Boca Raton ("bōkə rə-tōn") is a city in Palm Beach County, Florida incorporated in May 1925. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 74,764; the 2006 population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 86,396. However, the majority of the people under the postal address of Boca Raton, of about 200,000 in total, are not actual residents of municipal Boca Raton. This is due to the county's stringent annexation laws passed in 2004. Estimated that on any given day, there are roughly 350,000 people in the city itself.
Listed on early maps as "Boca Ratones," many people assume the name is simply translated to "Rat's Mouth". The Spanish word boca (or mouth) was often used to describe an inlet, while ratón (literally mouse) was used by Spanish sailors to describe rocks that gnawed at a ship's cable, or as a term for a cowardly thief. The name Boca Ratones originally appeared on eighteenth century maps associated with an inlet in the Biscayne Bay area of Miami. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the term was mistakenly moved north to its current location on most maps and applied to Lake Boca Raton, whose inlet was closed at the time.
The city's early history during the Florida land boom of the 1920s was as the site of Addison Mizner's Cloister Inn in 1927. Referred to as the "pink hotel," it is visible from miles away as a towering building on the Intracoastal Waterway. Following it, the Pearl City neighborhood of Boca Raton was established to house the service personnel for the hotel.
Japanese farmers of the Yamato Colony converted the land west of the city into pineapple plantations beginning in 1904. During World War II, much of their land was confiscated and used as the site of the Boca Raton Army Air Force Base, a major training facility for B-29 bomber crews. There was also a radar school and research facility there. Much of the airbase was later donated to become the grounds of Florida Atlantic University, many of whose parking lots are former runways of the airbase, while part of the airbase is now used as the Boca Raton Airport. The Japanese heritage of the Yamato Colony survives in the name of Yamato Road (NW 51st Street) just north of the airport and at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens northwest of the city.
In the late 1960s, Boca Raton became the southern home to the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). In 1965, well before the extension of I-95 into Southern Florida, IBM purchased several-hundred acres of real estate just west of the CSX rail line and northwest of Florida Atlantic University.
Construction of IBM's main complex began in earnest in 1967, and the mammoth manufacturing and office complex was dedicated in March 1970. The campus was designed with self-sufficiency in mind, and to that end sported its own electrical substation, water pumping station, and rail-spur. Among other very noteworthy IT accomplishments, such as the mass manufacture of the System/360 and development of the Series/1 mainframe computers, IBM's main complex was the birthplace of the IBM PC, which later evolved into the IBM Personal System/2, developed in nearby Delray Beach. Starting in 1987, IBM relocated their manufacturing for what became the IBM PC division to Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, and converted the cavernous manufacturing facilities into offices and laboratories, later producing ground-breaking products such as the OS/2 operating system and VoiceType Dictation, known today as ViaVoice voice-recognition software.
IBM maintained its facilities in the South Florida area until 1996, when the facility was closed and sold to Blue Lake Real Estate, who in turn sold it to the T-REX Management Consortium. Today, T-REX has revitalized the facility and its surrounding real estate into a highly-successful and landscaped business/research park. What used to be IBM's Building 051, an annex separated from the former main IBM campus by Spanish River Boulevard was donated to the Palm Beach County School District and converted into Don Estridge High Tech Middle School. It is named for Don Estridge, whose team was responsible for developing the IBM PC. IBM later returned in July, 2001 opening the current software development laboratory off Congress Avenue.
In the 1980s, because of an explosion of development to the west of the historical center of the city, some eastern areas began to decay, including the downtown corridor. For instance, the old Boca Raton Mall, a shopping mall in the downtown area was beginning to experience higher vacancy, and occupancy by marginal tenants, due to the opening of Town Center at Boca Raton west of the city in 1980.
In 1991, the new downtown outdoor shopping and dining center, Mizner Park, was completed over the site of the old Boca Raton Mall. It has since become a cultural center for the southern Palm Beach County. Featuring a landscaped central park between the two main roads (collectively called Plaza Real) with stores only on the outside of the roads, Mizner Park resembles a Mediterranean suburban "town center" with a more contemporary look. It features many restaurants and is home to the Boca Raton Museum of Art which moved to the new facility in 2001. In 2002, a new amphitheater was built replacing a smaller one, providing a large-capacity outdoor venue where concerts and other performances are held.
Mizner Park has significantly aided downtown revitalization. Many new eight to ten story mixed-use buildings have been constructed, are currently under construction or are proposed for the downtown area. The surrounding areas to the downtown have benefited from the downtown redevelopment.
The National Cartoon Museum (formally the International Museum of Cartoon Art) built a facility on the southwest edge of Mizner Park in 1996. Open for six years, the museum closed in 2002 and the space has been empty since. The Museum has since relocated to its original home in New York City. The building is currently undergoing renovations for public uses, including the local public TV station, and private uses, such as a locally-owned and operated bookstore.
As development continued to focus to the west of the city in the 1980s and 1990s, the mall area, Town Center at Boca Raton, became the geographic center of what is referred to as Boca Raton, though this mall was not actually annexed into the city until 2004. The area referred to as Boca Raton, including the unincorporated area west of the city (and discussed below), is now almost entirely built out.
In 1999, the Simon Property Group bought Town Center at Boca Raton and redeveloped it. Nordstrom was added as the anchor department store for the new wing. Neiman Marcus is the newest department store tenant as of 2006. In-late 2006, Simon began the construction stage of an outdoor lifestyle center near the new wing. Town Center Mall has become a tourist attraction and the largest indoor mall in Palm Beach County.
Boca Raton has a strict development code, including the size and types of commercial buildings, building signs and advertisements which may be erected within the city limits. No car dealerships are allowed in the municipality, according to the city zoning code. Additionally, no billboards are permitted in the city. The only billboard was grandfathered in during recent annexation. Corporations such as McDonald's have subdued their Golden Arches due to the code. The unincorporated areas still contain restaurants with the classic arches, but the heights of the signs have also been reduced. Many buildings in the area have Mediterranean and Spanish architectural themes, initially inspired in the area by Addison Mizner. The strict development code has resulted in several major thoroughfares without large signs or advertisements in the traveler's view; significant landscaping is in its place.
Several small tunnels run under roads in Boca, but the roads are built up several feet at these locations, or are located on dunes. Several of these tunnels are under State Road A1A at Spanish River Park, from the west side of the road where parking is available to beachgoers, to the east side of the road, which is where the beach is located. A1A is already higher than the surrounding land here due to sand dunes formed by erosion and other natural features.
The City of Boca Raton has a Council-Manager form of government. Information about the City government is available at the city website
The city council, including Mayor Susan Whelchel, is nonpartisan, although all of its members are registered Republicans. As of 2007, Robert Wexler and Ron Klein, who represent different parts of the city in the United States Congress, are Democrats.
There were 31,848 households out of which 24.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the city, the population was spread out with 18.9% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.8 males.
According to a 2006 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $66,052, and the median income for a family was $90,725. Census factfinder Males had a median income of $52,287 versus $33,347 for females. The per capita income for the city was $45,628. About 4.1% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.
According to Forbes, Boca Raton has three of the ten most expensive gated communities in the U.S. The Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club holds the #1 spot, The Sanctuary takes #6, and Le Lac takes the #8 spot.
As of 2000, English was spoken by 79.89%, Spanish by 9.28%, French consisted of 1.46%, Portuguese was at 1.45%, French Creole at 1.29%, and Italian made up 1.05% of the population. Although there are a substantial number of Jewish people within the city, only 0.36% of the population spoke Hebrew at home, while only 0.27% of the population spoke Yiddish at home.
Boca Raton is known for its affluent social community and high income demographic. Boca Raton has a large Jewish and South American influence. This Jewish population consists mostly of people from the northeast United States. Boca Raton's South American population includes a large demographic from Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.
Boca Raton was the site of two now vanished amusement parks, Africa U.S.A. (1953-1961) and Ancient America (1953-1959). Africa U.S.A. was a wild animal park in which the tourists rode a "Jeep Safari Train" through the park. There were no fences separating the animals from the tourists on the "Jeep Safari Train". It is now the Camino Gardens subdivision one mile (1.6 km) west of the Boca Raton Hotel. Ancient America was built surrounding a real Indian burial mound. Today, the mound is still visible within the Boca Marina & Yacht Club neighborhood on U.S. 1 near Yamato Road.
A majority of postal Boca Raton lies outside of the actual city limits. This large unincorporated area to the west of the city limits is included in the Boca Raton mailing address and local telephone calling area. There are many large planned developments in the area, including gated communities, and a number of golf courses. This is a result in the later start of development in these areas, and the availability of large tracts of land. Many of these affluent communities are large enough to be designated as census-designated places, including Boca Del Mar and Boca Pointe, geographically in Central Boca Raton, and Avalon at Boca Raton, Boca Falls, Boca Winds, Boca West, Cimarron, Hamptons at Boca Raton, Mission Bay, Loggers' Run, The Polo Club Boca Raton, Sandalfoot Cove, and Whisper Walk as Western Boca Raton.
On November 2, 2004, the voters of the Via Verde Association, Waterside, Deerhurst Association (Boca South), Marina Del Mar Association, Rio Del Mar Association (both originally Boca Del Mar communities), and Heatherwood of Boca Raton Condominium Association approved annexation into the Boca Raton city limits, increasing the city land area to .
As of 2007, Boca Raton is served by four public high schools. Within the city's limits, Boca Raton Community High School serves the eastern part of the city. Spanish River Community High School serves the western part of the city limits and parts of unincorporated Boca Raton. Olympic Heights Community High School serves the west-central unincorporated areas. Finally, West Boca Raton Community High School serves the far-west unincorporated areas. Spanish River and Olympic Heights also serve students from Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.
The area is served by five public middle schools:
The area is served by twelve public elementary schools:
An alternative to the Palm Beach County Public Schools in Boca Raton is the Alexander D. Henderson University School is located on the Florida Atlantic University campus. A. D. Henderson University School (ADHUS) is organized as a unique and separate school district; it is not part of the Palm Beach County School System. Henderson School is recognized as Florida Atlantic University School District #72, under the College of Education’s administrative oversight.
University schools in Florida are authorized to provide instruction for grades K-12 and university students, support university research efforts, and test educational reforms for Florida schools. ADHUS is a public school and thus does not charge tuition. It is open to children who reside in Palm Beach County or Broward County and admission is by lottery. Student characteristics of gender, race, family income and student ability are used to match the student population profile to that of the state.
The Southwest County Regional Library serves Boca Raton residents who live outside the city limits. A new replacement county library on State Road 7 just north of Yamato Road is planned for construction in later-2008. County library card holders may use any of the fourteen branches in the Palm Beach County Library System, and have access so the Sun Sentinel's historical newspapers achieves via internet.
On July 22, 2004, Boca Raton resident Scott Levine was charged with the largest computer crime indictment in United States history. Federal prosecutors allege that Levine unlawfully accessed Acxiom, a database of consumer data aggregator, to steal detailed personal information about millions of persons.
Boca Raton has a connection to the Mafia. Although not known for violent crime, it's a popular hangout spot for many suspected Mafia members. According to a number of US Federal indictments, as of June 2004, the Gambino family continues to operate in Boca Raton. The Television show, The Sopranos has featured the city in its plot, and Mafia Wife author Lynda Milito resides in Boca Raton.
The lagoon was dredged in 1894–95 to form part of the Florida East Coast Canal from Jacksonville to Biscayne Bay with a minimum depth of 5 feet (1.5 m) and a minimum width of 50 feet (15.2 m). After 1895, the lagoon and canal were sometimes called the Spanish River. Between 1930 and 1935 the canal was improved to 8×100 feet (2.4×30.5 m) by the federal government and renamed the Intracoastal Waterway. It was improved again between 1960 and 1965 to 10×125 feet (3×38.1 m). All three versions were subject to shoaling which reduced their depths below the specified minimum. Forming part of the northern city limits is the C-15 canal, connecting the El Rio Canal to the Intracoastal Waterway. The first settler was T. M. Rickards in 1895 who resided on the north shore of Lake Boca Raton. The Cloister Inn, now the Boca Raton Resort and Club, was built on the western edge of the lake in 1927 by Adison Mizner.
Boca Raton has also been the stage and background for many movies filmed on location in Boca Raton, including Paper Lion (1968), Paper Moon (1973), Caddyshack (1980), Where the Boys Are '84 (1984),Stella (1990), and Sex Drive (2008).
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