The Tri-Rail Boca Raton Intermodal Transit center was relocated to allow for more space for shuttle bus connections and to provide a site for a transit oriented development. Original plans were for a mixed use development of over 1 million square feet. However, the project has been in abeyance.
Project Type:Station Project Mode:Commuter Rail Average Weekday Riders:727 Length (mi):0.00
Project Flags:Intermodal Economic Distress:0.80 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):641 Population Growth Rate (%):1.82
Employment Growth Rate (%):3.33 Market Size:599,574 Airport Travel Distance:20 Topography:1
Region:Southeast State:FL County:Palm Beach
City:Boca Raton Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:Boca Raton
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Transit GIS Lat/Long:26.392408 / -80.099324
Initial Study Date:2001 Post Constr. Study Date:2007
Constr. Start Date:2001 Constr. End Date:2004
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2000 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):14,037,000 Actual Cost (curr $):17,550,570
Intermodal Actual Cost (YOE $): 14,000,000Intermodal Actual Cost (curr $): 18,939,593
Highway Road Access Improvement Cost (YOE $): 37,000Highway Road Access Improvement Cost (curr $): 50,055
Average Annual Daily Traffic: N/ANumber of Parking Spaces: N/A
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
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NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
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The City of Boca Raton in Palm Beach County, 45 miles north of Miami, is served by the Miami's Tri-Rail Commuter rail service, which was established in the early 1990's. In 2004, Tri-Rail Transit Authority, in partnership with the City of Boca Raton, moved the rail station to a larger site near the old station that provided more space for shuttle connector buses as well as additional land that could be used for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The City approved a development plan for the 2.6 acre TOD site for a mixed use commercial development of 70,000 sq. ft. But Tri-Rail, the site's owner, favored a development proposal for a mixed use development of over 1 million square feet. After many years of consideration, negotiation, and debate, Tri-Rail and the City failed to achieve consensus on the plan. In 2008, the Great Recession set in, resulting in the withdrawal of all TOD plans for the site. When the development climate improves, expectations for the small TOD site are likely to be more reasonable.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The Boca Raton Transit station, completed in 2005, is on the Miami Tri-Rail commuter rail. Tri-Rail, operated by South Florida Regional Transit Authority (SFRTA) serves a 75 mile stretch with 22 stops along Florida's southeast coast, linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. In Miami, Tri-Rail connects to the Metrorail system and with the International Airport.
Tri-Rail, which runs at intervals of 30-40 minutes, connects Boca Raton with the outer suburban communities of Palm Beach County to the north, with inner suburban cities in Broward County, and with neighborhoods in North Miami and Hialeah to the south, terminating at Miami International Airport, 43 miles south of Boca Raton Tri-Rail also provides a direct connection to Fort Lauderdale airport and the Palm Beach Airport via a Palm Tran bus which is 4 miles from the station from the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station .
The Boca Raton Station connects by road with three major north-south highways that serve Boca Raton, Interstate 95, Florida Turnpike, and US Highway 1. Boca Raton is served by CSX and Florida East Coast Freight Rail services. Ports serving the city include Port Everglades, 22 miles to the south, and the Port of Palm Beach - 23 miles to the north, which is Florida's fourth biggest container port.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Boca Raton began to grow during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, when the Boca Raton Resort & Club (now used as the City Hall) began to draw tourists from the North. Boca Raton's architecture still proudly reflects its traditional Spanish-Moorish Revival style. The City began to boom in the 1960's, during which the population grew from 7,000 to over 30,000 people, spurred by the tourist industry and the growth of the retirement market here. After IBM located here in 1966, Boca Raton became a hotspot for clean industry. IBM developed the first personal computer here in 1980-81. At its peak, IBM employed 10,000 people in the city, contributing to the area's reputation as "Silicon Beach". The development of Arvinda Park of Commerce in the early eighties, which attracted national companies like Mitel Inc, Burroughs, and Mega Systems, was the first major business park in the county to combine light industrial and office uses.
From 1970 to 1980, Boca Raton's population grew by 67%. Gradually, the building momentum subsided as the community began to mature. From 1980 to 1990, population growth grew at a slower rate of 24% reaching 61,500. During the 1990's, IBM closed down most of its Boca Raton operations. However, the labor force spawned by IBM attracted new technology companies and the city's popularity as a retirement community increased. By 2000, the population had risen by another 22%. Today the former IBM site is known as the Boca Corporate Center. Arvida Commerce Park still exists in its original function as a multi-use office park combining light industry, warehouse, and office space.
Since completion of the new Intermodal Station in 2005, Boca's population has continued to increase, but at a somewhat slower rate. Growth has slowed to 1.3% a year, in contrast to the past two decades, when annual population growth rates of 2% a year were the norm. The City's median family income, at $98,250, is 55% above the national average. The high median age, at 45, reflects the large number of retirees living in the area. One-fifth of the population is over 65 which is very high compared to a national average of 12%.
When it was initially built in the 1980's, the Boca Raton Station was located on the north side of Yamato Road. In 2003, the decision was made to move the station to a larger site on the south side of Yamato Road for two reasons: to allow for more space for shuttle bus connections and to provide a site for a transit oriented development. The old site was too small to allow for sufficient traffic circulation and access for shuttle buses to connect the station with the city's employment centers. Tri-Rail bought a new site of 6.6 acres on the south side of Yamato Road in the T-Rex Corporate Park. This provided a surplus area of 2.2 acres that Tri-Rail wanted to see developed for a transit-oriented development (TOD).
The total cost of the new station was $14 million (2004$) including the site cost. The developer of a retail plaza near the TOD site had paid for most of the cost of the access road from the parking lot to the station. Tri-Rail paid for the right-hand (deceleration) lane of the access road from Yamato Road at a cost of just $37,000 ($ 2004). This road provides access onto E 51st Street, one-quarter mile from I-95.
In order to facilitate transit oriented development at the site, the City created a new conditional intermodal node use within the existing Light Industrial Park Zoning district. This newly created use allowed for accessory transit-oriented retail and service uses targeted at transit users. Permissible uses included restaurants, convenience retailing, pharmacy, books, stationary, office supplies, dry cleaning, photo processing, and personal and financial services.
In 2003, the city approved a plan for the 2.8 acre Transit Oriented Development site. The plan called for a mixed use development of 20,000 square feet of 'transit-friendly' shops and 50,000 square feet of offices with additional covered storage. A covered storage area for bicycles was planned along with premium parking for those who carpool.
From 2004 to 2008, a number of competing proposals for the development were submitted. Early in 2008, Tri-Rail's Property Task Force selected a proposal submitted by Yamato Road Joint Venture for the development of the 2.6 acre TOD site. This called for the construction of a 1.6 million square foot mixed used development at the TOD site.
The City of Boca Raton rejected the high densities proposed by the plan, which were not consistent with the restrictions on the site imposed by the Conditional Intermodal Node Use created for the station. The developers were requesting permission for a 1.16 million square foot development on the 2.6 acre site, which was 17 times the density of that was approved by the City for the site (FAR of 10.2 vs. 0.6) . The city felt that the higher density development could not be accommodated by existing transportation and other infrastructure at the site. One official quoted a Committee Member as having said that the Yamato proposal was like "trying to cram ten pounds of manure into a five pound bag".
In September of 2008, a workshop was conducted by Tri-Rail to allow Yamato Road Joint Venture to present a workshop for key stakeholders, including the City. A few days later, AIG collapsed, the credit default swap scam was exposed, and the Great Recession that started in 2008 set in. Since then, the project has been in abeyance.
A spokesman for Tri-Rail said that, with hindsight, they realized that they should have agreed to the more modest low-density, more sensible development proposal that was approved by the City. When the development market rebounds, it is likely that Tri-Rail will reevaluate it approach to development of the TOD site, considering lower density alternatives that can be supported by the City and the market.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The Tri-rail commuter rail service is designed to achieve modal shifts from auto to transit for commuter, airport, and other trips along the tri-rail corridor. In order to achieve this substitution of alternative modes for auto trips, a high level of connectivity from the Boca Raton Station to the main employment and institutional destinations within the city has been incorporated into the new Boca Raton Station. The new Boca Station site allowed room for the following five shuttle bus services to circulate Tri-Rail passengers to the city's main employment nodes:
In addition, a 5.5 mile bike path from the station connects with Palm Beach Community College and Florida Atlantic University as well with a number of city neighborhoods. Since the new station was opened in 2005 with the five shuttle bus connections to Boca's employment nodes, the new intermodal bus connections to Boca's main employment centers and institutions, ridership has increased significantly. Between 2004 and 2009, ridership at the Boca Raton Station increased by nearly 50% to 226,904 riders per annum. Meanwhile total ridership on the Tri-Rail system rose by just 13% during this period. Boca is now the third most-popular destination on the system.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The Station project was completed in 2005. From 2000 to 2010, the number of jobs in Boca Raton increased by 20% to 40,308. The jobs increase cannot be attributed to the Transit Oriented Development since the development did not actually occur. Planners say that the shuttle services from the station have motivated employers to select buildings with access to shuttle services. However, they consider these impacts to be mainly distributional, rather than generative. After the real estate market improves, a mixed use development of 70,000 sq. ft. is expected to occur at the site. This could produce around 250 jobs at the TOD site.
The main reason that the Boca Raton TOD did not materialize was the inability of the City and the Tri-Rail Transit Authority to achieve consensus on the best reuse for the site. Negotiations with developers were stalled for three years after the station was built by the conflicting interests of the City and of the Tri-Rail authorities. The financial crisis of 2008 caused a lack of financing for speculative commercial project, which has stalled the project indefinitely. When current market conditions improve, it is likely that a more reasonably-scaled development proposal for the site will materialize.
City of Boca Raton, Planning & Traffic Engineering Departments
Malcolm Butters Development Company.
Palm Beach County MPO
South Florida Rail Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail
Case Study developed by Economic Development Research Group