By Steve Plunkett
Downtown’s combined Wildflower-Silver Palm park won’t have a planned floating wetlands area under the Palmetto Park Road bridge when it opens in 2021.
Kona Gray, a principal of consultant EDSA Inc., which is designing the park, told City Council members Oct. 21 that his team missed an application deadline for needed seagrass permits.
“In order to keep our project moving forward, that could happen at a separate date,” Gray said. “It’s not something that’s being precluded, it’s just not included in this particular presentation.”
The park in May lost proposed access steps on the north side of the bridge, a City Council request, when Palm Beach County insisted on including an elevator or ramps to make them ADA-compliant. Existing stairs on the south side are grandfathered in.
Gray reviewed features of the park that he had shown council members in May and showed new drawings of a “very clean and simple … contemporary” pavilion and restrooms.
“We wanted to go with something that would allow the park to be the star. It’s really not about the building, it’s about the place,” he said.
The renderings prompted a quick critique from resident Jo-Ann Landon.
“I really feel as though we ought to stay with the Mizner look. I know that’s very modern, but you know, Boca Raton has its reputation as being a Mizner area,” Landon said. “And I feel like I would like to see something that looks a little more Mediterranean, Spanish, but that’s my personal thought.”
Resident Margaret Fitzsimons criticized Gray’s plans for a hard-surface parking lot taking up almost half of the Wildflower site as a potential generator of heat and suggested grass parking instead. But Gray said that would deter or endanger women in high heels.
Council members Monica Mayotte and Andy Thomson both asked for more trash cans.
“And I would love to see the solar ones, the solar compacting ones,” Mayotte said.
“I’m not saying we have to be like Disneyland and have one every 30 feet, but I think a few more would do us good,” said Thomson, who kicked off his re-election campaign Oct. 16.
Council member Andrea O’Rourke and Mayor Scott Singer also held campaign kickoffs in October for the city election next March.
Council members also discussed holding a contest to name the park while still seeking a philanthropist who would take naming rights in exchange for the purchase of the old Maxwell’s Chophouse site, which cuts into the west side of the Wildflower parcel.
Gray expanded on a construction schedule he had given earlier, saying that work on the $6.8 million project would begin in late 2020 and finish 12 months later.
Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers, who is in his final term on the council, urged Gray to move quickly.
“I’m only here till about March 2021. I would love to be there when this thing opens,” Rodgers said.
Singer also sought speed. “Run with it, run with it. It’s good, and let’s just get ’er done,” he said.
Planning began in April 2017 when Gray’s firm held an outreach session with city residents to develop a comprehensive waterfront park plan. EDSA presented its initial ideas to the council in February 2018, held another outreach session in September 2018 and two months later showed the council plans for connecting Silver Palm Park and the Wildflower parcel.
Boca Raton bought the 2.3-acre Wildflower site for $7.5 million in 2009 and negotiated for years to put a restaurant there. But a November 2017 voter initiative banned commercial uses of city-owned property along the Intracoastal Waterway. Ú