Boca Raton approves new downtown building height limits

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By DON JORDAN, via Palm Beach Post
BOCA RATON — The city’s downtown is growing up.

City council members tonight unanimously approved new development guidelines that will increase the maximum allowed height for new buildings downtown from nine to 12 stories, or 100 to 140 feet.

The guidelines will eliminate the “large-scale boxiness” that has been the norm under current standards, which force developers to cram more space into fewer floors, said Ray Gindroz, principal emeritus for Urban Design Associates, a Pittsburgh-based firm that worked with the city on the new standards.

“The objective was to produce a pattern book … that could carry the city through the next generation of development,” Gindroz said.

The unanimous vote caps months of planning sessions, meetings with community groups and public hearings. Council members and residents have expressed concern in the past with the building heights allowed under the new standards.

But city officials and consultants tonight were quick to point out that taller doesn’t necessarily mean larger.

The standards, while allowing taller heights, restrict a development’s overall size to what was allowed under the previous guidelines. In other words, if one section of the building is taller than nine stories, another section must be shorter to offset the increase in size. Instead of looking like boxes, advocates argue, new buildings will have more articulated profiles and multi-level tiers.

“It gives the right mix of flexibility and creativity for our downtown,” council member Bill Hager said.

The council approved the guidelines on the same night that the council, acting as the city’s community redevelopment agency, approved a large mixed-use development that will serve as what consultants dubbed the “guinea pig” for the new standards.

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