Look Forward to the Challenges and Opportunities 2017 Will Bring
By: Robert Weinroth
New Year’s Day has the same effect as a sorbet served as an intermezzo between courses to cleanse the palate. The new year of the Gregorian calendar gives us a moment to reflect on the year just past and to plan for the year just ahead.
Of course, the old Yiddish proverb, “man plans, God laughs,” comes to mind as we recognize the future is unpredictable and the best we do is plan and be prepared to make course corrections as external forces blow us in new directions.
On a national level, most expected the presidential campaign to come down to a contest pitting Hilary Clinton against Jeb Bush. So much for conventional wisdom! Even President Obama got it wrong when in mid-February he stated the electorate would never pick Donald J Trump to be president because “they recognize that being president is a serious job.”
And, even after Gary Johnson memorably quipped, “what’s Aleppo?” (a remark that took the wind from his campaign’s sails), the international community appeared totally impotent as it could do little more than watch the death and destruction of the city of Aleppo, home to the last pocket of resistance to Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad. With hundreds of thousands dead and millions on the run, Europe and the Middle East are left to provide refuge for those displaced.
Syria’s chaos incubated the rise of ISIS and cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor in the increased number of international terror attacks.
Turning our attention closer to home (where we can feel comfort in having direct influence over events), the news in 2016 was generally positive.
Unemployment in Florida fell below 5% in the 4th quarter of the year. Palm Beach County (and more particularly Boca Raton) continues to elevate its attractiveness as the venue of choice for companies seeking to relocate from the north with its educated workforce, low taxes and an unsurpassed standard of living with great schools, safe neighborhoods and unparalleled parks and year-round recreational opportunities.
There’s a lot to be excited about in our downtown as new residential units come online and the new Hyatt Park Boca opened for business. Next year, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Residences will further raise the city’s cache.
Over two decades ago, the decision to redevelop the downtown was approved by the voters. The plan was to create an urban core that would attract a critical mass of around 10,000 residents to make the downtown commercially viable.
Twenty-five years later we are seeing the befits of the redevelopment initiative as property values continue to climb, restaurants and small businesses in the downtown are prospering and cultural activities (live theatre, a downtown art museum, and more) are attracting the necessary audiences to make them viable.
The New Year offers challenges and opportunities as we look toward our future. Plans are under way to bring more recreational amenities online. We are also looking to redefine and update the meaning of public transportation.
With the new residents living in our downtown, we now need to promote the idea of leaving private passenger vehicles parked. This will require us to provide dependable choices (circulators, point-to-point transport within the downtown to supplement the services currently offered by the Downtowner and other alternatives to driving).
In the not too distant future, don’t be surprised to see autonomous vehicles on our streets. Near term this could be a driverless circulator.
Our city is seeking funding from FDOT to make this a reality in the near future. Within the decade, we will likely have the opportunity to buy a “subscription” to an autonomous service making vehicle ownership a less desirable alternative.
Sounds a bit like the Jetson’s but the future is coming faster than you might think.
In the meantime, let’s look forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2017 will bring.