Finally, the world woke up, put on its shoes and walked outside again. Boca and Delray and the region were back in business, and we made it a year to celebrate. Here’s what happened, who made the news and why we think we live in the best South Florida place there is.
If you build it?
Downtown Boca just keeps getting bigger, but so are its development woes. The proposed Aletto Square development that is planned for the area east of Sanborn Square and south of the Tower 155 condos is the city’s latest controversial building issue, with critics arguing that the three buildings that make up the Square are simply too large for the downtown space and that they would clash with the low-rise atmosphere of the neighborhood. One of the buildings would be an eight-story parking garage with 357 spaces, another would be 10 stories of mostly office space, and the other would be 12 stories and contain 93 apartments. Another point of contention is parking. A petition started on change.org to stop the development of Aletto Square cites the “unconscionable traffic Aletto Square would cause in the entire downtown by doubling the traffic, the insufficient parking spaces” and “the detrimental impact on Sanborn Square and its use and enjoyment by the public.”
Ongoing growing pains
When it comes to road construction, timing is everything. And even if it wasn’t the city’s fault, could someone somewhere have coordinated this better? All at the same time: Camino Real at the railroad tracks, the El Rio Bridge on Palmetto Park Road, the Glades Road interchange, the Clint Moore bridge and roadwork…and there are more headaches we are probably forgetting.
Biggest challenges facing the city
• Housing crisis/affordability
• Rising insurance issues
• Sustainability: tree canopy, greenhouse gas emissions, rising sea level
Things Boca did well this year
Two months after the tragic spontaneous collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood last year that left 98 dead, Boca Raton stepped up as the first city to act on tightening building inspections. While Palm Beach County deferred to state lawmakers to draft legislation, and cities like Delray Beach awaited county commissioners to issue ordinances, the Boca City Council wasted no time in approving an ordinance requiring re-inspections of buildings that are at least 30 years old and four stories tall, with another round of inspections that must come every 10 years after. By leading the legislative charge, Boca set an example that other municipalities are slowly beginning to follow, and also ensured that none of the city’s older buildings would pose a risk to residents’ safety.
Earlier this year, Boca broke ground on its very own Brightline station. But the city’s ambitions don’t end there. Plans are underway to redevelop Northwest First Avenue into a beautified gateway that will lead passengers straight to the heart of downtown Boca. The project will make Northwest First Avenue a oneway street flanked by lush oak and palm trees leading to Palmetto Park Road, a mere crosswalk away from some of Boca’s hottest dining and shopping areas. The “new vision” for Boca’s downtown is one step closer to being realized.
Best things to make a comeback after the pandemic
• The new Blue Lake Elementary is named and will open this August.
• The super-luxury Alina kicks off its next phase.
• The Boca Resort (now known as The Boca Raton) is open again, although construction is ongoing.
• The $250 million Boca Raton Regional Hospital capital campaign is almost complete—and a spanking new building is underway.
• The new Boca Raton Golf & Country Club opens
• Our social season returns, in all its air-kissing glory. Back at last are the Mayors Ball, the (Rhinestone) Cowboy Ball, Boca Bacchanal, Festival of the Arts, and the granddaddy of them all: The Boca Raton Regional Hospital Ball, featuring Sting this year.
• BRIC, rapidly becoming a community/cultural/tech/arts hub in Boca, unveils an ambitious plan for a live-work-play property we are loving.
• Town Center launches its own “Wynwood Walls” feature in what was the Sears wing.
• Indoor dining
• Live sports
The other side of paradise
South Florida isn’t all charity balls and omakase nights. The darker side is always interesting, however, like the Delray Beach man arrested at Kings Point after deputies said he shot another man, then beat him with a golf club for walking his dog on a golf course. Then we have the man arrested on the Woodfield Country Club golf course after a DEA investigation and indicted on charges for conspiracy, trafficking in drugs with a counterfeit mark, and money laundering conspiracy for producing promethazine-codeine cough syrup with labels that imitated widely distributed brands such as Atavis and Hi-Tech. Or, finally, the upscale Excell Auto Group with its luxury car inventory of Lambos and McLarens that disappeared overnight, with several of its automobile buyers in Boca Raton out nearly half a million dollars. Two lawsuits have been filed against the company, which has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. When Boca misbehaves, it does it in style…