Ceremony honors Plaza Real at Mizner Park as one of ‘Ten Great Public Spaces’
By: Dale M. King
Photos: by Nicole Vickers
BOCA RATON – The creation of Mizner Park was something of a gamble, an early test of multi-use zoning that combined residential and cultural aspects with retail and commercial outlets.
It has succeeded well, so well, in fact, that the American Planning Association named Plaza Real at Mizner Park one of the Ten Great Public Spaces in America in 2010.
That special designation led the city to gather local and state officials and those in the business and tourism fields and community leaders for a ceremony today (Nov. 18) celebrating the honor. Also unveiled were a new permanent plaque and a commemorative poster.
Noting that Mizner Park will celebrate its 20th birthday in 2011, Mayor Susan Whelchel said, “The Plaza Real and Mizner Park story is a remarkable one, of the public and private sectors partnering to create and nurture a vital centerpiece of downtown Boca Raton.”
“Together with [General Growth Properties, operators of Mizner Park], we celebrate not only this coveted APA designation, but also the many people who have worked for more than two decades to make this such a special place.”
Among those in the crowd were County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who was a freshman member of the City Council when Mizner Park was built; former Councilwoman Wanda Thayer; former Boca Raton Development Services Director Jorge Camejo along with Mayor Whelchel, Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie, Community Redevelopment Agency Chairwoman and council member Constance Scott and Council member Mike Mullaugh.
Scott noted that “Mizner Park and Plaza Real are part of what make downtown Boca Raton a wonderful place in which to live, work and play. The APA recognition exemplifies that with creativity, persistence and effective partnerships, obsolete shopping malls can be transformed into vibrant places for everyone to enjoy.”
Mizner Park was built on the site of the former Boca Raton Mall, which was torn down in the late 1980s. Mizner Park represented a $56.6 million investment in renovation on the property.
Marie York, a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and corporate officer of the American Planning Association, said, “Plaza Real is exceptional for many reasons, including big thinking, planning and follow-through on those big plans; site design and aesthetics; public-private collaboration and community engagement,” said
“Plaza Real didn’t just happen on its own,” she said. “It came about as a result of public and private partnership and strong commitment to turn a shuttered shopping mall into an attractive commercial, residential and business district with a distinctive and unique public commons area.”
The area is defined by five fountains, two wrought-iron detailed gazebos, public art, benches and palm trees.
Building facades are Mediterranean in architectural style, described by University of Washington architecture professor Anne Vernez Moudon as a “post-modern reincarnation of 19th century Paris and Barcelona.”
At the north end of Mizner Park are the Count de Hoernle Amphitheater and Boca Raton Museum of Art. At the southwest end is the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center that includes a black box theater and exhibition space. It also houses the ZED 451 restaurant.
The ceremony featured a commemorative cake created by the Boca Raton Resort and Club with a poster on the icing depicting the plaza. A brass ensemble from the Boca Raton Symphonia performed.