Boca talking ‘eminent domain – if necessary’ to create ‘spine’: Boca Raton FL News, 10/14/06

By Dale King

The spine - the proposed downtown Boca Raton pedestrian walkway that officials hope will pump up the central business district - has gotten a new name - and a timeline that shows potential completion by the year 2010.

Development Services Director Jorge Camejo said the term "spine" is something of a misnomer. In a presentation to the City Council last week, he gave it the name: "North/South Open Space Pedestrian Linkage."

And he also developed a timeline - one that shows negotiations for the purchase of land happening later this year and into the first quarter of 2007.

In his presentation, Camejo said the city will use "eminent domain - if necessary" to get the needed property.

Eminent domain - the forced taking of land - has been discussed, but never put into writing. The potential of eminent domain takings has raised red flags among some downtown property owners and, in particular, the Boca Raton Historical Society. That organization is trying to preserve certain sections of the city's retail center because of the historic value.

The society was so concerned about the spine and its impact on the city's historical infrastructure that it held a two-day workshop in May on spine development. No conclusions were reached, but testimony, photos and drawings generated were turned over to the city.

In essence, the spine is a pedestrian walkway intended to connect Mizner Park on the north end of the city's center with Royal Palm Place on the south end. The aim is to create a path with eye-appealing amenities that will draw people to see it, and shop along the way.

In his presentation, Camejo broke the spine development into seven phases. The first - the appraisal phase - has already begun, with the hiring of a company to do the work. The information should be collected by the end of the year, he said.

Land acquisition is the next phase - a stage that also includes public input. Camejo sees this phase as nearly a two-year effort, which should wrap up by the third quarter of 2008.

While that is going on, phase 3 - the visioning process - will be going on during the first six months of 2007. During this period, the conceptual plan for the plaza and pedestrian linkage will be developed, along with a cost estimate.

With money in mind, the city will enter the bond issuance phase in mid-2007, Camejo said. That will also involve public input.

Design of the spine should run from mid-2008 to the first quarter of 2009.

Engineering and construction could start in the second quarter of 2009 in hopes of a grand opening in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Boca Raton FL News: http://www.bocaratonnews.com