Hotel at Palm Harbor Marina will add vitality to West Palm waterfront

The proposed hotel consists of an eight-story building, 75 feet in height to the finished floor of the roof top garden, and includes 108 hotel rooms, 2,650 square feet of meeting space, and a 4,961 square feet restaurant/bar facility facing the waterfront. Along the waterfront promenade, the project proposes a public plaza which includes a water fountain, landscape, and seating.

From the applicant’s justification statement:

“The proposed hotel with waterfront restaurant allows a much more urban design that will help activate the new waterfront promenade and Flagler sidewalk. The hotel will actually be set back nearly 25′ from the water, and will provide space for outdoor dining within the hotel footprint that will directly engage the public promenade. The eyes and ears of hotel guests and restaurant patrons on the waterfront promenade and on Flagler 24 hours a day, seven days a week will greatly enhance public safety. The economic and cultural activity will support the renaissance of downtown West Palm Beach waterfront…”

Waivers from setbacks from Flagler Drive. The current CC-2 setbacks date back more than 30 years, to a time when more suburban standards were applied to the urban core of the City. The Code calls for an extreme 54′ building setback from Flagler between the ground and 40 feet.. Strictly applying these suburban standards to the unique shape of this parcel would create a strange and unfeasible building”

Staff opinion:

It is staff’s professional opinion, an 18 feet setback in an urban environment such as Flagler Drive is appropriate and desirable for the downtown area. The location of the building closer to the street will provide additional surveillance to the street and it will enhance the interaction between the private property and the public ROW

The project is unusual in downtown in that the Zyscovich downtown master plan (DMP) does not apply to the site. Instead, due to its history, it is governed under another set of zoning standards and zoned as City Center-2 (CC-2). This zoning standard is not form-based as is our current DMP and would have likely required a tower-in-a park type development (think Trianon for an example).

Wisely, the developer has opted to utilize City Center- Planned Development zoning and the project is better for it. The proposal will engage the street, with an entrance on Flagler Drive and active use (restaurant). The public park will be a welcome addition to connect a very disused area of the waterfront that does not feel open to the public at present. This project will result in more public use of the waterfront and the infill of a good portion of the surface parking lot that currently exists.

One regrettable aspects of this project:  The parking garage on the waterfront. More of the frontage along Flagler Drive could be active space, rather than the parking garage proposed, but at least it will be screened with a green wall. Having a parking garage facing the water is a really poor use of our greatest community asset, our waterfront. Those parked cars will get a great view all day long!  but that doesn’t help the waterfront at all. This space could be used in a much better way. Project for Public Spaces has a great section of whitepapers on best practices for creating lively, engaging, and valuable waterfronts. Rule number one is to not make your waterfront auto-dominated, and to engage the space with mixed use buildings with active uses, not high-rise towers with single uses.

Most of our zoning code (except the DMP) says a whole lot about setbacks and open space, but very little if anything about the quality of the frontage and engagement with the public realm.
Setbacks won’t get you a superb waterfront. Great projects that shape and engage the waterfront will. A superb waterfront is an asset that makes an entire community more valuable as a result.

 As new projects are coming for our waterfront, myself along with aGuyonClematis and others are pushing for a look at our codes for development along the water, and a move to a form-based code that would ensure a quality public waterfront by-right, rather than a subpar project through an adversarial process. The win-lose negotiation strategy needs to stop (ie, propose something absurd, force a compromise, receive more development rights) and we need to move toward a plan that has more predictability and less conflict. Learn more about how this was achieved, to large degree, for our downtown.


All that said, compared to what could have been built here under the CC-2 zoning, this is a big improvement. I hope we can improve upon some of the items mentioned above, as staff has requested some improvements to the site plan.

Plans and renderings:

A12a A12 A11c A11b A11a A11 A1a A2 A3 A4 A8 A9 A1 A0 A0.1

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  1. Joe R

    Ken – some places do this by have nearby (off the water) shared parking (aka, not just for the hotel). Other places bury it, but not an option in S. Florida.

    Good to see hotels coming.

    Love the video! Long, but lots of interesting background and content. Also some good quotes – “Son, don’t get in pissing competitions with skunks.”

    Like you said, both this and the Chapel by the Lake Condos are not covered by the DMP, and have the possibility of having these “politicization/unpredictability” problems. But inside the DMP, is there a sense yet of how successfully has this removed “deal making” inside the “Downtown”? Are you suggesting pushing the form-based code to outside the DMP area? Form based codes were pushed into the neighborhoods as well, so that would make sense.

    • The video is epic. The best telling of the rise of WPB from the depths of despair. Gotta love Joe Minicozzi’s stories! Fascinating stuff.

      I think the DMP has been quite successful. It’s difficult (not impossible) to amend it, and it provides predictability for the development rights on a site. There have been mistakes. But overall, it’s a vastly superior process in my opinion.

  2. Ken

    As you said, underground parking is not feasible. And I shudder at the thought of patrons/valet parkers running back and forth across Flagler. So I don’t think there are any alternate solutions.

    • Thanks for the comments Ken.

      I shudder to think of a beautiful section of our public waterfront devalued by having to stare at a blank wall parking garage.
      Surely, there is a higher-yielding use for this piece of waterfront land than storing cars. A better use that will help the waterfront and be more financially productive to the city than a parking structure.

      Options —
      A parking podium could be an option.

      pay “in lieu of” fees into the city managed parking fund. Those could go towards a shared parking garage in a more appropriate location.

      Lease or buy the spaces from one of the many garages in the vicinity.

      Offer patrons a rebate of their parking fees.

      Offer lower room prices, but decouple the parking amenity. In other words (gasp!) have the customer pay for it.

      All options that can be explored.

  3. Joe R

    Yeah, unfortunately limestone and a high water table don’t mix :-p.

    I don’t understand why pedestrians crossing Flagler makes you shudder? There is minimal traffic volume on N Flagler even at rush hour and it’s a speed limit of 25, but I DO agree that the traffic calming there is currently woefully insufficient — fortunately, that’s easy and cheap to fix.

    I’ve also seen this implemented with hotels having “unloading areas” nearby, and offsite parking. I’ve also seen hotels with no on-site parking, and you have to pay to park elsewhere – even in smaller towns (Annapolis, Newport, and Charleston come to mind). It’s not uncommon, it’s just uncommon in South Florida.

    • Yep.
      Jeff Specks’ walkability study will have ideas for making Flagler Drive better, such as lane reduction, on-street parking, possibly bike lanes and tree plantings. These traffic calming measures will make it safer and more connected to downtown.

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  5. Pingback: Solving waterfront hotel parking issues requires vision, creativity, leadership | Walkable West Palm Beach

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