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VTUSA Official Rendering

Brightline: Boca can have its cake and …

by Les Wilson

To listen to the Boca Chamber of Commerce, a Brightline station in Boca might be the biggest tourism boost since Africa-USA. Nobody is against the station. Well, there was the one guy, but he did have a point. Anyway, you CAN BE FOR a Brightline station AND BE AGAINST the Boca Raton City Council’s proposed plan for it. That is, this doesn’t need to be a station at ANY cost. Everybody wants the train station. Virgin wants a Boca station. Let’s make it a “Boca Brightline” station. Read on … 

The one guy against Brightline. With a dry wit, Charlie Helton laments that Brightline seems to have left the station and makes a counter offer.

No infrastructure improvement costs are factored into the City’s plan

Is something else happening?

After six months of planning, the City’s plan is to position a 4 story parking garage in the corner of the lot. That means there’s room for a 10-story transit hi-rise at the library entrance. After its all said and done, there is no pedestrian walkway included in the plan; epic failure. Consequently, this taxpayer funded garage on public land has no way to get people across the tracks, across Dixie Highway and safely into downtown. How can Boca Raton afford a garage but not the pedestrian walkway that goes with it? And if that’s not enough, take a look at the BocaFirst companion article Brightline: Boca’s Economic Impact Analysis. No costs for infrastructure are factored into the City’s plan.

Virgin Trains USA Rendering of Station without the TOD.

For an explanation of the proposed design and some alternatives, see our BocaMatters video segment: Boca Deserves a Better Train Station Design.

For an explanation of what’s already happening to local businesses next to the library, see our BocaMatters video segment: Will Brightline Development Run Over Small Businesses?

For a perspective from Virgin Trains USA, see our Boca Matters video segment with Michael Hicks, Director of Media Relations at Virgin Trains USA.

There is no pedestrian walkway included in the plan … Is something else going on?

Proposed Boca Brightline Design w/labels
Artist rendering of the City Proposed Boca Brightline site plan with the TOD. Not a Virgin Train portrayal.

HOW you do something, is as important as WHAT you do:

Those paying attention recognize the usual propaganda machines are in full swing to get the station at any cost. Those are largely the folks that derive the benefit and little of the costs; especially day to day. They parade to the podium declaring “We at _____ support the train station. Thank you.”; as if the earth shifted on its axis.

What’s at issue is HOW the train station is planned in a comprehensive manner. Since May, the City and Virgin Trains designed and planned to build a station. The design has a 500 car parking garage and a 10-story high rise (called a TOD in urban planning parlance). That plan jams three buildings on the downtown library parking lot with the same finesse that the 2 acre Tower 155 design was famously shoe horned onto a 1.2 acre lot by previous council members Scott Singer, Robert Weinroth and Mike Mullaugh with no regard to basic or common sense zoning – using ordinance 5293 as a giveaway by the City.

Tower 155 after Ordinance 5293 granted it to extend the entire building 3′ into the alley.

To make it easy to understand, local artist Claudia Phillips at Factoria Design created a rendering from her interpretation of the proposed plan (above). After strong public opposition to the high density residential complex on the same lot as the library, train station and garage, the TOD was declared by the City Council as “off the table”. It was replaced by “surface level parking”. 

“The TOD is off the table” is a weak and toothless ploy.

What happened next is incredulous. Council Member Thomson inquired of the city attorney if a future city council could reverse that decision and replace the surface level parking with a development. The answer was “Yes”. 

The “TOD is off the table” dog whistle

So, unless the parking garage is moved to the center of the lot (as shown below in another Factoria Design artist rendering) so as to prevent a future TOD on the library lot, the “TOD is off the table” seems like a toothless ploy. Boca residents should also pay attention to their council members who argue and vote in favor of the “garage in the corner” design saying it provides surface level parking for easy access to the library by mothers, children and the elderly. That’s the dog whistle for “I support the train station. Thank you”. Don’t be fooled. Arguments for the “garage in the corner” with surface level parking pave the way today for a TOD and no surface level parking tomorrow. 

A more "Boca" Brightline designImproved Boca Brightline Design
A more “Boca” Brightline design. Not a Virgin Train portrayal.

You can be FOR a Boca Brightline station but AGAINST the proposed design

Therefore, you can be FOR a train station but AGAINST the City’s current design. There are more “Boca oriented” design alternatives that prevent a TOD on the library lot, have plenty of surface parking, train parking, a pedestrian bridge, parking for the downtown plus a raft of things creative space makers know how to do. This is public land and the public is funding the garage. It should be a “Boca Brightline” design.

If you want a train station design that retains Boca’s library as a vibrant “place”, let your city council know:

  • No TOD at the library door or on the library lot
  • Include a pedestrian bridge in the funded plan
  • Include the costs to improve auto and pedestrian/bicycle traffic throughout the area

The consequences of the 2018 City Council election have come to roost. Pay attention to who leads and fights for a better “Boca” Brightline station.

Boca Raton City Council
Boca Raton City Council

As shown (L to R):
Jeremy Rodgers jrodgers@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Andrea Levine O’Rourke aorourke@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Mayor Scott Singer ssinger@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Monica Mayotte mmayotte@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Andy Thomson athomson@myboca.us

You can make your voice known in City Hall at the following scheduled meetings where public input is taken. For tips on speaking at City Meetings, see our article How every resident can stay engaged.

  • Nov 21 6:30pm – Planning and Zoning Board will vote to approve or not. 
  • Nov 26 6pm City Council Meeting will discuss.
  • Dec 10 6pm City Council Meeting. Vote to approve. 

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