Thursday, March 11, 2010

Last Monday's Tour of Downtown West Palm Beach and Waterfront...

Friends of mine came for a brief visit on Monday. Two came from their home on the west coast of Florida and two came from Michigan.  The two from up north had never been in the Palm Beach area, so it was a chance to wander around, by car and on foot.  It was an opportunity for me to reacquaint myself with town of Palm Beach places and history.  When I worked regularly on the island and at one of the great historic properties there, I usually found myself in the role of tour guide/historian.  I always am amazed how, even if you have been concentrating on other people, places and things for a while, the knowledge remains.  I think my guests were surprised with the amount of information I knew about the area.

After the Palm Beach tour, we scooted over to West Palm Beach and checked out the waterfront area that has recently been completed.  This was my first visit there.  As most of you know, this is the area that was designed by Michael Singer and Associates.  They are the firm that gave us the "pretty picture" of Lake Worth beach property for a fee.  My memory of the general area comes from the time that I worked for the City of West Palm Beach.  I would leave city hall for lunch downtown somewhere - there were only a few choices back then in the early 90s.  I'd then head out to the waterfront which then was a concrete seawall, concrete sidewalk, small strip of grass and a series of Royal Palm trees.  The trunks of the Royal Palm trees looked like concrete pillars too.  Every 50 feet or so there was a bench that you could sit and contemplate the world while looking over the Lake Worth Lagoon and Palm Beach on the other shore.  I was usually the only one there.

That's all different now.  There are three finger docks that allow for day stays by passing boats.  More land area was gained east of the former bulkhead location and that is now more lushly landscaped, it only needs a little more time to grow in.  As you walk west toward the former location of the library, a smallish "pavilion" building was built to house different exhibits and events.  The building is convertible in that three sides of it can be opened up to the outside.  Bathrooms are provided within as well.  For me, it recalled having the ability to sit in the former air conditioned library and look at the water while catching up on the latest magazines and such.  Removal of the library building at the end of Clematis was on the to-do list of almost every West Palm Beach elected official since the building was built in 1962.  The view of the water from Clematis Street changes the character of the area completely and provides a nice open area for performances or other group events.  Click here for a review of the area's features from the city of West Palm Beach website.

I had also heard that Roxy's, a local institution in the restaurant scene, added a rooftop bar/restaurant on top of the their building.  It's two stories with the third floor being "Sky 309."  We walked there from fountain area and had a hard time telling where it was since the signs were being replaced.  There was a person outside that was acting as a "human sign" and told us that the upstairs was open.  If you happen to be on Clematis at night, check it out.  It's a large area that has a "night club" feel to it.  They also have a full menu delivered by a dumb waiter from the downstairs kitchen.  We were actually there the first time they were serving food and they were still training staff - slow service, but I think the newness was the reason for that.  Click here for a link to SKY 309's website.

All in all, it was a reminder to me that we live in a competitive environment with other cities in our region.  In order to remain competitive, we need to attract investment to sustain and contribute to what will be a better Lake Worth.  I just don't see the awareness of this fact from those on the city commission or the administration.