You've Come a Long Way Baby: Downtown West Palm Beach

During the season, one of my favorite places to visit is West Palm Beach's Green Market. It's not just the vendors with their colorful food and flowers in truly beautiful and grand plaza overlooking the water, it's the transformation that I patiently watched since 2005 when I first became acquainted with the city. It took vision, courage and perseverance when then West Palm Beach Mayor and the City Commissioners began planting the seeds for today's downtown. But the genius of the vision was how easily it's been able to incorporate new trends in urban design.

It started with a vision to open up the downtown to the intracoastal waterfront with views to Palm Beach-- a magnificent waterfront promenade, public docks and a grand plaza overlooking the water, but was not without controversy.

As a fairly young planner, my old firm and I were hired to update the downtown's master plan and zoning code, but were given strict instructions to accept the major public improvements that had already been approved by the community, mainly a new concept for the plaza, waterfront promenade and government campus. The plan called for moving public buildings to the center of downtown and demolishing an important library to make space for the plaza pictured above. It was taking up prime real estate at the formal entrance to the downtown and effectively walled off the city center to the water.