Saturday, August 5, 2017

News from Post reporter Tony Doris, “Old City Hall must come down piece-by-piece. . . why not in 30 seconds?”

Reading the article today by Tony Doris (link and excerpts below) brought back a lot of memories. The former City Hall in West Palm Beach is being demolished to make way for a new downtown hotel, apartments and retail along with a parking garage.

I was hired by Rick Greene who is again the Planning Director for the City of West Palm Beach and worked on the second floor of this building from 1989–1993. Even back then they were constantly monitoring the air quality. This structure and many others were referred to as the “sick buildings” constructed in the 1970s and 80s.

West Palm Beach in the early 1990s was a time of great change and laid the foundation for much of what you see today. Nancy Graham became the mayor in 1991 and it was Mayor Graham who ushered in the “strong mayor” system. For those of you in the City of Lake Worth who don’t know what that means, we still have what’s called the “weak mayor” form of government. The city manager runs the day-to-day operations and the mayor is mostly ceremonial and runs City meetings.

This article from 1997 in The New York Times titled, “A Campaign to Draw People Back Downtown Is Paying Off ” is a very good one to read and understand how far West Palm Beach has come, or in some people’s minds, how far off track the city has gone since Mayor Graham left office.

It was during Graham’s time as mayor the fountain on Clematis Street came to be. And who can forget the very dramatic blowing up of the former Holiday Inn on a New Year’s Eve which made way for the amphitheater and open space. The NYT article also mentions City Place and calling in Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to prepare the downtown master plan.

Readers of this blog will recall Nancy Graham is once again in the news. Click on image to enlarge:
Former Mayor Nancy Graham was a panelist at
the recent Public Forum,
Getting from Point A to
Point B
” addressing traffic on Okeechobee Blvd.

But I digress. . . here are three excerpts from the article by Tony Doris:

     The old City Hall will bite the dust with as little dust as possible, said Jon Ward, executive director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, because so much of it was made with asbestos, from tiles to insulation, that undramatic dis-assembly is required.

and. . .

     The public won’t notice much change until next month, when the exterior panels come off, a process like building with blocks but in reverse, Ward said.
     Aside from the asbestos, the other challenge will be removing the cantilevered top floor that held the mayor’s office. Taking down the concrete and steel on one end could make the other end unstable, so the workers will have to be careful.

and. . .

     The demolition should be complete by mid- to late October, in time for the planned hand-off to developer Navarro Lowrey Properties, Inc.