Over the last 6 months the City of West Palm Beach has been working on a plan to create a long-term plan for the development of the waterfront.

I covered the process kickoff here. Two finalists were chosen and I summarized their proposals: Ecosistema urbano and Perkins + Will. I also wrote a more detailed summary for Palms West Monthly here. I tried to keep my opinions out of my summaries, but before the comment period ended I wrote the Mayor and CRA with my comments.  

I’m including my comments on the proposals and the future of the waterfront below.

Dear Mayor Muoio, Mr Ward and the CRA Staff,

Thank you very much for giving the City of West Palm Beach the opportunity to give their feedback on such an important part of planning the future of the waterfront.

I really enjoyed reviewing both proposals, they definitely gave me a lot to think about. I do think that the fact that they look forward and give people an bold idea also may have done themselves a disservice as they made it very difficult to visualize how we can get there from here, without in depth knowledge of the area, it is difficult to see how these huge changes could be implemented. I feel that many people disregarded the proposals because of this.

Because of the above, if I have to choose one of the proposals I would choose Perkins + Will. It just seems to me to be more  modest, and realistic for our city. Having said that there are elements in both proposals that I liked and disliked.

Alley Ways

I LOVED Ecosistema urbano’s take on this. The “Cultural Passageways” concept was very unique and having themed alley ways with shaded areas and pocket parks that connect the main sections of downtown would be both FUN and could be very engaging to visit. I feel this is something that can be done easily and expanded on one alley at a time.

Banyan Parking Garage

I feel like both proposals failed to provide actual solutions which included parking. The Will + Perkins proposal went so far as to say that parking garage is “Underutilized” which is far from accurate.

I very much liked the Ecosistema urbano idea to create a “vertical road”, that leaves the building intact, but changes the purpose from being a parking garage to a pedestrian street with small retail etc. Of course, this doesn’t solve our issue with parking.

The idea that Will + Perkins put forward to create a park BENEATH the building was very interesting. This would give a visual connection between the fountains at Clematis Street and the parks to the north. If we could put parking above that with a retail wrapper which would create space for small businesses, and then a rooftop restaurant on the top, that would be perfect.

I am not sure if we need event space on the rooftop. We already have Waterfront, Docks, Pavillion, I would rather see a rooftop restaurant, especially if the building is higher and there is a view above the 101 Clematis and Florida Crystals building.

Meyer Amphitheater

I very much liked Will + Perkin’s idea to remove the Berm around the Meyer. This would greatly expand the size of crowd that this space could hold and integrate it much better into the waterfront.

I don’t like Ecosistema urbano’s idea to bring Flagler through the amphitheater and then reclaim some of the land to the east.

Waterfront

I don’t like the idea of reclaiming any more land and “filling in” any of the waterfront. I don’t think we need to add any new elements to the waterfront. I do not like Will + Perkins idea of moving the pavilion, this was just built.

I don’t think that we should do anything that would hurt the West Palm Beach waterfront events such as Sunfest, Fourth on Flagler and the Boat Show are anchor waterfront events. Any proposal that sidelines their importance to the City is a mistake in my opinion.

I DO like the idea of getting rid of the seawall and reverting back to a natural coastline. Where I didn’t like the idea of Flagler Dr. as shared space at the Meyer, I think that here it could work very well.  I like the idea of having a section where stairs walk down to the water.

If we choose to build new mangrove islands they should be on the south side of the waterfront, closer to the South Cove natural area.

Flagler and Waterfront Dining

I like the idea of having a dining option that is IN the water. Having said that, I still don’t think that we should build additional permanent structures in the intracoast as both of the proposals have suggested. I would like to see a floating, or semi-permanent structure, to hold a Restaurant and bar on the water. Maybe a little more permanent than what they put together at Sunfest.

Changing Flagler from 2 lanes in each direction to 1 lane each way and then converting the north-bound lanes into angled parking as per the Jeff Speck proposal will go a long way to encourage people to come to our waterfront.

Hope that helps,

Aaron Wormus