A few weeks ago my wife and I ate at a restaurant on Federal Highway just north of the Boca Raton line in Delray Beach. ‘Out of Denmark’ is a family run eatery specializing in the native fare of this Scandinavian country. Truly a culinary experience…a little expensive but outstanding…p.s….Go hungry!

So why this restaurant’s review….

About the same time as this experience, the Palm Beach Post reported that West Palm Beach had been chosen by the Knight Foundation as one of 13 U.S. cities that will send representatives to Copenhagen, Denmark as guests of a program called 880 Cities; a program that encourages municipal leaders to promote walkability, bikeability and civic engagement.  Their Mayor and Downtown Development Authority’s Executive Director will attend.

Apparently there was some sort of submission process in order to participate. The idea is for the invitees to learn from cities that weren’t always so livable, cities with parking problems, congested downtowns, and a less than stellar quality of life. Our City, Boca Raton, is not an invitee. Perhaps we did not compete but for sure our civic leaders will not be in attendance for the daylong master class with Gehl Architects, an international recognized firm known for its attention to public spaces and quality of life issues within built out urban environments.

Two years ago, at the goal setting sessions, former Councilwoman Constance Scott was promoting the idea of a sister city program. The concept was actually incorporated into that year’s goals but does not seem to have taken hold. Councilwoman Scott thought that such a program would have been a political career path for her after completing public service. Alas, that possibility seems to have faded with her no longer on the council; so much for world class city. Sister City programs are a worthwhile platform and should be incorporated.

The notion of ‘New Urbanism’ is quite interesting….Only in America, can ideas that have lasted for hundreds of years in distant cities globally, be tagged with the adjective ‘new’. This Denmark experience would have been perfect for our civic leaders to realize how to deal with congestion and mobility. It would have expanded their working knowledge on topics that are timely here in Boca Raton. However, we, as a community, continue to miss the opportunities of the international market.

Myopic vision prevails.

With one of the largest diplomatic communities in the United States just 40 miles down the road on Brickell Ave. We, Boca Raton, do not have a presence there; not with the Council, not with the CRA, not with the Chamber of Commerce. Yet we have some of the most international educational institutes in the state; second to none. From prep school (St. Andrew’s) to University, Lynn and FAU, we are light years ahead of other south Florida cities.

Our city needs to develop programs designed to attract people from 8 to 80. Particularly the millennials, 18 to 34 year olds; the college educated audience that many cities are competing for. Some argue that this segment of the population choose where to live before they pick where to work and they tend to choose to live in cities that are walkable and bikeable. Residents have been clamoring for years about bikeability, walkability and great downtown public spaces as the attractor adding to the Boca Raton image.

Also suggested is that the overdevelopment of rental apartment structures in our downtown without offsetting commercial locations is a losing formula. Commercial/corporate locations provided an employment base that is imperative; but alas, a subject for another day.

 

Another missed opportunity to accomplish a stellar urbanization program for downtown Boca Raton is the overdevelopment of Palmetto Park Road.  When completed, the Palmetto Promenade (formerly Archstone), with its minimal retail and is lack of any green space, contributes little to the notion of the urban concepts of walking and cycling.  Simply put, there is almost nothing to see and no place to see it; truly shameful…..

Perhaps we should let West Palm Beach continue to blaze the path of innovation or  instead, our elected leaders and our Chamber of Commerce can design an aggressive program to attract commercial locations to the downtown so new residents can actually live, work and play here. The development community can forego some profits in exchange for the creative urban green spaces needed to compete for the next generations of residents to our city. These conversations, this directional needle is what the city administration needs to hear form our elected officials and what the elected officials need to tell the concerned residents.

Take the blindfolds off and broaden Boca Raton’s horizons.

 

Please see 9/4/15 Sun Sentinel News Article