Walkable West Palm Beach


Duany Plater-Zyberk 1994 Downtown Master Plan for West Palm Beach

The Mandel Public Library on Clematis Street has a copy of the 1994 DPZ Downtown Master Plan. I have scanned the document and uploaded it to the blog under “Reference Documents”. This important document laid out the vision for remaking downtown around people, rather than around cars speeding through. It’s an essential part of understanding the reemergence of downtown as a vibrant place with quality public spaces.

1994 DPZ Downtown Master Plan (April 2004 update)


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Mandatory Walkable WPB listening: High Noon in Lake Worth with Joe Minicozzi

The fantastic “High Noon in Lake Worth” podcast by Wes Blackman interviews many of our most influential city leaders, past and present. I found a past episode in which Wes interviews Joe Minicozzi. Joe is one of my favorite people in the city-making world and his work has been very influential on me. Joe’s bio and show description, from the podcast episode:

Join your host Wes Blackman as he welcomes Joe Minicozzi to the High Noon in Lake Worth studios. He is currently is the principal of Urban3, LLC (U3), a consulting company created by the downtown Asheville real estate developer Public Interest Projects. Prior to U3, he served as the Executive Director for the Asheville Downtown Association.  Before moving to Asheville, he was the primary administrator of the Form Based Code for downtown West Palm Beach, FL [1998 – 2003].  Joe is a founding member of the Asheville Design Center, a non-profit community design center dedicated to creating livable communities across all of Western North Carolina.  He received his Bachelor of Architecture from University of Miami and Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Harvard University.

Some topics covered

  • How the Convention Center could have been better designed to show respect for the adjacent Grandview Heights neighborhood
  • Imagine getting off the plane at PBI and taking a ferry directly from PBI Airport to the convention center and downtown. It could have happened, if not for the county crushing the plan
  • The economic harm of arbitrarily giving away development rights, and the need for a consistent, non-political framework to guide development decisions
  • Chapel by the Lake site
  • Why the focus on density and height is misplaced. It’s about design.
  • How our downtowns and urban places are our true economic engines, bringing in a tax yield that is orders of magnitude higher than suburban sprawl or big box development

If you want to understand better the dynamics that shaped and continue to shape West Palm Beach, make sure to bookmark this episode and subscribe to the High Noon in Lake Worth podcast. Joe is on the December 20, 2013 episode.

Direct link to podcast episode: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/highnoonlakeworth/2013/12/20/joseph-minicozzi-aicp–urban-plannerdesigner


West Palm Beach is to Miami as Frederick, Maryland is to D.C.

Thanks to my Twitter/in-real-life friend Keith Case for making me aware of this great Washington Post article.

Fascinating article on the revival of small downtowns. Real estate experts and demographers are noticing what we’ve been observing on the ground: That the downtown and historic neighborhoods of West Palm Beach are its competitive strength in the region, aligning with broader national demographic and economic trends.

From the historic cities of Alexandria, Annapolis and Leesburg to the newer Metro-centric communities of Bethesda and Clarendon, the desire to live within walking distance of restaurants, bars, theaters and parks has revitalized once-withering downtowns, according to demographers and real estate experts.

Elsewhere, examples of the boom abound: Evanston outside Chicago, Pasadena outside Los Angeles, West Palm Beach outside Miami, said Christopher B. Leinberger, a George Washington University business professor who has studied the trend for years.

“The very asset that made it successful originally — that it was walkable — became a disadvantage in the late 20th century when everybody wanted to drive everywhere,” Leinberger said. “Now that very asset is what’s bringing it back.”

But once you get this influx of talent, you need to keep it.

But even its biggest boosters acknowledge that Frederick faces challenges. It lacks a grocery store or much new housing. In all cities, large and small, it remains unclear whether millennials will stick around to raise their children. Some in Frederick are trying, but many others won’t, including downtown devotees Drew and Meghan Murphy, who recently broke ground on a suburban home that they think will better suit a family.

I have friends in both these cities raising young children. The cultural opportunities, social networks, convenience, and walkability of the neighborhoods add up to approximate a Village Effect, one that isn’t possible in drive-only gated communities. But even with these wonderful attributes, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room is schools, or more aptly, the perception of schools. I’m starting to lose lots of friends to suburbia as school rankings become the primary consideration in their housing choices.

We need to be planning, now, for a strategy to keep these young parents once their children are of school age. I believe downtown schooling is a glaring policy omission as well as a huge opportunity to make downtown West Palm Beach an even stronger place.

Let’s keep working to make West Palm Beach an even more walkable place welcoming to all stages of life.




Downtown street flooding

A neighbor shot this video, showing the view of Olive Avenue near Two City Plaza and the Prado after a rainstorm on September 7th.

This is the aftermath of a 24 hour rainfall event that measured, at best, 2.5 inches of rain. Our downtown stormwater system merits serious attention.

downtown stormwater

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A downtown stroll with the Mayor

This past Saturday, Mayor Muoio, Commissioner Materio, and DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente accompanied a crowd of residents on a walking tour of downtown West Palm Beach. I’d guess there were almost 50 residents who walked – it was a fantastic turnout that far surpassed my expectations, and demonstrates that there’s a lot of people who care about this community.

Everyone was very interested in new development projects underway. We passed by the Hibiscus Marriott Residence Inn which recently broke ground, the Quadrille enhancement project, and spoke about the Evernia Place apartment project.  As we passed by the 300 and 400 block of Datura Street, I spoke about the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) funded street tree planting project, and its benefits.

Some specific issues  pointed out to the Mayor and her assistant: The need for a better curb alignment at Fern and Quadrille, the conditions on the block where the City Center garage is located, replacement of burned out streetlights throughout downtown, fixing the broken oak tree uplighting on Rosemary, that ugly rubberized mulch in the tree pits on Clematis, and the homeless population. Commissioner Materio explained that the strip club rolling billboards that are a nuisance downtown are difficult to regulate due to first amendment issues, but they continue to look into the issue. Most of these issues were already tagged by the community using SeeClickFix, but there’s nothing like seeing it up close and personal to draw attention to them. The best way to experience a place is by walking it, and the DNA hopes to make this a regular event downtown.

Thanks to everyone who came out on a Saturday, especially our public officials. This was a fun exercise!  Please comment below if there were other specific items you identified during the walk.

Map of the route:

This was the walking route

This was the walking route

Images from the walk:

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