Boca Raton is a regional employment center that is home to more than 90,000 jobs. 80,000 of those jobs (90% of the total) are held by non-residents who commute into Boca Raton from other cities. Midtown Boca will eliminate a tremendous amount of those commutes and help shift the traffic patterns to reduce current peak congestion times. Midtown Boca is home to 6,500 jobs, 2.4 million square feet of retail and restaurants, but no residential dwellings. That means that everyone who works, shops, or dines in Midtown Boca is required to drive to and from their destinations, putting thousands of cars on our roads everyday and clogging our area roadways during morning and evening rush hours.
With future, non-resident, developments in adjacent communities already approved, traffic will worsen if current land use patterns are not changed from 100% commercial to a mix of commercial and residential. A change that the proposed Midtown Boca plans to pursue.
I thought our city sets ordinances based on traffic and impact studies. Is there an ordinance for Midtown that the City of Boca Raton has studied and presented with recommendations?
It is the City that is proposing the current zoning regulations, not the private land owners. The process began 7 years ago when the City amended its Comprehensive Plan to designate the Midtown Boca area as a Planned Mobility District. At the time, the City examine the issues and, as we understand it, had multiple public hearings and workshops to discuss them. The Comprehensive Plan is supported by data and analysis that was approved by the State of Florida and was presented during these public hearings and workshops. Once the Comprehensive Plan amendments were adopted in 2010, the City Commissioners directed the planning staff to propose regulations to implement the Planned Mobility District within 12 months (as required under state law in Florida). Government being government, City staff never proposed regulations for our area. It was not until the last year to two that several property owners began pressing the City to act. Since these regulations are related solely to zoning issues rather than a proposed development at its current stage, the City cannot spend time discussing traffic issues; they will focus on the issue once a land owner proposes a specific project through the site plan approval process. That process will only come after the zoning regulations have been determined. Of course, the City Code already includes standard by which those detailed traffic studies are measured and will be adhered to once the land owners proposed developments are submitted to the Planning & Zoning committee and the City Commissioners for review and approval.
What are the plans for the development?
We are still counting on you to help us further develop our ideas, but the vision for Midtown Boca includes development of new retail and residential space in addition to the redevelopment of Glades Plaza and the redevelopment and expansion of Boca Center. The City’s zoning rules allow for up to 2,500 residences in the area bounded by Boca Center, St. Andrews Blvd, Glades Road, and the Military Trail overpass. Development would be kept to this guideline, with density no greater than what already exists in some of the area’s neighborhoods. With your support, Midtown can take shape as a pedestrian friendly, aesthetically pleasing area, fed by a new Tri-Rail station and complete with boutiques, flagship shopping, entertainment, public spaces, dining, and desirable residences.
Where are the proposed residential units going to be located?
The proposed residential units, which will be anywhere from 1,300 to 2,500 apartments and condos (at maximum) will be built over the next decade and be dispersed between the Sears building at Town Center Mall, Glades Plaza, Boca Center and the property owned by Cypress Realty (current Nippers space). Once zoning regulations have been finalized, each developer will have a better understanding of what percentage they can allocate to residential. Currently, you can view the proposed Unit Allocation Map.
What is TOD?
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) describes mixed-use areas with “location efficiency,” using proximity to public transit and focused urban design to create mobility options besides driving. In TOD, car traffic tends to decrease in proportion to the number of people who take advantage of the close proximity of residential spaces, entertainment, jobs, and retail. As more people walk, bike, and ride, traffic improves for those who wish to drive. That means more parking and fewer headaches. TOD in the heart of Boca could be a focal point for the City and make it an even more desirable place to call home.
Why is TOD right for Boca Raton?
Boca’s traffic isn’t for the faint of heart. Rush-hour congestion on Palmetto Park, Glades, and Yamato creates headaches for drivers every single day. Part of the problem is the imbalance between the number of people who work here and who live here. While 80,000 people live in Boca Raton, 90,000 people work here—which means a lot of inflow and outflow at peak hours. To improve this situation, the City created Planned Mobility Districts (PMDs) to help correct the imbalance. Making this PMD area into a TOD could be part of a solution for Boca’s congestion problem.
Annexed from the County in 2003 and designated as a Planned Mobility District (PMD) by the City in 2010, this area has been due for redevelopment. We share the City’s vision of continued sustainable growth by making this an area with better walkability, more transportation options, and high-quality, multi-family residences for people working nearby.
How will this affect nearby residents?
Carefully planned, high quality new development of this type tends to create value, rather than problems, for nearby residents. In East Boca the popular Mizner Park, along with adjacent mixed-use development on Federal Highway, has made land values increase significantly. In addition, newer, more thoughtfully designed urban spaces are proven to make people feel safer. With more transit options, increased walkability, and more balance between jobs and residences in the area, traffic should not increase significantly for nearby residents. We hope that close proximity to a beautiful new space with a variety of entertainment and leisure options will benefit our neighbors, too. The City as a whole will certainly benefit from increased revenues and a more robust tax base.
How do you plan to manage the density of the area?
At 9.3 units per acre, Midtown’s overall density will be less than half of the 20 units per acre now permitted in the existing Planned Mobility Districts, and is consistent with two existing residential developments in the area — Bell Boca Town Center and Gables Town Colony.
How many of the proposed residences will be low income multi-family rental apartments?
Zero. There are no plans to offer any low income units.
What are the details on the square footage and estimated sales price of the apartments and/or condos?
Regarding pricing, the proposed regulations state the following: “Dwelling Unit Floor Area: The minimum floor area of a residential dwelling unit in a PMD shall be 500 square feet. The minimum average floor area of all dwelling units in a PMD shall be 700 square feet per unit.” We imagine that the rental product will be consistent with the Palmetto Promenade project, which are described as such: “The apartments will range in size from 712 square feet to 2,292 square feet, with monthly rental rates between $2,000 and $4,700 a month. The units include luxury finishes and appliances, while the complex’ amenities include a fitness center, resort pool and dog park.”