By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
Longtime Boca GreenMarket Coordinator Emily Lilly sees a recent relocation of the green market to the north parking lot at Boca City Hall as a kind of “coming home.”
“I organized craft shows and other events in this same location years back,” she said, referring to her 19 years working for the City of Boca Raton as an Event Coordinator and later Community Resources Specialist.
For 22 years, since its inception, the popular Boca GreenMarket has been held in Royal Palm Place at the intersection of Federal Highway and SE 5 Street/Mizner Boulevard.
However, following an Oct. 11 meeting on the Downtown Parking Plan between Assistant City Manager Mike Woika and “less than 10 tenants in attendance” — of the 55 businesses located in Royal Palm Place — the GreenMarket was asked to move to allow plaza merchants more customer parking.
Investments Limited, the owner of the plaza, was involved and present at the meeting, according to Boca Public Information Officer Chrissy Gibson.
“Royal Palm Place businesses like and appreciate the GreenMarket, but would rather have parking,” Woika relayed to Boca City Council members acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board at a Nov. 26 CRA meeting.
After a Downtown Parking Update by Woika, the Board discussed two possible options of where to relocate the GreenMarket: the north parking lot at City Hall or the empty lot east of Mizner Amphitheater.
Discussion revealed that the lot next to the Amphitheater is generally booked a couple times a month with other events. A final decision on location was made the following day, in time for the market to restart at City Hall by Dec. 1. The GreenMarket is held Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through May.
“We have grown to such an extent that we really had outgrown the location; it was especially noticeable this year with crowded parking. Yes, I discussed this with [President of Investments Limited] Mr. [James] Batmasian and he had sincerely hoped we could continue there, but we both realized how we had created parking challenges. I personally can understand the feelings of many business owners in the Place,” Lilly said.
Asked whether the GreenMarket actually brought business into Royal Palm Place, as CRA Board Member Jeremy Rodgers and others have asserted, Lilly said, “It’s always a toss-up as to whether we helped to drive customers to visit shops in Royal Palm or whether we interfered with regular Royal Palm stores’ customers by taking up so much space with market customers.”
“We loved being at Royal Palm and were grateful to Mr. Batmasian and the shops for allowing us to hold the market there for so many years. However, I can see both sides of the situation and the only solution to help eliminate the conflict was to move the market,” said Lilly.
Asked if she had any comment on the new location and how it will impact the GreenMarket, Lilly said, “Our vendors have built a relationship with the public and have regular loyal customers who will come no matter where we are located.”
She added that four vendors, who she thought were not going to make the move, did make the move after all: Saquella Café, Gourmet File, 4th Generation Produce. A little Italian place located in Royal Palm Place that was with the market for the short-term, Vespri Siciliani, has not made the move, to-date.
As of Dec. 11, Lilly reported that numbers were down considerably due to the fact that many customers [before] walked to the market from their condos.
“Once again, I personally think the City Hall location is good for all concerned — Royal Palm Place, the City of Boca Raton, and the market itself. Time will tell…” she said. “ My hope is that anyone who may see the move as a negative will come to realize that change is always a possibility, and a fresh start for the market may be the best thing for everyone concerned at this time.”
Relocating the GreenMarket was one of eight recommendations that are from an analysis of downtown Boca parking conducted by Kimley Horn & Associates.
The study projects a deficit of 350-425 parking spaces by 2023 and 575-750 parking spaces by 2040.
To help, the analysis recommended expansing parking meters, which is in the works, implementing additional timed parking, starting an on-demand transit program, signage for off-site parking, more information on city website, parking information on event publications and creating a program to use excess private parking.
“All of the recommendations were approved, with the exception of metering non-metered spots,” said Boca PIO Gibson.