revitalize west palm beach
During my bike ride this sunday, I noticed how much downtown West Palm Beach is changing and growing, but still feel there are lots of areas we can approve upon. Downtown holds a place near and dear to my heart. It is this little urban bubble where pedestrians have the right away, architectural history is proudly displayed, and suburbia takes a back seat to art and culture. Cafe tables line sidewalks and one lane streets are promoted with pavers… but only on some streets. The city is trying to revitalize downtown to become more popular with small businesses and travelers because it holds SO much potential. Sometimes, I can hardly stand to think about all the empty buildings with bleached out generic advertisements lining the windows because I know how great it could be!
Anyway, as I was saying, I was on my bike ride going through downtown, crossing over to the “island”. Palm beach, not to be confused with West Palm Beach, is that exclusive island Donald Trump frequents and famous for the shopping on Worth Avenue. I noticed the intimate vibe of Worth Ave and how comfortable people felt strolling the street, even though there were numerous passing cars. I think that if we took some of the simple cues of Palm Beach, we could help bring downtown out of it’s funk and really make it something special. Let’s take a look…
Here are some of the images of downtown. How awesome are some of these buildings?!? I mean, look at the mix! You got some classical Renaissance mixed with Art Deco modern with a touch of Mediterranean and Tudor. Many people don’t take the time to notice these details because half these buildings are vacant, so there is no reason for people to ever approach them. I dream about having an interior design office on the street with living space above in the Wagg building (the middle row, to the left), live/work is the way to go!! . I know money is definitely a factor but what is holding back anyone from these beauties!? Bring me a non chain restaurant, boutique, painting studio/art gallery, bike shop, anything! And did I mention that downtown is right by the intracoastal?
Now on to the not so pretty things. These are all spaces in between all those amazing buildings. A little lack luster, huh? Too much open space, not enough coverage for pedestrians to feel safe and comfortable. Where are my benches for people to just stop and enjoy their coffee from the farmers market and chat? Where do the spaces for cars end and the spaces for people begin? How can we make streets feel less car dominate? Parking garages – who wants to see that! Why are condemned buildings still taking up prime real estate, either fix them (preferably) or make new. Has any one ever heard of a courtyard or park?! Rule numero uno of urban planning – make people want to be in your space!
This is a lil snip it of Palm Beach. If some of these tactics were brought West over the bridge, it would make a world of difference. For example, that parking garage – why not line it with plants or attach a climbing plant to flourish and cover some of that monotonous structure. As you noticed, the streets of downtown appear pretty bare. If there are plants, they are dead. If people refuse to tear up side walks to accommodate for built in planting, why not put beautiful pots with palm trees or flower boxes in windows, similar to the two right images in the top row. Benches are simple and huge in urban design. Make some space people want to be in and allow them to enjoy it. Let people linger and enjoy downtown. Streets that might feel too overwhelming can def use a beautiful median similar to the center image to break up the space. Fountains! I love fountains! Why not create just beautiful courtyards in some of those empty spaces to connect the existing structures instead of building more? Fountains offer opportunities for gathering spaces and it helps cool the air, which is always welcomed in the Florida heat.
In the end, I think if the city invested in just a little bit more landscaping and studies on what make people feel happy and comfortable in a city setting, rather than only thinking about profits, it would help them in the long run. Sometimes you first have to create the spaces people want to be in instead of trying to attract people to make the space. I hope we can pull something together. I feel like making “revitalize west palm beach” a personal project of mine. I know how much potential this town has and would love to see it thrive!
My apologies if urban design/west palm doesn’t interest you much but I have been wanting to post about this for a while, since it is a subject I am so passionate about. My next blog post will be more fun! Pinky Promise!