The Coastal Star

Letter to the Editor: Better traffic planning needed in downtown Boca

As an architect and urban planner, I would like to amplify my comments on Mizner 200, published in The Coastal Star last June. This is the proposed replacement for Mizner on the Green in Boca Raton.
    To its credit, the developer/owner, ELAD National Properties LLC, has changed architects and modified earlier proposals that were at variance with Boca Raton zoning requirements. Height, density, and design were modified to now substantially comply with current zoning and ordinances pertaining to the 8.75-acre site.
    While not all might be happy with the approximately 1,000-foot-long structure proposed, or with the chosen design idiom, the owner does have a right to develop this site to its potential. Their architects have addressed the setting with professionalism.
    Boca Raton is now at an important crossroads. Within a few blocks of Mizner 200 there exist 1,200 residential units in just six buildings. Near these, seven new residential projects are now under construction or in final planning stages, providing an additional 1,450 units. Add to this 358 luxury rooms at the first two hotels in this area, Hyatt Place and the Mandarin Oriental.
    A fresh look is also being taken at the center of all this activity, the 14-acre Royal Palm Plaza, where a multistory parking garage and yet another 300 residential units are in the planning stage.
    These new projects will account for an increased local tax assessment of over $1 billion, generating new annual tax revenue of over $20 million.  
    Shockingly, there is little apparent effort by our city to address the traffic impacts. A comprehensive transportation master plan is desperately needed to address parking traffic and pedestrian impacts, and keep area residents, developers, architects, land planners and public officials on the same page. That tax windfall, along with the opportunity to employ eminent domain and negotiate easements and rights of way, can precipitate the planning and implementation of effective solutions.
    Getting specific, any urban planner looking at this area would identify one important node on Southeast Mizner Boulevard near the proposed primary access to Mizner 200. This lies approximately opposite the current east entrance to Royal Palm Plaza, where a fountain exists. Southwest of this point I am advised that a multistory parking structure is planned and, northwest, a new 220-unit, 12-story residential tower. These disparate functions demand a holistic approach.
    I have personally advocated either a four-way controlled intersection or a roundabout. South of such a feature, two existing median breaks in Southeast Mizner Boulevard could be eliminated and replaced by a single new one, at the gated entry to the 195-unit Townsend Place buildings.
    These modifications would eliminate a circuitous, dangerous access to Townsend Place and reduce turning movements along the east boundary of Royal Palm Plaza. This would also create a safe pedestrian access to Royal Palm Plaza from the nearly 1,000 residential units across the street.
    There would still remain a challenging situation along the west boundary of Royal Palm Plaza, fronting on Federal Highway. I would further propose joining the new intersection described above with the existing intersection of Federal Highway and South Third Street, providing a central access to Royal Palm Plaza and creating an east-west pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfare.

John G. Colby, AIAE
Boca Raton

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