Walkable West Palm Beach


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300 block of Evernia restriping could signal watered-down implementation of Walkability Study

 

The 300 block of Evernia Street has been restriped with angled parking on the north side of the block. The Walkability Study called for angled parking on both sides of the street, but WPB Engineering informed me that the number of driveways precluded this from being achievable, in addition to concerns about meeting minimum lane width standards.

evernia

Jeff Speck proposal from Downtown Walkability Study

Although I’m ecstatic to see the progress, the statement about minimum lane width standards is very concerning. Most if not all the recommendations in the Speck Walkability Study are not possible without 10 foot lane widths or less. An 11 foot minimum standard is a highway/suburban standard. If anything, a walkable downtown core should be more concerned about a maximum lane width, above which the street becomes hostile to people on foot, rather than focusing on a minimum. A minimum lane width is a testament to street priorities: Making sure cars feel comfortable as possible driving through. I’m not sure where or when this policy came about, as it certainly wasn’t the case when Ian Lockwood and the New Urbanists were working in the city.

I understand there are reasonable street widths that need to be attained for purposes of public safety, ie, Fire Department (although Fire Departments are notorious for going overboard). However, we should be striving for streets that are as skinny as possible, more worried about creating more pavement than needed than we are worried that cars might have to slow down a bit. Restriping our lanes isn’t just about getting more parking yield, although that’s a great benefit. It’s about the many benefits in walkability and urbanism that come from having slower, more humane streets.

Slowing the cars is exactly what makes a place livable and desirable in the first place.

#SlowStreets #SlowTheCars

PS – I hope I’m wrong about this block and our street design standards. If a West Palm Beach engineer is reading this, perhaps they can respond on the blog to quell our fears that they will insist on 11′ minimum lane widths on downtown streets.

 

Downtown WPB parking garage getting a colorful makeover

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If you’ve walked around downtown, you’ve no doubt seen the murals by local artist Eduardo Mendieta. His murals are on the 500 block and on the wall by the new Eat Scene open market on Fern Street. A new project is underway to beautify our parking garages and make them more appealing for all users. The project consists of seven different artists, all from the South Florida region, painting murals in the stairwells of the parking garage.

This project is funded by the Downtown Development Authority, and the next step will be to do a similar mural on the east side of this garage, and then possibly expand to the Banyan garage. What do you think of the project? Comment below.

This gallery contains 8 photos


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Evernia Place: First downtown development to go vertical since the Great Recession

Evernia Place, an 85 unit senior housing development, has gone vertical at the corner of Sapodilla and Evernia. It consists of one and two bedrooms apartments ranging from 750-950 square feet in size. Project description:

Evernia Place, a brand new community for seniors will have a large community space with a sitting area and large screen television, business center, laundry facility, fitness center, large sun deck with swimming pool, bocce court, sixth floor reading deck, card/game room and grilling area for resident enjoyment. There will also be wireless high speed internet access throughout the community area and swimming pool area. The grounds of Evernia Place will be beautifully landscaped with foliage and greenery. The community will offer spacious one and two bedroom floor plans in a seven story high rise building.

This project is the first significant new construction downtown since the housing market collapsed in 2006. It will also likely be the first new development to deliver under the new Zyscovich downtown master plan code, which was implemented in 2009. It fills a market need, adds more people to the street, and acts to connect the blocks between Cityplace and Clematis Street districts. The project’s value will be taxable (unlike a few other age restricted communities located on the water )  and should contribute to the CRA tax increment fund.

 

Project rendering

Project rendering

610 Clematis is visible in the background

610 Clematis is visible in the background

Parking structure will be below grade

Parking structure will be below grade

Project details from the Downtown Action Committee (DAC) staff report:

The proposed development, called Evernia Place is located on the north-east corner of Evernia Street and Sapodilla Avenue. The site is approximately 34,252 square feet or 0.78 acres (Attachment I- Location Map). A two-story building is located immediately to the north, across the alley, and a vacant lot forms the east boundary of the development.

Currently, the property is zoned Quadrille Business District – 8, which allows commercial and residential uses. Residential uses are not permitted along the 1st floor street frontage. The maximum height permitted is 8 stories and the base FAR is 1.75 (Attachment II- Downtown Master Plan). The property is also located within the QBD-8-10 TDR receiving site designation which allows an additional 1.0 FAR for a total of 2.75 FAR, and additional stories to a maximum of 10 stories. (Attachment III- Figure IV-35- TDR Sending and Receiving Sites).

The project is providing active uses along the entire Sapodilla Avenue frontage by locating the club house along this frontage. Along the Evernia Street frontage, the project proposes the main lobby and administrative office, and four residential units.

The proposed project will constitute a substantial enhancement for the public realm by replacing five empty parcels with one residential project. The proposed project will provide an active use along Sapodilla Avenue and Evernia Street, and despite no direct access is proposed from the street in addition to the main building entrance, the interior activity will be beneficial for the street due to the ample windows provided and the proposed terraces. In addition, the project is providing pedestrian enhancements along Evernia Street such as additional planting areas adjacent to the building. Staff recommends the same planting along Sapodilla Avenue if possible

 

A few have asked the question “But why an age-restricted community? Don’t we already have enough of those in downtown West Palm Beach?” The short answer is no. Two major demographics driving rental apartments demand are the well-advertised Millenials (aka Echo Boomers or Gen Y), and the Baby Boomers:

Apartment investors love the Echo Boomers. Multifamily conferences across the country focus on how to capture that demand wave, and for good reason: There are roughly 65 million of them in their early-to-mid- 20s, meaning that they are in, or entering, the renting pool. The trouble for multifamily investors is that everybody has been so focused on drawing the Echo Boomers’ love and attention that competition continues to grow fiercer. But many continue to overlook one segment of Americans: the Baby Boomers. There are approximately 75 million Baby Boomers in this country, and a good number of them may look to downsize their larger homes for a more appropriately sized, easier-to- maintain apartment in the coming years. Housing-tenure statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 16% of Americans aged 70–74 rent, but after age 75, that number jumps up to 20%. So what does this mean for potential apartment opportunities?

In fact, by 2030, it is projected that 33 million Americans will be over age 75, compared to just 19 million today. That is an average annual population growth rate of 2.9%, which would rival the rate in fast- growing metros like Austin and Phoenix. Furthermore, per the CoStar database, age-restricted communities have lower vacancy rates than market rate apartments and have had steady rent increases for the past two years. Given these demographic trends, the opportunity isn’t going away any time soon. But as is the case with all real estate, the first mover typically has a significant advantage. Investors looking for another way to play the multifamily sector may find that focusing on seniors and age-restricted communities is the way to go. (CoStar/PPR)