What is the status of Midtown Boca?

Midtown Boca’s intended progress – consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan – is currently blocked until the City formally adopts updated mixed-use land use regulations. At that time, landowners can submit plans for public review and approval. For now, the area is restricted to commercial-only development – the zoning in place when the area was annexed from the County in 2003. In 2010, the City designated Midtown as a Planned Mobility District (PMD) and was supposed to put the required zoning in place by 2011.
The City has essentially created a development moratorium in Midtown that violates state law and Boca Raton’s own Comprehensive Plan. It has also imposed conditions never before required of landowners in the City, including those in the Broken Sound area which was similarly rezoned to include residential uses.

Why the delay?

Most recently, City Council chose to impose an undefined and contrived requirement for a “Small Area Plan” for Midtown Boca, further delaying action for likely up to a year. That left Crocker Partners, Midtown’s largest landowner, with court action as its only option. Resolution is pending on claims seeking to recoup $137 million in damages and to compel the City to enact the new land use regulations.
After over two years of working with the City, Crocker Partners’ Angelo Bianco terms the lawsuits a last resort and “lose-lose” proposition.
We’ve focused tremendous energy and resources in responsible, transformative development over 30 years in this City we call our home. Our interest isn’t in burdening taxpayers with damages but in moving Midtown forward to its full potential. Without action, Midtown becomes a missed opportunity as nearby cities step up to rezone outdated commercial districts and secure the limited traffic concurrency rights.
Boca Magazine’s City Watch column summed it up:
Boca Raton never has faced litigation like that over Midtown. Whatever revelations emerge and whatever the result, what could have been a needed and helpful redevelopment project could be gone because the City stopped negotiating on Jan. 23. And that’s the best-case scenario. The worst case is that the City loses Midtown and a lot of money.

What is a Planned Mobility District (PMD)? What is a Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? Why are they right for Boca Raton?

Both terms apply to areas developed with a mix of uses that allow people to live close to work and to get around by means other than by car. A TOD also incorporates access to high quality public transportation within walking distance, such as a new Tri-Rail station proposed in the Midtown area.
Recognizing the need for rezoning and greater mobility, the City included the Midtown area as one of five PMDs in its 2010 Comprehensive Plan – the City’s roadmap for its future. Presently, commuters clog Palmetto Park, Glades and Yamato roads which creates headaches for everyone. Meanwhile, continually widening roads is a no-win solution. 

How will the proposed development affect traffic?

Midtown has the potential to reduce the number of cars on the roads and shift traffic patterns to better deal with current peak hour congestion. Currently, ninety percent of the 90,000 jobs in Boca are held by non-residents who commute into the city, the majority by car. Within Midtown, 6,500 people are employed. Today, virtually everyone who works, shops or dines in the area must drive to and from their destination. If updated land use regulations aren’t formally adopted to include residential uses and encourage alternative modes of getting around, traffic will only worsen. Even if no further development occurs in Midtown Boca, our traffic will worsen as neighboring areas will continue to develop and impact our roads.  Even today, the property owners in Midtown can develop commercial space “as of right” that would cause significantly more traffic than the residential-heavy mixed-use development proposed by the landowners.

How will redevelopment of this area affect nearby residents?

The plans are intended to lessen traffic impact for nearby neighbors and create new options for enjoying and getting around the neighborhood. Plus, carefully planned, high quality development traditionally creates substantial land value increases for nearby residents. In East Boca for example, Mizner Park and new mixed-use development along Federal Highway led to higher land values for everyone in the area known as the “Golden Triangle”.
Overall, the City will benefit from a more robust tax base and be better positioned to attract today’s best companies. This is vital to ensure that our City’s long-term obligations (e.g., public pensions and infrastructure) are offset by long-term income sources (e.g., commercial property tax revenues and strong housing prices).

Did the community have input into Midtown Boca planning? Will there be opportunity for more public input?

In addition to several public City meetings, with an unprecedented focus on community outreach, Midtown Boca’s landowners reached out to the immediately adjacent neighborhoods to introduce the Midtown Boca concept and invite input. This included a Town Hall meeting open to all neighbors and a recap mailed to all residents of these nearby communities, which included Fairfield, Boca Bath & Tennis, Paradise Palms and the homes along Verde Trail. There were also open presentations at each of these neighborhoods and over twenty topic-focused sessions on issues such as traffic impact, TODs and residential options. Throughout this process, the MidtownBoca.com website and Facebook page posted info and invited comments.
The community will have ongoing opportunity for input should the Midtown Boca project proceed. With updated land use regulations, the City is simply putting the framework in place. Each landowner’s specific projects will still be subject to the City’s full public review and zoning approval process.