Wherever you look you will see gurgling fountains, cascading waterfalls and beautiful homes complemented by the definitive Boca pink, Mediterranean-style buildings.

Boca Raton is not only pretty, it's also a great place to live, judging by the number of homes that have been built in the last decade.

Strict building codes, beautification requirements and high-quality, low density developments have made Boca a breathtaking, luxury community that consistently ranks in national studies as a center of affluence and sophistication. The 77 square miles that make up Greater Boca Raton have a population of 70,000 people within the city limits and another 119,000 in the surrounding environs. The city is also known for its bustling business climate, pristine beaches and identity as an international vacation destination.

Boca Raton has grown phenomenally in the last three decades, but it first went on the map in 1895. In that year, railroad magnate Henry Flagler decided to make the quiet farm community conveniently located between Miami and Palm Beach, a terminus for his new north to south railway line. By 1903 the area boasted five families; the following year when Japanese colonists arrived to farm pineapples at Yamato, the population increased by 40.

The small fruit and vegetable farming community continued to grow slowly, reaching a milestone in 1920 when a brick elementary school was built to replace the one room schoolhouse.

The incorporation of the town of Boca Raton in 1925 marked a new phase. Boca Raton was slated to become a vacation paradise in a 16,000 acre project, proposed by noted Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner, that would include a monumental Spanish-style hotel, a Venetian Lake with gondolas, cabaret and casino. On the first day of sale in 1925 over $2 million in lots was contracted. Six months later the entire project collapsed.

Ground had been broken for a hotel on the west side of Lake Boca Raton. The fabled Ritz Carlton Cloister Inn opened as the centerpiece of a planned international resort and became a magnet for the glitterati who flocked to it in droves. Mizner's original cloister is still there, today as part of the five-star Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Boca Raton continued to grow slowly, its profile raised by the presence of an army base during World War 11. In the 1950s Boca Raton's upscale image was set by the well-planned, lavishly landscaped, expensive subdivisions developed by Arthur Vining Davis. His Arvida Corp. had purchased the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in 1956.

In the 1960s, Boca Raton was still a small town with winding roads and a quaint village atmosphere when Florida Atlantic University and IBM arrived; the population began to explode as numerous other high-tech industries and corporate headquarters followed. Today Boca Raton has become headquarters for several large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens Information and Communication Networks, Database Technologies (DBT), Hiway Technologies, NCCI, Sensormatic and Sony Professional Products. The Blue Lake Corporate Center, is being redeveloped as a prestigious office park with 1.96 million square feet of office space in a tropical landscaped environment. Opportunities for higher education have grown to include campuses of Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University and Palm Beach Community College.

Boca Raton seen from the air, is a pleasing patchwork of mellow buildings surrounded by lakes and greenery. There are two miles of public beach and the Intracoastal Waterway flows more than seven miles through the town. Gardens, 24 golf courses, (including six public links) and a dozen or more community and regional parks with tennis courts, baseball-softball fields, football-soccer fields and basketball-volleyball courts, dot the scenery . Parks range from pocket handkerchief open spaces and small neighborhood areas to Sugar Sand Park's 132-acres complete with jogging trails, children's play area, playgrounds picnic table, cycling and walking paths as well as canoe rentals and fishing areas.

Along the beach, Red Reef Park on North Ocean Boulevard covers 67 acres with a boardwalk, children's play area, picnic facilities and barbecue grills. Spanish River Park has a broad sandy stretch on the ocean and nature trails through dense vegetation across Highway A1A.

South Beach Park invites beach strolls in a serene natural setting. At the Gumbo Limbo environmental complex you can observe snakes, baby sea turtles and bees in their hive and a variety of exhibits at the Nature Center.

Ever since the bulldozers began rolling across west Boca's scrubland twenty-five years ago Boca Raton has grown to include communities catering to many lifestyles -- families or fairways, boating or beachcombing, sizzling or sedate. Boca is booming, not only with baby boomers, but also with empty nesters, retirees, second- third- or fourth-home buyers and gen X-ers. The Boca Raton/ Delray Beach area boasts some 30 luxury home developments built within the last few years. Buyers looking to spend from the low hundred thousand to millions for a home have an overwhelming choice although style-wise the Southern Mediterranean influence still predominates.

When it comes to country clubs Boca does it better, with more than a dozen communities set amidst green acres, especially around "Country Club Mile" -- the stretch of Military Trail from Boca Raton to Delray Beach. Country club communities generally offer a choice of residences including single family homes, town homes, villas, coach houses, patio homes and mid-rise condominiums. Many single family homes also have their own swimming pools and prices vary from affordable to stratospheric. Country Club amenities include the social epicenter -- a luxurious clubhouse, with restaurant(s) lounges and fitness center. Outdoors, community swimming pools, golf courses and tennis courts set the scene for an idyllic lifestyle, often enhanced by jogging trails, lakes and children's play areas. Strict security at entrance gates and roving patrols add to the exclusivity. However, country club living traditionally comes with a price when the golf course and clubhouse are part of an equity club requiring membership dues in the thousands. Fees for food and beverages are also mandatory in some clubs.

Most country clubs started out primarily as golfing and tennis communities but times are changing. Homes are going up in new villages; homes are being torn down in older villages and new younger residents are moving into older established country club communities bringing down the average age and raising the number of year-round residents.

The classic country clubs communities include Boca Country Club, Boca Greens;Boca Grove Plantation, Bocaire Golf Club; Boca Pointe; Boca West; Boca Woods; Broken Sound; Polo Club; St. Andrews; Stonebridge and Woodfield Country Club. Newer clubs, just north of Boca Raton with homes still under construction, include Addison Reserve, Polo Trace and Mizner Country Club.


Many families are heading out to the hinterland. With Boca Raton almost fully built-out, the western suburbs are blooming with new neighborhoods. Back in favor is the barbecue-on-the-back-porch, kind of neighborhood where kids ride bikes, moms push baby carriages and teens play pickup ball games. A community pool and activity center completes the "Leave it to Beaver" scene. There's nothing &Mac226;'50s about the homes in new developments though. "Must-have" features include high ceilings, vast bathrooms, gourmet kitchens with old-fashioned pantry, large family rooms; media room and a cafe -- casual dining area. These kind of homes along with new neighborhood schools and plenty of parkland have made communities such as Boca Falls, Boca Shores and Saturnia immensely popular.

Boca Raton also boasts many communities of luxury homes with a wide price range depending on age of homes, size of lots and location.

Among those built in the 1970s and '80s are Boca Bath and Tennis; Colonnade; Estancia; Les Jardins: Millpond; Newport Bay, Seasons, Timbercreek and Woodfield Hunt Club. Developments dating from the 1990s, (some with homes still being built) include Mediterranea; Santa Barbara, and The Preserve.

Spectacular homes are the norm in the most upscale communities including Long Lake Estates with homes on a minimum of an acre; Le Lac where homes on two to 15-acre tracts start in the millions of dollars; Addison Estates, modeled after an Italian village, has 15 estate homes in an enclave on the grounds of the Boca Raton Resort and Club; its residents have total privacy with the Resort;s amenities available.

Grandeur on a vast scale is evident in Mizner Lake Estates, another enclave of 15 homes on the grounds of the Boca Raton Resort and Club.


East is the way to go for some of Boca Raton's most prestigious addresses. Older waterfront communities with ocean access such as Boca Marina Yacht Club, the Sanctuary and Golden Harbour and Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club are a flurry of activity as old homes are bought as "teardowns" and replaced by multi-million dollar palaces with thousands of square feet of living space and room for entertaining.


Boca Raton has a range of luxury condominiums with more on the drawing board or under construction. Townsend Place in the heart of Boca Raton overlooks the golf course fairways and will have three Mizner-inspired buildings when complete. The "Golden Circle" around Lake Boca Raton includes some older but very desirable condominiums such as The Addison. The venerable prestigious Presidential Place is located on the ocean next door to the Boca Raton Resort and Club&Mac226;Äôs Beach club. Across the lake on the grounds of the Resort is Mizner's Village with mid-rises Mizner Court, and Mizner Tower and Mizner Grand's two towers tiered from 10-12 stories. Aragon's condominium residences include town homes and three story penthouses in a distinctive oceanfront white castle of stepped design. Also on the ocean is Excelsior, now under construction. It will have 27 luxury residences of 5,200 square feet including some seaside villas with their own courtyard and private swimming pool. Just over the border from Boca Raton in Highland Beach, residents are still moving into the new Toscana Tower One, set in a 17-acre enclave.

While building activity appears to have focused primarily on homes in Boca Raton there's also a lot going on in the commercial field especially office buildings and shopping centers. Boca Raton is a great place to live, work and play.