A decade of discussions over how to transform Boca Raton’s 20th Street received a nudge forward recently by Boca officials.
Council members approved researching what it will take to turn a stretch of 20th Street into an area that will become a place for Florida Atlantic University students to spend more time in.
Currently, the area is a mishmash of businesses without an identity. The goal is make it a student-friendly place that harmoniously creates a district that the city and FAU campus would like to see people enjoy.
The conversations between the city and FAU about the student district began back in 2007, city officials said. But until recently, the conversations didn’t trigger any traction.
“The FAU administration has not been a willing partner in this as they are today,” Mayor Suan Haynie said during a recent city meeting. “Without that partnership and that collaborative spirit, this can’t move forward.”
Now, the school and the city are on board to come up with a plan of action for the area.
In December, officials from FAU, the city, local business owners and residents participated in a summit on the topic hosted by Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.
“The corridor lacks a consistent identity, with a hodge-podge of building types, disjointed uses, surface parking lots, and outdoor storage fronting the roadway,” the summit report states. “In the past decade, FAU’s growth and transition from a commuter school to a residential campus has accelerated the conversion of uses, including the introduction of higher-density student housing. This has created unprecedented impacts on municipal services, especially police and fire response. Other “college town” impacts on the City include rental encroachment into single-family neighborhoods, transportation challenges, recreational facility demands, and increasing municipal costs.”
Kim Delaney, the council’s director for strategic development and policy, shared the ideas that came out of the summit with the city council.
She said the city needs to determine what types of land uses it wants to see on the corridor, look into housing opportunities both on and off campus and improving the walkability of the area with complete streets of sidewalks and bike lanes.
Other topics discussed included increasing communication between city and school officials and studying the area to determine what businesses are the best fit for the district for both students and residents.
Delaney said Treasure Coast will bring in an economist to research the area and provide data the city will need to make any decisions on future land use. She said she would plan to hold public meetings in January or February.
Simultaneously, FAU is updating its campus master plan. Ultimately, Delaney said the plans should be rolled into one comprehensive plan adopted by the school and the city to make sure everyone is on the same page.