President Kelly’s “student district” begins to take form with the help of students

Architecture students build model of a proposed student district on 20th Street.


Alexis Hayward

Architecture students creating a model of a prosposed layout for the 20th Street project. Photo courtesy of the School of Architecture.

Bibi Patel, Contributing Writer

From the days as a World War II airbase to the late nights as a university, Florida Atlantic’s Boca Raton campus was never a college town, but that could change.

FAU President John Kelly is looking to transform Boca into a college town with the implementation of his 10-year plan and the construction of a student district.

“The Boca campus unfortunately is not the most interesting. During breaks, I’d like to have a ‘hot’ lunch in a cool indie shop or get coffee somewhere other than Starbucks,” said Isabel Badell, a senior architecture major.

The goal is to make FAU “the country’s fastest-improving public research university” by putting emphasis on six characteristics – boldness, synergy, place, quality, brand and strategy – that will act as pillars to achieve the university’s goal, the plan states.

The focus on “place” is for FAU to establish a deep engagement with South Florida’s global communities. This connection will be made by developing relationships with programs that have cultural, demographic and environmental characteristics in common with its respective campuses.

What the 20th Street layout currently looks like compared to a layout proposed by students at the School of Architecture. Photo courtesy of the School of Architecture.
What the 20th Street layout currently looks like compared to a layout proposed by students at the School of Architecture. Photo courtesy of the School of Architecture.

The plan also mentions “partnering with host communities to redevelop areas directly adjacent to campus,” as well as “focusing growth on pedestrian-friendly experiences for residential students.”

President Kelly hopes to reinvent 20th Street into a “student district.” In an interview with West Palm Beach’s local news station WPTV, he shared his plans to find private companies to develop structures such as cafes, restaurants and apartments for students.

University Park Student Housing, which opened its doors on April 30 on N.W. 20th Street, covers the off-campus housing portion of Kelly’s plan.

The developer responsible for the construction of University Park, Alex Rosemurgy, said “We really hope this becomes part of the university and student life off campus,” according to reports from the Sun Sentinel. Rosemurgy developed University View located in the same area.

Within walking distance of these housing developments are restaurants, including a Jimmy John’s and Dunkin Donuts. An FAUsports-themed steak house is already in the works in Plum Park Plaza on 20th Street.

The steakhouse will be opened by Howard Schnellenberger. a former FAU football coach that the football stadium is named after.


It is being called Coach Schnellenberger’s Steakhouse and Sports Theater but may change, according to Owl Access. The restaurant has a planned opening of September, the website states.

FAU students were involved in the planning for the student district with the “Gateways of FAU and Boca Raton: Moving Forward with a Shared Vision,” that was planning for the student district with the “Gateways of FAU and Boca Raton: Moving Forward with a Shared Vision,” that was presented in the Ritter Art Gallery on campus.

The gallery had proposals created by the School of Architecture and the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Students specifically asked for property owners and stakeholders to attend the exhibit.

“We want a more humane and equitable environment in which facilities exist to serve all users,”  said Badell, a participating member of the project.

Badell wants to integrate concepts of shared space and shared, green, multimodal and complete street models allowing for a unique implementation for a successful student district.

“Boca Raton has many unique characteristics that make it an important location within South Florida – with prime opportunity already built in, as architects we analyze and dissect all of the important facts and make it into a tangible expression in the built environment,” Badell said.

There are student districts already implementing shared space lifestyles, Badell said after her team looked at  Savannah, Georgia, where Savannah College of Art and Design is located.

“The walkability of the city is extraordinarily structured; you can walk the whole town and not even realize that you have, because of how much green spaces, shaded areas, safe crosswalks, and plenty of seating all around,” Badell said.

Angel Castillo, another recent FAU graduate with a Bachelor of  Science in architecture, was part of the School of Architecture’s Campus Visioning project – an assignment for students to design what they thought would make a “better campus urbanistically.”

He said in an email, “I think that entire district, Boca Raton and FAU can greatly benefit from each other. That’s what the 20th Street project is seeking to do, and when done, it will certainly improve student (lives) and that of the residents of the city. They both have so much to learn from each other, and that was one thing missing when I was a student at the Boca Campus.”

With a bachelor’s degree in architecture and currently working on attaining his master’s in urban planning, Jonathan Villaman posed a disadvantage to an exclusively student district.

“I think that a strictly ‘student district’ or ‘student town’ would be a disservice to the city because three months out of the year it would become a dead town.” “We really focused on multigenerational, mixed-use and income housing,” Villaman said.

He said mulit-generational, mixed-use and income housing would allow for year round vitality to the area while providing student housing and potentially enticing some students to stay year around. Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie said President Kelly’s plan might be voted on in a year according to reports from Boca Raton Magazine.

President Kelly was unavailable for comment at the time of publication. Visit for updates.

Emily Creighton contributed to this story.