New visions for the Wildflower


By: Councilman Scott Singer Special to the Boca Newspaper
Recently, the City Council discussed possible uses of the Wildflower site. The choices have been framed as a Houston’s-style restaurant on the site, or what some people call just a park. I’m working with planners, residents, and businesses to explore an alternative vision for our downtown waterfront, and am asking for your thoughts.
Recently, several local architects have offered design concepts for an active, urban, waterfront attraction that could include green space, boating amenities, public art, interactive spaces, and some dining or eating options. Their concepts and the advocacy of many residents warrant further consideration. Between the Wildflower site and neighboring Silver Palm Park, more than 6 acres of public space could be available at the eastern edge of Boca’s downtown. A brick-and-mortar restaurant would take up a great portion of the Wildflower site, and I don’t believe reflects the best opportunity for this land.
Although Hillstone, Houston’s parent, is a great operator, their proposed economic terms leave a great deal to be desired. Hillstone’s current restaurant proposal to construct a restaurant and create some public areas, but not any dockage. The proposed lease could last up to 45 years at Hillstone’s option, with annual increases of less than 1%. The city would be responsible for property taxes, which are expected to increase at least 1.5% per year, and possibly much more. Higher inflation over the next 45 years – a virtual certainty – could saddle two generations with a poor economic deal. Given this, I’ve asked Hillstone to propose better financial terms for the city and suggested my colleagues make the same request.
I appreciate everyone who wants more waterfront dining options in Boca Raton. We also recognize that there is fatigue in the six years since the site was purchased, most of which occurred before I was on the city council. All of that time, though, is spilled milk, and our downtown has grown denser since 2009. The question now is what will be the best use of the property for generations to come. I am skeptical that another restaurant with limited waterfront views for a select few who can snag a window-side table is what best ensures Boca Raton is a world-class city. Instead of looking to mirror what other cities have long had, we might do better by striving for something greater.
Active public and green space can spur resurgence and investment to an entire area. For example, the West Side of Manhattan has seen a renaissance with the restaurants and tourist sites that have been born out of the creation of a signature public space at the High Line, a former industrial elevated railway. Other cities’ waterfronts have transformed as well. As you read this, Deerfield Beach is completing a multi-million dollar of its bridge-adjacent public and green space into a revitalized Sullivan Park with new attractions. In the long run, I believe we can have a greater positive impact on our waterfront and downtown by creating a tourist and resident destination that would bring business to neighboring properties and pedestrians along Palmetto Park Road better a Houston’s could.
To that end, I’m happy to announce a public visioning session, which will be Monday, September 19, at 6pm at the Downtown Boca Library. My hope is that this discussion will generate positive ideas that we can act on quickly. Part of this work is identifying viable grant programs that could pay for improvements. I invite residents and planners to participate and share your ideas beforehand. Let’s work together for a vision that can truly set Boca Raton apart and enhance our downtown waterfront. Please contact me at with your thoughts.