Best of Boca 2019: City Notes

Written by Marie Speed and John Thomason; inspired by a brilliant consortium of all-knowing advisors and pundits

Our roundup of who’s in the news—and the highlights (and lowlights!) of the last year in and around Boca Raton.

Missed Opportunity(ies)?

  • Crocker Partners pulls out of the Midtown idea when the city stalls yet again, asking for an unprecedented “small area plan,” whatever that is. The visionary redevelopment of a stagnant swath of Boca is off the table, the corresponding new Tri-Rail station no longer makes sense, and it’s back to square one—with Crocker lobbing a hefty lawsuit against the city for delay tactics.
  • The Downtowner takes its wheels elsewhere when the city refuses to engage in a plan to help subsidize the service. There is an RFP out now for new “circulators,” but the city is bogged down on figuring how to finance the service. Note to city: Ask Delray.

Projects Parked in Neutral

Wildflower park rendering (Courtesy of City of Boca Raton)
  • The old Wildflower site is still determining what it should be, awaiting the recommendations of yet another consultant
  • The “student neighborhood” for FAU is in limbo.
  • The ambitious downtown campus master plan is starting to look like pie in the sky to some council members as price tags tamp down expectations. A workshop is planned.

The Final Straw—Delayed

(Photo by Meghan Rodgers)

We understand the reasoning against the ban on plastic straws, but we can’t help feeling somewhat disheartened; there must be a viable alternative we can offer. Like only on demand. Mayotte’s right on this one.

The Big Turnaround

The number of Delray’s opioid drug overdoses drops by two-thirds from 2017 to 2018, credited in part to the DBPD’s hiring of full-time advocate Ariana Ciancio, who works directly with the recovery community, including active and recovering addicts, in helping people get on their feet and shutting down patient brokering and other shady practices. The druggie buggies and bad sober homes are beginning to disappear.

Lynn Goes Gourmet

Christine E. Lynn University Center

The new Student Center at Lynn University opens—complete with co-working spaces, state-of-the-art meeting spaces, million-dollar views and Christine’s restaurant!

Art Comes Out

Boca launches its Art in Public Places program. The first project was a mural at the south boardwalk entrance to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Artists included Georgeta Fondos, Ivan Roque, Craig McInnis, Tom D’Auria, Kristin Pavlick and Peter Agardy.

Bold Arts Move?

A newly formed “Boca Raton Arts District Association,” an outgrowth of the Cultural Consortium, approaches the city about building a performing arts complex on city-owned land east of the Spanish River Library. The project would include four performing arts buildings, a 1,200-seat theater, music and dance facilities and a black box theater. And a hotel and convention center, restaurants, the works. The project would be built through private donations and state, county and corporate funding. The council liked it, but so far the project is still in the conceptual stages.

Best Brothel Bust

The Orchids of Asia bust rocks Palm Beach County—and nabs Robert Kraft for one too many happy endings.

It’s Not Over Till It’s Over

Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie

In the year since she was arrested and suspended from office, former Mayor Susan Haynie pleads not guilty to the charges. If she is found not guilty before her term ends in March 2020 in her upcoming trial, she could be reinstated as mayor of Boca Raton.

The (Sweet) Sounds of Silence

BocaWatch goes temporarily dark after Zucaro loses mayoral bid, although a new group, “For Boca,” has splintered off, and BocaWatch is now back in business. Both are comparatively muted these days.

More Greening and Tech in Boca

Boca hires its first sustainability manager, Lindsey Nieratka, charged with improving the environmental quality and health of the community and reducing its environmental impact, while making sure that “all community members are experiencing benefits.” The city also hires Pedro Moras, its first Innovation Strategist, to “promote innovation and the use of technology” in city operations, among other things. Note to Pedro: Start with permits, please.

Prescription for Success

A rendering of a new patient room, all of which will be private. (Courtesy Boca Raton Regional Hospital)

The Boca Raton Regional Hospital kicks off its expansion with $123 million in donations toward a $250 million goal. Major donors to date are: Stanley and Marilyn Barry ($10 million), Christine E. Lynn ($15 million), Dick and Barbara Schmidt ($10 million), Bernie and Bill Marcus ($15 million) and Elaine Wold ($25 million). Just another example of how Boca puts its money where its heart is.

Most Anticipated Developments

The Mandarin Hotel is still years away from completion, but people are buzzed about it. And the associated residences are already selling well. The Mandarin Residences will join success stories like Alina and Akoya, which are elevating the luxury housing experience. (Like Boca needs more elevating!)

Get This Girl on the Stage

From left, Casey Hill (2019 PEARL Award winner), Ethel Isaacs Williams (2019 DIAMOND Award winner), and Boca Chamber President and CEO Troy M. McLellan

Ethel Isaacs Williams, this year’s DIAMOND Award winner and past Chamber board chair, gives a speech at the awards luncheon that bowls everyone over. We knew she was glamorous, we knew she was smart and we knew she could sing—but get ready for one more inspirational speaker on the circuit.

Boca Not-So-Fast National?

Not everyone is thrilled with Art Koski’s deal to buy the old Boca Teeca golf course and launch a gold-standard one in Boca. People say it’s too pricey, golf is declining as a sport, etc., etc. Others believe Boca needs a championship course. All we know is that the deal is far from being done.

The Rumor That Finally Came True

The Boca Resort is sold to tech titan Michael Dell’s MSD Partners for an undisclosed price. Word is that big improvements are on the way.

This story is from the July/August 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.