Boca Raton’s residents are active again. The last few years has seen residents stand up and push back against the local elected officials’ tendency to diminish the quality of life experienced throughout the city. This push back has encouraged individuals to contribute in many ways; ways requiring commitment of time, energy and treasure. Residents forced the referendum to preserve the Intracoastal Waterways for recreational purposes by an overwhelming turnout in November, 2016. That effort has resulted in the city’s engagement with industry and design professional retained to tell us, the residents, what they think we want. Well, residents do not need outside professional to tell us what we want. We, the resident, can decide what we want. Volunteer Margaret Fitzsimons is attempting to do just that. Attached is her ‘Vision 2020’ for your review.
Our local elected officials need to embrace this effort and pay close attention. This inspirational model is not the end all of what needs to be done but, rather, the beginning of residents telling elected leaders what they have been elected to do; to wit: The Will of the People!!!
Al Zucaro, Publisher
Do you believe investing time towards volunteer efforts is important to communities?
Often times a great idea will remain dormant because few people have the courage to follow through.
One such person of courage is Margaret Fitzsimons.
It was for that reason I recently sat down with Margaret to learn more about whom she is and why she is so enthusiastic about our City and waterfront parks.
Addison Mizner envisioned Boca Raton to be the Venice of Florida; having once studied architecture in Italy this notion was not lost on her.
Margaret speaks with the soft tones of Georgia native, thoughtful in her responses while not concealing her breadth of knowledge when it comes to design and place making.
Tell us a bit about your background Margaret
I was born and raised in Georgia and attended the University of Georgia for my undergraduate work, spending my final semester abroad studying Italian Vernacular Architecture in Italy & Europe.
After graduation, I was drawn to Washington, D.C., where I worked for prominent Architectural firms for the first 17 years of my career. I later returned to academia to earn my Master’s in Architecture from The University of Southern California. The diverse and varied Architecture in Los Angeles and the Southern California coastal landscape offered a vast urban ‘laboratory’, and the opportunity to work with 2 world renowned Architectural firms, extending my stay for 10 years.
In 2008, I founded my own practice to focus on sustainable architecture, planning and design. Based in Santa Monica, CA, a city similar in size to Boca Raton, my practice ranged from corporate office, multi and single family housing, to sustainable consulting; all inspired by the natural coastal environment and the dynamic surrounding neighborhoods. The sense of place created by the City planning and Architecture in this region, as well as that of Washington, D.C. and Europe, has inspired my design work throughout my career.
Why did you choose Boca Raton as a place to call home?
Some of my most memorable times were spent visiting relatives in Boca Raton over the past 18 years. I grew to know and love this city, so much that I chose Boca Raton when relocating back to the East Coast for the ‘second half of life’.
After arriving, I continued to complete projects underway in California, yet I also wanted to immerse myself in my local community in Boca, and found a volunteer position available on the City’s Green Living Advisory Board, where I now serve as Chair. In addition, I joined a local Sustainable Building Consulting firm, where I currently lead over a dozen South Florida buildings through the LEED certification process.
For a more complete summary of Margaret’s experience and credentials, see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mfitzsimonsinc
How did you get involved with our Waterfront?
As timing would have it, while interviewing for the board position at my first City Council meeting 3 years ago, I heard discussions about the ‘Wildflower’ property, and set out after the meeting to explore the site. I had always wondered why this key piece of property, central to downtown and the beach, was vacant all those years I had visited Boca. Upon walking along the waterfront, I could imagine the immense possibilities the site could offer, especially if the adjacent properties were connected. The potential reminded me of the vibrant, active waterfronts I had traveled to in the U.S. and internationally, and the excitement inspired me to create a presentation of possibilities that I shared at the next evening’s City Council meeting. The rest, as they say, is history, and I’ve been expanding that presentation ever since, joining with many other advocates, and spending hundreds of volunteer hours to share my experience and give back to our community.
Have you been successful in generating support from members of the community?
Yes, I built on earlier presentations and, along with other visionaries, reached out to residents, business owners and leaders across our city in an effort to unite our community, and together envision a thriving City Center with something for everyone.
Recognizing that our Waterfront was integral to downtown, and from lessons learned in other great cities, could be a catalyst for reigniting a comprehensive downtown vision, the focus expanded to address a greater live-work balance in downtown, and to strengthen the fabric of our city, featuring Palmetto Park Road as a “Main Street” from City Hall to the Beach. Support within the community led to “Boca Raton’s 2020 Vision”, a growing, community-driven volunteer coalition of visionaries joining together with a mission to shape a 21st century vision for a flourishing Downtown, its new, urban waterfront, and its connection to Parks, Arts, Civic, and Neighborhood districts throughout the greater City.
To date, support has grown to over 30 participating Visionaries, primarily local residents, as well as business leaders, and young professionals. The intent is to include input from all segments of the community on key topics contributing to a positive quality of life, some of which can be seen here:
What do you say to supporters and skeptics of the “2020 Vision?”
Join us! With the design for the Waterfront currently underway, we have the opportunity to come together and help shape the next chapter of Boca Raton’s history. All cities grow and change, new technologies & sociological needs evolve, and we can all contribute to the direction of this future change. All voices wishing to make a positive impact are welcome, and volunteers essential to support the City we all love. Reach out at: 2020VisionBoca@gmail.com, and on Facebook: