Public input sought on Midtown Boca project


By: Diane Emeott Korzen
Contributing Writer

The city wants to know what residents envision for the redevelopment project known as Midtown.

To solicit input, the city hosted a public visioning session at the end of May.

The area known as “Midtown” comprises approximately 270 acres between Glades Road to the north and Town Center Road to the south, between St. Andrews Boulevard to the west the CSX Tri-Rail tracks to the east. It is bordered by several residential neighborhoods and commercial properties.

Over 100 people, both residents and lawyers, filled tables in the upstairs meeting room at Spanish River Library to engage in discussion. Just a day before, one of the property owners involved in the project filed a second legal action against the city alleging delays in the project from moving forward.

“I’m thrilled to see such a good turnout at a Public Outreach Program,” Council Member Andrea Levine-O’Rourke said.

Residents divided into groups at six planning tables to assume the role of  ‘designers and planners’ for the evening, with each group completing three assignments: 1) brainstorming ideas, 2) writing a visioning statement 3) planning the vision in drawing form on a parchment overlay to a map of the Midtown area. Ideas were shared with the whole room after each phase.

Consultant to the City Jim Anaston-Karas of Community Marine & Waster Resource Planning instructed the crowd, “Start with dreaming the possible, try to see what is probable, then make the hard decisions.”

“Many are asking here tonight: ‘What is the plan?’ “There is no plan,” he said.

Boca Teeca resident Harold Chaffee shared thoughts on one of the tables, which envisioned a senior community in the area, later replaced by a mix of Seniors and families living together.

“My daughter lives in a self-contained community in North Carolina that’s all seniors who have sold their houses; they don’t want the responsibility. It’s all townhouses. Everything is rentals. The idea is to have exercise, a movie theatre, restaurants, and to entertain people [all in the same place.] Mizner Park is great, but it’s just for the residents of Mizner. There’s no parking!”

Anaston-Karas gave a timeline: “Following [this initial] May public input meeting, we are charged with putting together a conceptual plan in June. We will have a City Council check-in in July, and [around] September will have a second public information meeting. “We want to get your ideas and input. To see if we’re missing anything,” he said.

He directed residents to the city’s website to complete comment forms posted from May 7 through the duration of the project. He added that it was very possible residents would be asked to complete a survey as well.

Anaston-Karas described the Midtown area as a prime location, by the hospital, with two local universities – Lynn and FAU, and an airport.

“You don’t have IBM anymore; however, you have the economic drivers for a concentration of 6,500 jobs,” he said. “Several from the hospitality industry are here tonight, from the Marriott and others.”

Regarding mass transit for getting around Midtown, he said, “There is a pretty good bus system in the area, but by a show of hands, ‘How many road the bus to get here today?’”

No one raised their hands.

Anaston-Karas added that Tri-Rail was supposed to be sending someone to the May 23 meeting from South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s. “If the train station comes, it’s going to be at 19th and Military Trail,” he said.

A second public meeting was then called and took place last month. At that meeting, representatives from South Florida Regional Transportation Authority were scheduled to present on the Boca Raton II Tri-Rail Station Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study – which is considering putting a second Boca Raton Tri-Rail Station in the area near Glades Road and Military Trail. Tri-Rail representatives were invited to the first public meeting, but did not attend.