He graduated from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Generals School (Basic/Advanced Course) and is also Graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and retired as a Major. As a JAG officer Major Gromann participated and was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mech) on active duty and also was involved with counter-drug operations in supporting USSOUTHCOM (Southern Command) Mr. Gromann has developed many real estate projects in the City of Boca Raton and elsewhere and he is the former Chair of the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee and was a member of the City of Boca Raton Planning & Zoning Board. He is also an adjunct professor at the FAU School of Urban & Regional Planning and the father of one daughter Nicole who now attends Florida Atlantic University.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Military trail is already overused with bumper to bumper traffic during rush hours. The only way I would vote for this project is if it had no access from Military Trail.

    • I will be suggesting a lot of off site roadway improvements as well as BocaWatch. Stay tuned for positive results and updates.

  2. 2500 units has similar impacts on the roadway network as 1.5 million SF of office. Do you really believe that the roadway system can handle that?

    • That analysis is not correct Tony. The roadway system can handle the existing development rights and you are not considering internal capture and the mass transit aspects of this. Each project will have to meet traffic concurrency requirements there is no way around this. I am suggesting a lot of off site roadway improvements, so stay tuned.

  3. I do not believe the roadways could handle the traffic of an additional 2500 rental units. Midtown Boca will be to the detriment of the residents in the cental Boca area increasing both traffic and crime. The city should reject thsee 145 feet high, 12 storty buildings.. The fact that the apartments are starting at 500 sf really translates to attracting lower income tenants, low end jobs.

    • Donna, the buildings will not be 145′ tall the FAA will not permit that. My understanding is that all buildings will be under 100′ also their are major traffic fixes in store some I will be suggesting, 2500 units is the cap not necessarily what will be built.

  4. Publisher’s Comment:

    I invited Glenn Gromann to contribute an article to BW on the Midtown proposal after he was no longer on the P&Z board and because he is one of the most knowledgeable people in town on the issue. This decision has been met with a lot of push back. That is on me….but….What I asked of him was to write about things within the Midtown proposal and things that could be added to the proposal that would potentially make the final product ‘resident friendly’.

    Two Saturdays ago, I spent an hour with him riding around the 300+ acre geography where he identified modest off site roadway improvements for the developer to include that could immediately and effectively relieve traffic congestion on the roadways. In the next few weeks, BW will catalogue and itemize these locations and make suggestion for the developer and the city planners to consider as the proposal goes forward.

    At the Midtown Boca Resident town hall meeting this past Tuesday, I learned about the trolley system that is proposed and about the concept of internal absorption where car trips from one section of Midtown to another are reduced by alternative transport possibilities….another positive idea to relieve the traffic and congestion concerns….

    I also talked with Angelo Bianco at Crocker about this 2500 residential unit cap….This item is truly the lightning rod for many of the concerned residents. I believe that this number may have actually come from city staff and is based upon the maximum number of units that was allowed in the PMD approved in the North West sector of the city. I intend to meet with others who were instrumental in the implementation of the N W sector PMD next week to further discuss this situation. That cap for the N W sector PMD has not been reached and may never be reached. It is highly unlikely that the final approval for Midtown will have this 2500 cap but that is yet to be determined….

    Finally, land owners have rights…Density and Intensity of development under the county rules would be more impactful than under the city rules. Residents are better off under the city rules. That said, the myths and misinformation circulating need to be addressed. Negative sentiment is hurtful and only communication and community will resolve it. That is what I am trying to accomplish by opening BW to opinions from all sides….BW offers an opportunity for opinions to be aired without the restraint of a 5 minute public statement in chambers but rather in a marketplace of ideas for all the consider….

    Community requires that all voices have the opportunity to be heard….to censure or stifle the dialogue defeats the purpose….

    Al Zucaro

  5. Thank you for publishing Mr. Gromann’s views so that we can benefit from listening to someone we might disagree with.

    Imagine a court system where there is only a prosecutor and no defending attorney, and you are to be judged. You would not feel confident that justice would be served. After all, every argument has a counter-argument that needs to be heard.

    For better, more educated decisions, all sides that have something to say should have a say. Which means that they should have the right to disagree and the opportunity to disagree.

  6. Hard to decipher considering the source. Too many times we’ve been told one thing while another happens. It will be interesting to see how things develop with this project & if in fact the residents remain in the loop. Curious to see what ordinances will be adopted & which variances granted. As a Boca Resident of over 30 years, it’s been a LONG time since the City Council could be trusted to work with residents & if that is the new direction of progress it would be a welcomed one. That being said, it would take some pretty miraculous traffic ‘calming’ to handle a project of this size in that area. Its already congested as is. Glades Road is one of the biggest traffic disasters in South Florida. And I do not believe trolleys will be a major factor in reducing trips east/west because everything else is so spread out, people will need to rely on the freedom their cars provide. Having grown up in Paradise Palms & parents who still live there, I will be keeping a close eye on what is SAID and what is DONE.

  7. Seems like easy fix is to cut down number of proposed residential units and add more retail and restaurants to the plan.

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