Does Design Matter In Our Downtown?

Executive Office Space Downtown Boca

Below is a great article by Douglas A. Mummaw that appeared in the Boca Raton Tribune.


Does Design Matter In Our Downtown?

Who wants to live downtown?

Why are residential units important in a vibrant downtown? My past Design Matters articles focus on the architectural or urban planning aspects of why Design Matters in our Downtown. This article is a little more broad in the architectural context, but still very congruent to the importance of design AND the recent community discussions regarding our downtown development.

People attract other people. We thrive on the energy of others. Our fondest memories usually involve a unique experience at a special event or gathering of people. Concerts, Birthday parties, Holiday events, etc. are all “moments” we treasure. What about daily activities? Dining, shopping, walking our dog, exercising? Aren’t they all more enjoyable when experienced with others?

What is Downtown Living and why is there such a resistance lately to it?

Statistics demonstrate that over 75,000 non-residents enter our city every day to work. Then they leave to return to their homes elsewhere. Do they come back to shop, dine or attend one of our downtown venues like IPIC, The Amphitheater, Art Museum, etc.? Most do not. Every one of us are creatures of habits. We shop at the same grocery store, pick up our dry cleaning, go out to eat at the same restaurants, walk our dogs, etc., within a personal “sphere zone” that is a short distance from our dwellings. We may work somewhere else, but our personal time, approximately two-thirds of our daily lives, are spent where we live.

To have a successful downtown, we need people living in it. We need their “sphere zones” directly embedded into it so that their routines can become the nucleus or center of special pedestrian realms(places). Living in a downtown is different. It is supposed to be. You park in the sky, live in the sky, and may even work in the sky, but seek out the ground for the “experience” and daily activities with others.

Everyone has their own personal “scale meter.” Our personal perceptions are instinctive but they can also be learned. Some people feel crowded in a grocery line. Others feel great in an amphitheater or professional sporting event. Each feeling is individual and each is appropriate. Architectural scale is the same. Buildings can be perceived as too big, too boring, do not relate to context, etc. We are all architectural critics:) So what scale is appropriate in a downtown? There are proven case studies that specifically address this. We have made significant progress with our own architectural codes. I will discuss it further in a later article.

For now, I am just referring to the residential scale of a downtown. We must have a residential scale so that all the other important elements like retail stores, restaurants, daily services, entertainment venues, cultural, civic venues and passive spaces like parks can all be intertwined together successfully. Otherwise, we have a static, none attractive zone in the middle of our city.

I believe, we can all agree that is not desirable. Long time residents can remember that our downtown was blighted and getting worse. Today, we have remarkable seeds of growth. We have Mizner Park, the irrefutable gold standard in urban planning. We have parks, beautiful beaches within walking distance. We have the most unique movie experience in South Florida, We have amphitheaters, museums, shopping and world class restaurants…I can write an entire article on our amenities.

Design Matters. Not just in how we make something look. Design Matters in tactical urban planning strategies. It matters in creating the right “mix of uses” that will create synergy for new experiences. It matters to our skyline and the beauty of our Boca Raton Brand. It matters in creating vertical neighborhoods, where new friendships are forged. These elements will meet the ground with excitement, demands for services and the creation of special spaces.

Our “Downtown” has not realized its potential. To do so, we need more people living here, working here and spending their personal time and money here. This will strengthen our positive elements and ignite the growth opportunities for new exciting ones. We need downtown dwellers to start the chain reaction. The sky cranes are bringing them. The transformation has begun.

Residential Development in our downtown is critically important to the growth of our city.

New vertical communities of The Mark, Tower 155, The Camden and the new Hyatt Place Hotel and others will enhance our downtown and already successful, Royal Palm Place and 200 East Developments. It will seem like it happened over night. Downtown Boca Raton will continue towards its destined potential and the experiences of our downtown will create new attractors and memories we will be proud of.

Friends, I look forward to our ongoing discussions on Why DESIGN MATTERS in our downtown.