Monday, October 29, 2007

Good Monday Morning...

I've been pre-occupied with preparing this presentation for this coming Wednesday as an introduction to the charrette on Transit Oriented Development around the Tri-Rail station. The pieces are falling into place now - I just got to make sure the logistics are all in place for presentation on the bus! That will be an accomplishment, for sure. It turns out that I will likely take the early (like 5 a.m.!) Tri-Rail, get a transfer at the Metro-rail and get a cab to South Beach on Wednesday morning - that's when the bus leaves to come up to Lake Worth with all the charrette participants on it. And, if everything works out the way it should, I will be on it too!

I thought you might be interested in some of my presentation narrative. Once the PowerPoint is all finished, I will find a place to post it. Somewhere you will be able to see all the GROOVY animations! Here is the first part that deals with introduction and City history:

  • Introduction and Welcome
    • Wes Blackman, AICP, Planning and Zoning Consultant, Principal CWB Associates, 15 year resident of Lake Worth, 8 years on the Planning, Zoning and Historic Resources Preservation Board – last 5 years as Chairman, candidate for City Commissioner in early 2007
    • Thrilled with the prospect of engaging the attendees of the Rail-Volution 2007 Conference in the challenges that the City faces in establishing a Transit Oriented Development area around our existing Tri-Rail Station.
    • What this presentation will do is give you an overview of the community and surrounding area that will serve as a background and a foundation on what you will be talking and conferring about today.
    • We’ll start with a bit of history of the community, look at the Lake Worth of today, influential transportation facilities over time, market conditions and related information, land use characteristics – with a special focus on the area around the Tri Rail station and Lake Worth Road corridor.
    • We’ll also take a virtual tour around the City and wrap up with a brief summary of description of the local public policy landscape.
    • Then, I’ll be able to take your questions and hopefully provide some answers at the conclusion of the presentation.
    • Again thank you for your interest in Lake Worth and if you would like to learn more about the current goings-on in Lake Worth, I encourage you to visit my Lake Worth blog. It can be found at
  • Lake Worth History
    • Beginnings
      • The beginnings of settlement in South Florida came around the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century. Development in the vicinity of Lake Worth originated in the late nineteenth century with the extension of Henry Flagler's East Coast Railway through Palm Beach County to Miami by 1895. Although Flagler did not construct a hotel in Lake Worth, the arrival of the railroad resulted in increased economic and development activity.
      • What is now Lake Worth began as the town of Jewel. Samuel and Fannie James are considered the first residents of the area. They were former slaves, established the first post office in the area and owned a significant amount of land in the wilderness along the Lake Worth Lagoon.
      • In 1911, Samuel James died and his wife Fannie sold the core area of their land to Palm Beach Farms Company. It was then that Harold Bryant and William Greenwood started to formulate plans for the City along the water. Platting of the central part of the City began with its characteristic 25 foot wide lots. These were originally thought to be cottage areas by the water that would be given away to those who bought larger tracts in the area known as Greenacres – now its own City immediately west of the Lake Worth. However, the “cottage” lots proved more popular and those sold at a premium. Thus, Lake Worth was born.
      • Soon to be popularly called the “Wonder City”, in January of 1912 Lake Avenue was graded and rocked and by August of that year the City’s initial platting was completed. It provided for 55 miles of streets and nearly as many miles of alleys – along with nearly 7,000 lots.
      • In October of 1912, the City's name changed from Lucerne to Lake Worth after post office representatives learned there was already a town in Florida called Lucerne. During the fall of 1912, Lake Worth became a thriving City with its first school, a 24-foot by 36-foot building constructed of Florida pine on "M" Street between Lake and Lucerne Avenues.
      • The year 1912 ended with the publication of the City's first census showing 308 residents, 125 houses, 10 wagons, seven automobiles, 36 bicycles and 876 fowls. In 1913 concentrated efforts were being made to organize the Lake Worth Light, Water and Ice Company.
      • Politics began to creep into Lake Worth in 1913 when the first vote was taken to decide whether the City would have a franchise granting a Commission form of government. The first City Officials were elected in April 1913 when the City received its first Charter.
      • Soon, Lake Worth built its own power plant. The first ferry was used to cross the Intracoastal Waterway in 1913 to reach the Atlantic Ocean and beachgoers were charged five cents to take the ferry. At 6 p.m. on May 18, 1914, the electric current was turned on.
      • In early 1915, the first lighted sign was installed across Lake Avenue and Dixie Highway. Its job was to advertise the City of Lake Worth
      • The first bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway was built in July, 1919 and was one of the longest wooden toll- free bridges in the United States.
      • The initiation of the construction of U.S. Highway 1 in 1920 spurred a tremendous amount of growth and development through the flourishing tourist trade. By 1925, U.S. 1 stretched from Maine to Miami. Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95 completed the automobile transit facilities over time.
      • Other significant events in the history of Lake Worth are a major hurricane in 1928 that decimated many of the original wooden structures, the Depression of the 1930s – which in many ways began in south Florida in the mid 1920s due to over-speculation in real estate and trouble with getting building supplies.
    • The Beach
      • This led to increased access to and interest in the City’s Atlantic Ocean beachfront. The City still owns this 19 acre property from the ocean to the Lake Worth Lagoon, also known as the Intracoastal Waterway. It remains a public park. Issues of the status of the property and how the City should redevelop the property have consumed the public and political dialog in the community for years. It is still an on-going issue.
      • From a transportation point of view, it does represent a prime public destination at the “end of the line” – at least to the east. So while the pictures go by showing the various iterations of the Casino Building at the beach, I will offer a little history.
      • Soon after its construction in 1922, the Casino developed into a major tourist attraction due to its location, architecture, and status as the best municipally owned casino in the state. Although gambling was initially conducted in the Casino, it was outlawed by the mid 1930s.
      • After World War II, increases in population led to tremendous growth of the City and to the popularity of the City’s beachfront. A hurricane in 1947 destroyed much of the second story of the original building and it was rebuilt in its current configuration. Now the building is suffering from years of neglect and from deterioration due to its oceanfront location. Since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the second floor which contains a ballroom, has been closed to the public due to hazardous conditions.
      • The City has an agreement with a private developer to lease and maintain the bulk of the beach property west of the boardwalk for a twenty year period. In exchange for lease payments of $500,000 a year to the City, the developer will build around a total of 65,000 square feet of building, which includes a 40,000 square foot new casino building, small retail space, café, restrooms, pool equipment and locker rooms. (Refer to site plan as slide). Improvements to the site and parking areas are also on tap and will be funded with a variety of public monies.
      • The status of the project is in legal limbo right now due to actions brought forth by citizens and a request for declaratory relief by the City regarding the applicability of a local law related to referendums as a result of petitioning to overturn a zoning and land use change on the property.
      • It is not known when this project would go forward and some wonder if it ever will.
Don't forget the poll in the upper right hand part of the blog is still active through Wednesday night. When things return to normal, I'll do a sum up of my feelings on the topic.

Also - Don't miss the two SNEAKY City Commission meetings on this coming Tuesday. A clue - don't look for the City's website for any back-up - these meetings are only posted on the calendar section with NO BACK-UP. So much for representative Democracy.