Via the City of West Palm Beach
This past October, the City of West Palm Beach and the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in partnership with the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority embarked on a tactical urbanism pilot project along Flagler Drive. The Flagler Shore: From Pavement to People project temporarily reduced Flagler Drive between Lakeview Ave. and Banyan Blvd. to two lanes in order to reclaim 63,000 sq. ft. of additional public space for pedestrians, bicyclists, merchants and additional programming on the West Palm Beach waterfront. The city and agencies used this short-term, low-cost, and scalable intervention to catalyze long-term change along the West Palm Beach waterfront, in order to make the waterfront a more active and vibrant public space for both residents and visitors.
Given the findings of recent studies by the Gehl Institute, the Shore to Core design contest with the Van Alen Institute, and the walkability study by Jeff Speck, along with traffic studies that indicate use of Flagler Drive is well under the road’s traffic threshold, the project was the first step to implement some of the expert recommendations. For the duration of the project (October 7, 2017 – March 1, 2018), data is being collected in six key areas to understand how the space is being used and effects of the space being repurposed including activation participation, safety, automobile counts, bicycle counts, pedestrian counts and people surveys.
[The attached data collection report is a preliminary summary. More data is being collected throughout the duration of the project.]
A key data finding, contrary to initial project concerns, has shown no traffic impact or safety issues. The automobile counts along Flagler Drive have decreased since the project started and compared to average daily rates five years ago (6,404 in October 2017 compared to 8,438 in September 2017 and 10,560 in 2012). Additionally, no crashes have been reported during the project to date.
In addition to the ongoing data collection at the project site and public feedback on the city’s website, the city will hold a Community Think Tank on Dec. 16 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM along Flagler Shore (in the public space outside of E.R. Bradley’s Saloon at the intersection of Clematis Street and Flagler Drive). This is an opportunity for members of the public to provide ideas for what they would like to see that would attract people to the waterfront. There will be a series of interactive exchange booths where participants can collaborate with the hosts and discuss how to make the waterfront more vibrant. The preliminary data will also be shared and discussed with community members at the meeting.
“Since we first launched this project, Flagler Shore has had people talking about the future of their waterfront and public spaces where they want to gather, and that is exactly what we want” said West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio. “We are trying to improve the quality of life in West Palm Beach and are listening to the needs and wishes of our residents and downtown businesses. This pilot project is intended to give space back to the public, and we believe it can be successful thanks to the community’s input.”
The Flagler Shore project allows the city to examine the viability of expert recommendations using low-cost resources to experiment with and gather input on potential street design changes, without spending millions of dollars. The data and community feedback gathered will ultimately help determine any permanent redesign of the waterfront in the future. The cost of the temporary pilot project is estimated at $221,137, a fraction of the funds for a complete design renovation project. Just over half of the total costs ($114,014) were allocated for the Flagler Drive lane reduction and Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) plan.
“Many cities in the U.S. and around the world are using these types of flexible and short-term projects to advance long-term goals related to street safety, public space, and more,” said Chris Roog, West Palm Beach Director of Economic Development. “We are confident that this project will support the expert recommendations while gathering important information and community feedback.”
Key Features about the Flagler Shore: From Pavement to People Project:
- Flagler Shore is .6 miles along Flagler Drive stretching from Lake Ave. to Banyan Blvd.
- Temporary lane reductions and expansion of waterfront public space for five months, from Oct. 7, 2017 through Mar. 1, 2018
- This is the first step in implementing/analyzing concepts and expert recommendations from recent City studies.
- Closing two east lanes of Flagler Drive from Lake Ave. to Banyan Blvd. to reclaim and repurpose public space along the Waterfront
- Making the two west lanes of Flagler Drive from Lake Ave. to Banyan Blvd. into two-way conditions with restriped double-yellow lines
- Intersections along Flagler Drive will include large decorative potted planters with safety measures to redirect traffic and directional signs.
- Closed eastern lanes of Flagler Drive will reclaim 63,000 sq. ft. of public space along the waterfront.
- Reclaimed public space will be repurposed to allow for more pedestrians, bicyclists, merchants, and additional programming.
- New features to be included along the expanded Waterfront include additional seating, public art, vendors, new events, wellness activities and more.
- City will assess new design by collecting data and public feedback to make determinations about the future of the West Palm Beach waterfront.
To find out more about the city’s Flagler Shore project, to find the latest updates and activities, or to submit questions/comments, please call (561) 822-2222 or visit www.wpb.org/flaglershore. The city encourages public feedback on the new design and new activities via email at email@example.com.
tl;dr Ultima is moving locations in April, just not leaving downtown.
On Thursday morning last week I woke up to the Palm Beach Post headline that Clematis Street’s favorite gym, Ultima Gym, had decided to “exit Downtown”.
Immediately concerned about the insinuation by the post that one of our longest standing Downtown businesses has abandoned our Downtown, I do about five seconds of research, and realized that Ultima Fitness is not actually exiting downtown.
Because, and this is one of my pet peeves, Downtown West Palm Beach is bigger than just Clematis Street. It’s even bigger than Clematis Street and CityPlace.
Ultima Gym is not leaving Downtown; they are moving to the medical building at 625 N. Flagler, just half a mile away from their current location.
To illustrate to our readers, and friends at the Palm Beach Post, what the boundaries of the 1.2 square miles of Downtown are I’ve created a handy map.
In this map, the “A” location is the current location of Ultima Fitnness, and the “B” location is the new location. The Yellow area indicates the Downtown as delineated in the Downtown Master Plan, and the Bluish Green area indicates the Downtown Development Authority’s district boundaries. The Purple area is the “Warehouse District”, it’s not in downtown, but I threw it in since everyone is always asking me where it is.
Having said that, any way you cut it, 625 N. Flagler and Ultima Gym is still Downtown.
Ultima Gym partner Ian Curran did a Facebook Live video from the beautiful 4th floor location, overlooking the new bridge and intracoastal waterway. Unfortunately, the video is now off line but the views from the new location are fantastic. This will no doubt be the most luxurious place to work out in Downtown.
6th Street is growing into the new Downtown Hot Spot
The move makes a whole lot of sense for both Ultima Gym and the Downtown in general. 6th Street and the northern edge of Downtown become a hot spot of Downtown activity. The 8-story, 259-unit apartment complex at Loftin Place at 805 N. Olive Ave, just one block east, has become an incredibly popular building, and as of July, was 92% leased in just the first two years. Loftin Place even has their own SkyBike station.
Developer Jonathan Gladstone also saw the opportunity of the north end of Downtown when he opened The Butcher Shop in a renovated seaplane hanger on 6th Street. This trendy restaurant/bar/beer garden expanded from its original location in Wynwood, Miami. In the year since it has been open it has become very busy drawing people into Downtown from the north end as well as Palm Beach right over the bridge.
Downtown WPB is big enough to have something for everyone
So when people come to me and say “rent is too high in Downtown”, my response has always been to ask where they’ve looked. If they just say Clematis Street and CityPlace, which is most of the time, I always encourage them to check out one of the many side streets in the downtown area, which have many great opportunities, existing retail, and plenty of parking.
If we embrace the outer areas of Downtown as viable destinations for businesses, still walkable, but with lower rent, then we’ll see a lot more of the small retail develop in those areas and continue to have our “premier retail” with higher rents on Clematis and CityPlace.
I’d love to see a bigger push in connecting the Warehouse district with the Downtown as well, just a bike ride (or 25-minute walk) away, which offers a complete different feel and even more opportunities for smaller businesses.
Back to Ultima Gym, I’m excited to hear about their move. When they open the amazing new location in April, I’ll look forward to a half mile warm-up run from my office, then enjoy a post-workout beer at The Butcher Shop.