Here are two accounts of what happened at the Midtown Visioning Session.

The following is a description provided to BocaWatch by Michelle Grau:

Last night, I merely thought we were going to voice our opinions whether we were in favor of this project or not.  Apparently, this project is moving forward, and  I didn’t realize that it had gotten to this stage of discussions on a plan they haven’t even approved zoning for. Also, having only included 6 tables of 10 as members of the public voice, is hardly a data set to extrapolate the sentiments of ALL the concerns of Boca residents from.  I asked one of the City employees if there was a way for residents who were not able to attend, voice their comments.  He gave me his business card.  His contact information is at the bottom of this article.

Boca Magazine said “I’ve heard complaints that Crocker Partners Managing Partner Angelo Bianco spent more time meeting with homeowner association presidents than homeowners. Even if that’s true, the landowners had begun to make concessions, some of them significant. “

The VP of Boca Racquet and Sailing HOA said her community was not notified, and I spoke with our community HOA, in Les Jardin, and they didn’t even know what Midtown was.  Also, Timbercreek showed up, who I spoke with last night, they said they just heard about Midtown yesterday.

First exercise was interesting.   Write 2-3 words of what this project means to you, (or something of that nature) on 2×8 yellow pieces of construction paper that the moderator placed on a Board.  He categorized them into 3 areas.  I don’t remember all of them but these were some that I remember.

  • Safety
  • Overcrowding schools
  • Overdeveloped Boca
  • Elderly
  • Greenspace
  • Entertainment & Recreation
  • Traffic
  • Quality of Life
  • Low Rise
  • Shade/Heat/Rain in Florida
  • Parking
  • Environment

I would have liked to have added a comment “Boca schools are already over capacity and we don’t currently have room or a plan to place new children who are moving in.”

Another thing I thought was crazy was having us come up with their vision statement!  Isn’t that the job of Crockers & the developers marketing department? Having us study the traffic plans – isn’t that the job of traffic engineers?

Also, maybe they could have added something about what is a Planned Mobility District.  I never heard this term before.  Do they really expect our kids to live without cars or 1 car/family.  I have 2 millennials at home who share a car, which they fight over, and trust me, they like their freedom just as much as we do.

Are these millennials going to use bikes when it rains or walk to the mall when it is 100 degrees outside?  When we lived across the street from St. Andrews School, I thought when we moved into the community, they would walk to school so I could free up my day.  Nope, I think they walked home 1 day!

And one more thing – No one likes public transportation!  People were joking that’s why the TriRail representatives never arrived last night.

Editor’s Account:

Last night’s Visioning Session was promoted well by the City and by this website. The turnout was large: standing room only on the Mezzanine section on the second floor of the Spanish River Library. Attendees were asked if they wanted to participate in planning groups or if they just wanted to listen. This guy with two thumbs decided he was going to participate in a planning session. I signed in and sat at table E.

On the table was a giant poster map of the area, nicely labeled. It had a big yellow dotted line around the “Small Area Plan” section which was basically the Midtown area minus Town Center Mall. Over top of this glossy full-color poster was a sheet of tracing paper. Seeing this got me all excited, like we were going to play some nerdy 70s-80s tabletop game like Dungeons and Dragons. There were props on the table too: Mardi Gras beads and stress balls. Cute.

When I sat down I realized that Council Candidate Tamara McKee was already a table E participant. Also at the table was Alan R. West, my Publisher Al Zucaro, and some other very nice, concerned and intelligent Boca Raton residents. I learned more from the participants at the table, in terms of general zoning facts and future trends, than I learned from the program presenters. We had a “moderator/referee/guide” at our table who was officially part of the program. Her name was Beth. She didn’t describe her role with the city or with the planning process of Midtown, but it was obvious she was very aware of the process and the outcome desired by the planners of the event. She was nice, and patient and said I was funny, but the residents at the table recognized I wasn’t joking about things that mattered a lot to them. I was just phrasing things in a way where the ridiculous elements of it couldn’t be ignored.

I started by drawing on the tracing paper what I thought the bike path challenges and obvious improvements are but then got stopped because we weren’t at the point in the process where we should draw on the paper. The next hour was spent listening to the presenter discuss the concepts around Midtown and the process we’d be taking part in to sketch out our “visions” for how it should be.

What we didn’t see were any plans for what would be built here. We saw some buildings be suggested, similar to what’s been built Downtown: blocky, inelegant structures that would be at home in any other city. The murmurs through the crowd made it clear that was not the kind of structures residents welcomed. But these were just pictures of other buildings built already somewhere else. They weren’t the plans for what would be built here.

The giant gaping hole in the presentation was any kind of visual that would indicate to people what fitting X number of people into this space would look like. Beth told us “your plan has to include residential” even though we couldn’t agree on whether we welcomed more residents to our town.

Another uncomfortable point in the presentation was how the presenter asked us to think about slogans for the area. He brought up slogans of other cities: Key West’s slogan and Hollywood, FL’s slogan. But he never asked if we have a slogan. We still do: “A City Within a Park”. Or maybe people have forgotten that slogan?

I thought it was a glaringly obvious declaration of negative space implied in the work, telling in a sense that the presenter dared to bring up slogans while avoiding the one that makes this whole exercise seem anti-Boca: a big reason I moved back here from Hollywood: to live in “the City in a Park”, the place where the dreams of Don Capron and Gordon Gilbert were put into action to define the quality of life I treasure. How will it be green? How will it be lush with shady trees? How much green space will it have?

So did anyone really have a chance to supply a resident vision that included keeping the zoning exactly the way it is, not adding more residents? No. The “visions” we were allowed to record were strictly defined by the exercise monitors. The requirements given to us were that we had to show where residential units would be ideal to go. The entire planning exercise was based around fitting residential units into the space one way or another.

The developer from Cypress was there, the people that own the bowling alley and Nippers space, but I didn’t see anyone representing Crocker Partners. It would have been nice to see Angelo Bianco show up and collaborate in the visioning, something lots of us expected was going to happen but didn’t. I wasn’t alone in feeling that the whole exercise was somewhat weird feeling and pointless in his absence, in the absence of the guy who has been the lead on the Midtown effort. This was the guy whose sketches we wanted to see – not our own.

Some of the groups, including mine, got to present the work their team did. When I saw the other team’s plans I was grateful Beth, our table monitor, kept our team’s tracing paper orderly. One team drew concentric circles that looked like Atlantis. Another included traffic circles. Another team’s tracing paper notes looked familiar, almost like Jack McWalter’s whiteboards.

They had cookies and water so people didn’t pass out from hypoglycemia and dehydration. That’s always greatly appreciated.

Contact information mentioned by Michelle above:
Drew Capra: GIS Planner for the City of Boca Raton
phone : (561) 393 – 7845
email : acapra @ myboca.us (remove the spaces)

Was it a success? Did it make concerned people less concerned? Let us know what you think.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I knew a planning session was coming sometime, but I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it. I must have missed a Boca Watch email. Anyway, from what’s described above, it sounds like the “plan” was that there WILL be lots of new residential building, they’re just asking us where we want them, so they can say that the plan was put together with Boca residents input. Horse puckey.

  2. I completely agree with the articles that were written about the meeting about Midtown Boca. I was there and basically thought it was an utter waste of time. The organizers started with the premise that this project was going to happen whether or not any of the local residents want it or not. Then we were asked to develop plans for a project no one at my table even wanted. Why do we need more stores in this area? Why do we need more restaurants in this area? Where are the children going to attend schools in this area? The local public schools are already vastly over-crowded. I’m sure, though, that this meeting was Just set up to appease the local residents.

  3. The Visioning Session was a city-run exercise and I don’t know why anyone would expect Angelo there since he believes that the whole process is an affront to his plans to build significant residential in the Midtown area. Angelo’s presence at the Visioning Session would almost be considered validation of the Small Area Plan so it certainly was not surprising that he wasn’t in the room.

    I think some things need to be clarified. Redevelopment in the area is going to happen. If the developers wanted to build tomorrow based on the current zoning code, they could. Cypress could tear down his buildings and build a new commercial-use development and they would not need to go in front of the Council for any approvals. The sticking point in the whole Midtown project is the residential, not development in general.

    What I found frightening in the session was people’s willingness to tell landowners how to use their privately-owned property and their priority of public green space (none of which exist there today). I’d imagine that these same people would throw a fit had someone told them what to do with their personal property. As I mentioned before, these landowners could build tomorrow with no additional promise of green space or an amphitheater (or anything else for the public for that matter). I came late to the program but I had expected the session to include discussions of population densities, traffic flows, and school loads; none of which I heard. I think that without true independent traffic and density studies, any discussions of zoning changes are moot.

    My main issue with development along Military Trail is traffic. I appreciate the residents that are championing other interests like school overcrowding. I think that until these issues are addressed, this is all an exercise in futility. BUT, if they are appropriately and satisfyingly addressed, the discussion of the development of residential units should move forward based upon the results of independent studies.

  4. I agree with everything you have said in the article . I was surprised at the format sitting at tables with other residents who all live in the area of concern . After the presenter or jester succeeeded in calming the residents, who came to voice their opposition to overdevelopment down, I realized that this whole exersize was to convince residents that this was a good idea and the brain washing began. i personnally was amazed at the proceedings it was like being in a broadway production and decided to just sit back and enjoy the show or manipulation of the crowd . The presenter could of sold you the Brooklyn bridge he was so good and could of persuaded you to paint it first before selling it to you. I have to give him and his associates, who wore city of boca tee shirts, an A plus.. It was better then being conned by a time share salesman, high pressure sales at it’s best. Whoever paid this man to sway the crowd and turn negative vibes into a positive feed back should be commended. This was a fabulous educational event but the day after you must wake up to reality and smell the roses and realize that do you really want what you were manipulated whether you believe it or not to participate in last night will be used in favor of the developers doing what you did not want in the beginning. Remember this is only act 2 cannot wait for act 3 and its free

  5. Sad that this type of thing is happening in our city of Boca Raton. There is already so much traffic congestion by the mall, and of course school overvrowding.
    Coming from a the rather well planned city of Portland Oregon, and witnessing exemplary public transportation, (Tri-Met, the fareless square…..cannot be beat) this city does not come close. One cannot force residents to take public transportation. I would recommend that citizens pay attention to what is going on in their city and vote for candidates who hold a similar vision.

  6. I also attended the meeting in the overflow area, and it seemed to me that there were more concerns than opportunities for boca residents. Sounds like a lot of corruption going on here. Very sad.

  7. I agree with everything in this article. So much corruption going on in our town. It makes me so sad and angry.

  8. Lei me cut through the chase for those of you who were not involved until recently on how the city of Boca Raton has operated over the last 15 years. There are 4 councilmen or women who have sat on council and a mayor, total of 5 who vote. Under Mayor Abrams, Mayor Susan Whechel, Mayor Susan Haynie, we the citzens have not had representation. We have petitioned, gone to court, and been threatened by developers.
    Nothing will ever change unless we replace those on council who as our city charter state: represents it citizen. Period.
    The election coming up Aug. 28 is our chance to win a majority of like minded citizens as our council men, women and mayor.
    Citizens have to be responsible to find out facts and stop voting for council just because of the Sunsentinel endorsement.
    The facts are the developers want all our parks, beaches and golf courses.
    Call city hall and request voting records, vote smart.
    Scott Singer approved the monsterest Tower 55 behind post office and added additional floors to the plan He approve a structure on the beach. I m tired of hearing he gives townhall meetings, so what. He lies and takes credit for everything.
    We have a opportunity to remove him for not representing us.
    Al Zacarro is a great man who is sacrificing to run for office of Mayor.
    Lets change the complexion of our city, lets elect and support Al!
    Then all these stupid meetings where they pass out crayons will come to a screeching hault! I m personally sick of it. Remove them!

  9. Totally agree with Patricia Dervishi.. we should exercise our rights through our Mayor’s office. Nobody should decide on the future of our town except its residents!

  10. As I was traveling in Europe, I was unable to attend, but it sounds like I didn’t miss much. At least the residents were given crayons. The last one of these I attended several years ago was to hear the results of Boca’s overpriced and underperforming downtown consultants. The boys from Pittsburgh, PA. (They were so bad that even Mayor Haynie called them “useless.”) At that meeting, residents were not allowed to sit at tables with the consultants, only developers and their allies were. And residents were not even allowed to ask questions!!! with Ruby Childers acting as enforcer. The meeting was as frustrating as the construction which followed, e.g. Tower 155. I think that concerned residents should find a forum and get together and decide what it is that WE would like to see in Boca’s Midtown. Any suggestions as to how to organize such a gathering? Any volunteers? That could serve as the template for what the Council will or will not approve. And we need a couple of more resident-friendly Members to make it happen. This August’s election will be very important in that regard.

  11. Michelle , I attended the meeting not knowing what to expect. The presenter treated the people that attended like children. They really think people are that naive. The topper for me was when they asked us to come up with a slogan for Boca Raton. Funny thing is I thought we had a slogan “A CITY WITHIN A PARK” when did that change ? Our voices need to be heard ,quite possibly there was a “deal” made before the fiasco that our city has endured with the Mayor & company. The developers want zoning changes we CAN NOT let this happen to our beautiful city within a park.

  12. I was at that meeting as well and I agree with Michelle. We should have a say as to what happens to that property. Our schools are over crowded as well as our roads. I went to that meeting thinking that we were all there to protest the redevelopment of that area instead of having us , as lay people, come up with a design for it. We must continue to fight against this re-zoning.

  13. I agree with Michelle. I was at that meeting thinking that we were all there to protest the rezoning of that area. Our schools and our roads are already over crowded. We should should have a say as residents of this community on what happens to that property.

  14. Totally disappointing. There is NO PLAN! It was a sham! “Welcome to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”-Childish presenter jumping around changing his attire and name in an attempt to entice participation in a mindless game. The Mall and Glades Plaza owners are no longer interested – Crocker is suing the city over an assertion that a building moratorium was created. It was- by the failure to submit a Master Plan as required by code. We’re no wiser than before – just spent more time money to no avail. Should be put on the back burner until the suit by Crocker is settled. The city planners must delineate what VACANT LAND exists in the area that is buildable. This “Vision” is starting to look more and more like “The WAVE” in Ft. Lauderdale. On a lighter note: Quiz – What is the finest establishment along Military Trail that created NO traffic, parking, school impact, essential services issues? Beautiful architecture, well planned, lush landscaping… enhances the area. The planners took the time and effort to create a beautiful place – The Cemetery. Thank you for your fantastic service to our communities.

  15. This was an event that planners would call a “Charette”. A Charette is a meeting seeking community input, which is a necessary and vital component of planning. I attended and I have to say that I had no idea that it was going to be a Charette. A Charette is very different from a public quasi judicial hearing, where people get to express their personal opinions on the merits of a development plan. The fact that there was no plan presented was disappointing to many, including myself. I hope we are at the point in seeking public opinion that the City will create a set of minimum guidelines that the developer must follow, because the way this has been going so far is the developer refuses to discuss his plan, threatens to sue when the City says the want a plan before they pass judgment on it and just wants to claim they have vested rights to build 2500 units. This project is so big and has so much potential impact on city services that there never should have been a zoning change without a negotiated plan. Instead the city gave the developer’s what they wanted and “thought” they would get something in return. Instead we got a legal demand and no cooperation. To say that this was foolishly and naively handled by our City government is an enormous understatement. We were misserved. Now we have to find our way back to reality and stop drinking Crocker Kool-aid.

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