Monday, October 16, 2017

Part 2. “RFQ 17-305 for Lake Worth Beach Complex Conceptual Plans Design”, and a little history too.

For Part 1 use this link: Quote by Lake Worth Asst. City Manager Juan Ruiz, “It’s obviously a high point of interest in our community.”

Any future project at the Lake Worth Beach will follow many months of public meetings, charrettes, and much public input.

And it’s important to remember the SNMREC “Ocean Wave Energy Generation” project is still out there (on Finance Advisory Board agenda several months ago), the Neighborhood Road Program is rolling out, a new housing project (actual stand-alone homes!) is set to begin construction soon and, of course, there’s the Blueway Trail project as well and. . . “Distributed Energy: The Lake Worth Solution”.

And that’s just some of the things going on in this little 6-square-mile City of Lake Worth. The future looks exciting and full of promise.

Without further ado, “RFQ 17-305”:

The future, the past, and our regional Lake Worth Beach.

Meeting in the Commission Chambers on October 12th (also note, the second of five videos is below).

Today, let’s explore some history and the concept of a “regional beach” as opposed to “our Lake Worth Beach”.

Last year Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell brought up this topic and expressed some frustration our City of Lake Worth was spending so much time, effort, and political capital on the Casino complex — principally the now-condemned municipal pool — when so many people who were using the pool didn’t even reside in the City but in other nearby towns like Palm Beach.

In the case of the now-closed pool, one that had to be subsidized by the taxpayers of Lake Worth, Maxwell made a very good point. At just $4 a visit, much less so with a 20-visit pass, was a pretty good deal especially so if you were close enough to walk or ride a bike and not pay another $4 for parking.

Since the inception of the City of Lake Worth, our Beach has been billed and celebrated as a destination. There’s much evidence of very early construction on the west side of the Intracoastal, on the east side the remains of the former Lake Worth Bridge and at the Casino property as well there’s the seawall (which is another whole topic of discussion all by itself).

The Town of Palm Beach’s origins are further north and happened earlier. Its development began in 1894 with the arrival of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast (FEC) railroad. A stop on the FEC didn’t come to Lake Worth until 1912, soon after which it became the City of Lake Worth. That meant the development pattern and relationship between the developed Palm Beach and West Palm Beach already had been established.

During the 1920s, the Florida “Boom” period and an increase in automobile travel, the City actively and proudly promoted the Beach, the Casino building at the time, and the pool (then saltwater) as a tourist destination. This drew traffic from US 1 (Dixie Hwy.) through the Downtown area which increased commercial opportunities for Lake Worth.

During the early and middle part of 20th century, Palm Beach had its own pier at the end of Worth Avenue and Gus’ Baths nearby which had its own pool. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, those destinations were eliminated leaving the Lake Worth Beach as the only beach in Central Palm Beach County (CPBC) with ample parking, a pier and other amenities.

In 1971, the City of Lake Worth rebuilt its water facilities in the form of a 50-meter lap swimming pool (not to Olympic pool size standards) and promoted it for diving and other activities to take advantage of other infrastructure developments in the area. One of the more important was the construction of a higher, dual-span drawbridge in 1973. This made it easier to access the barrier island by vehicle from the mainland than other crossings at the time. This in turn increased the popularity of the Lake Worth Beach as THE beach in CPBC along the ocean.

Other destinations like John G’s restaurant, the Casino ballroom and the fishing pier kept our Beach a consistent, steady, year-round destination.

Beginning in the 1970s and into the 1980s, western development in CPBC created new residential areas, one we now call the “Village of Wellington”. Over the years this led to its incorporation as a municipality with an increasing population. The Lake Worth Beach is on the same latitude as Wellington, so besides being a CPBC location, it also became landlocked Wellington’s beach too.

When I moved to South Florida in 1989, I referred to the Lake Worth Beach with its 50s-era feel as Palm Beach County’s urban beach. Even though I lived in the city of West Palm Beach for the first three years after my move from Michigan, our Beach in Lake Worth is the one that I would go to most often.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park opened about the same time I moved here. It was the place to go if you wanted more of a naturalistic beach experience. Getting there was a longer drive by car and it was a longer walk to the beach from the parking area to the ocean. The Lake Worth Beach was a convenient alternative and my most favorite and still is. Afterwards, I could head Downtown to one of the restaurants or my favorite watering hole at the time called Inn Exile, currently called Propaganda.

For all these reasons, the Lake Worth Beach serves as CPBC’s beach that has a regional draw. It is one of the major reasons that the City gained a portion of the cultural and recreational bond money, to the tune of $5 million, as part of its rehabilitation earlier in this decade.

So, in conclusion. . .

The Lake Worth Beach is “our Beach”. But it’s also CPBC’s beach too. And that’s how we need to approach the future, to make sure the Beach remains a regional draw, providing entertainment, restaurants, and other services many residents in other communities in CPBC do not have in or near their communities, e.g., having dinner, maybe watching an outdoor movie, or scheduling a wedding venue WITH A VIEW OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN!

Once again, there are 5 videos of this meeting on October 12th. To watch them all at your convenience use this link to my YouTube channel and look for “City of Lake Worth RFQ Evaluation Meeting”.

Below is the 2nd video, which starts off with the second half of the presentation by CPZ Architects (use this link which includes the first half of the presentation). CPZ is the proposer to the RFQ who beat out Kimley-Horn to proceed working with the City on ideas going forward how to improve and fix the defects and other long-standing problems at the Casino and Beach complex:

Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon.