Boca Raton- another Ritzy Miami Suburb with a small downtown

Boca Raton was incorporated in 1924 but remained very small until after WWII. This was largely due to a major hurricane in the late 20s and the bankruptcy of its developer and founder Mizner. Mizner had grand ambitions for Boca Raton and I assume if they were realized Boca Raton would have been more similar to Coral Gables in character. Boca Raton did pick up steam moving from only had 1,000 residents in 1950 to 7,000 in 1960 and 50K by 1980. But due to its later development most of the City is suburban with a small walkable Dwtn core of only 0.5 Sq. Miles, which often feels like a strong urban/suburban hybrid.

Downtown Boca Raton has established itself as a lifestyle and entertainment hub with tons of shopping, food & beverage retail, cultural amenities, good walkable amenities, but a so  urban form. Because of their desire to make parking convenient, many surface lots and strip malls are mixed in with quality urban mixed-use buildings and plazas. Interestingly a strict development code for the size and types of commercial buildings exists in the City. I  guess they forgot to pass different laws to make downtown truly urban. Throw in some tacky Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture and you have a very strong hodgepodge of a place. The most consistant urban form is the colonnade buildings around Plaza Real and quality mixed-use buildings along most of E. Palmetto Blvd. Other areas for improvement in Dwtn Boca Raton include more affordable housing, better diversity across all metrics, and much higher density. In a city of 30 square miles creating a truly dense, walkable, and urban dwtn of 1 sq. mile shouldn’t be a controversial.

Click here to view my Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* ADA infrastructure is good in the Dwtn area but hit or miss in the residential portion of the eval area east of Mizner Blvd.
* Several dedicated bike lanes running thru dwtn. Not dedicated bike stations however.
* Several very nice downtown plazas most notably that elongated Plaza Real which includes an amphitheater. Sandborn Park is also pretty nice. Not much else other than a couple smaller parks.
* Downtown Boca is a very safe place.
* Several good schools but none of them are Dwtn, all quasi-walkable west of Dixie Highway.
* Culturally Boca Raton has a good array of restaurants, bars, cafes, several breweries and art galleries, lots of live music venues, several local theaters, a cineplex, and several museums.
* Retail amenities include 4 supermarkets, a couple drug stores, many boutiques, lots of stores at the Minzer Park Shopping Mall, many gift shops, several home goods stores & consignment shops, tons of dessert shops/bakeries, and gyms, and a dwtn library and post office.
* The urban form of Boca Raton’s in-fill is generally good but I say that with some qualifications. The design is pretty tacky and there is still a lot of strip malls and surface parking lots throughout dwtn. In-fill along E. Palmetto Blvd and Plaza Real is the best.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty low more like a suburb.
* Not great access to Dwtns. About 30-40 min drive to dwtn West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale and 1 hr. to Dwtn Miami. About 50-1hr via train to either Dwtn.
* Diversity is pretty poor here especially economic and family.
* Rentals are expensive with 1-beds leasing in the 2K & 3Ks, 2-beds btwn 3K-6K, 3-beds 4K-8K. Pretty good supply.
* More moderate hsg with for-sale options. 1-bed Condos sell btwn 200K-600K, 2-beds sell at a wide variety btwn 300K-2 M, 3 & 4 beds 700K-3M.
* Only a little bit of historic architecture in the residential pocket of Boca Raton east of Dixie Hwy. None to speak of in Dwtn and along E Palmetto Blvd.

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