Thursday, June 6, 2024

Best of Boca 2020: City News & Notes

Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, and John Thomason (and our special panel of local insiders)

It was the best of times—it was the worst of times—but the last year has been one for the books. The Best of Boca was never better than this year; Here are the highlights, the lowlights and the many hits and misses of Boca news in 2020.


  • The school board approves a new elementary school by Don Estridge Middle that will alleviate crowding at Calusa Elementary, and work is on schedule for new Verde and Addison Mizner K-8 campuses.
  • The city (finally!) opens Hillsboro El Rio Park South, a waterfront park that features a playground, basketball courts, pickleball courts and beach volleyball area.
  • The Beaches and Parks District approves the Intracoastal-to-ocean Ocean Strand property for public use, after 30 years of limbo, dedicating $75,000 to the land, installation of benches, and creation of walking trails. Eventually the project could include kayak launches and restrooms.


  • With one delay after another, the city scuttles the ambitious Midtown project designed to renew an aging Boca shopping center and its environs—by the same group, Crocker Partners, that transformed Boca Raton’s downtown 30 years ago with the pioneering Mizner Park. Lawsuits ensue, and Boca gets the award for Myopic Leadership.


  • SUSAN HAYNIE’S trial is postponed yet again. The latest date is July 27, but will virus restrictions delay it again?
  • BOCA NATIONAL is still a golfer’s dream. But only a dream. No word yet on what will be next in this ongoing issue.
  • The WILDFLOWER/SILVER PALM PARK still has no site plan. After two years.


  • Lincoln Mendez starts his new job as CEO of Boca Regional, and is faced with a double whammy: dealing with the virus and completing a capital campaign.
  • New FAU football coach Willie Taggart has big shoes to fill. When football resumes, can he continue what Lane Kiffin started?


  • Boca Regional merges with Baptist Health South Florida, the largest health care organization in the region with nearly 23,000 employees, more than 4,000 physicians and more than 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices.
  • For the first time since its inception, the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl is aired on a national TV channel—ABC.
  • A Brightline station is approved for Boca, although some think the $12 million price tag is excessive, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 uncertainties related to mass transit. (Oh, that’s right, those trains are mostly empty anyway.)
  • The COVID-19 virus strikes, and Boca is the first Palm Beach County city to shut down. A state of emergency is declared.
  • The Park at Broken Sound, aka Arvida Park of Commerce, is nearly built out for residential.
  • The lavish IPIC theater in Delray and its parent company file for bankruptcy.
  • Sears at Town Center Mall closes.
  • Michael’s Body Scenes, an iconic Boca gym, is sold.
  • The 2020 census will show that Boca Raton has a population of 100,000.


1. Happy Hours can be virtual.

2. Working from home works.

3. Schools turned out to be rock stars, moving on a dime to roll out virtual learning almost immediately.

4. The world of delivery became our oyster, from Shipt and Instacart to Delivery Dudes Bodega.

5. People innovated. SA made face shields, Mecca Farms started delivering boxed produce directly to the consumer, Rodney Mayo launched a charity to feed laid-off hospitality workers and people in need, schools got breakfast and lunches to kids who needed them.

6. Hand washing became our new obsession.

7. “Tiger King” was our new low point on Netflix. And Carole Baskin is now a household name, all you kittens.

8. Every animal in one Palm Beach County shelter got adopted.

9. The world looked a little refreshed: We saw the skies in L.A. turn blue, dolphins return to Venice canals, and a kangaroo bounded through Adelaide, Australia.

10. Drive-by celebrations became the norm, with events like birthdays to graduations commemorated by neighborhood caravans of friends and family in a time when loved ones remained at arm’s length.

This story is from the July/August 2020 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

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