By Jocelyn Martinez
After years of planning and working on the City Commons area of the West Palm Beach Waterfront, a lot of hard work is about to pay off.
“This project has been part of Mayor Frankel’s vision for downtown as a whole since she came into office in 2003,” said Peter Robbins, public information officer for the City of West Palm Beach.
Now all that is left is to get the project completed. The area should be finished by Feb. 20.
The $30 million project will consist of a visitor’s center, tree-shaded walkways, a pavilion, piers and a beach at the sea wall. The city expects the new area to transform the waterfront at Flagler Drive and Clematis Street into a new and improved area of public space.
Mayor Lois Frankel is very excited about the project.
“This is an exciting event and a significant part of our commitment to enliven our downtown, embrace our waterfront and bring people to West Palm Beach,” Frankel said.
According to Frankel, she sees this waterfront as a way to attract people and tourists downtown so they can enjoy the businesses already there, as well as the new and coming attractions.
“This project is about transformation,” Robbins said. “It’ll give everyone a completely different view of downtown.”
In place of the old library, the area will be an open, green area with fountains and seats for people to enjoy. It will also be a place for entertainment and concerts.
Three docks are already open to the public.
“These new docks will be enjoyed by boaters and pedestrians alike,” Frankel said.
Dock usage is free, including for boaters. Although rafts are not allowed on the docks, commercial vessels may dock with a city-issued permit. Docks are open
seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight.
Boaters are required to register their vessels with the dock supervisor and each dock has a maximum capacity.
“I love the docks. They are convenient and a smart idea,” said local resident Chris Pastorick, a PBA alumni from the class of 2009. “They’re good for visiting during the day and should bring in more business for the restaurants because a lot of other dockside locations around here benefit greatly from boaters but West Palm Beach has had nothing to offer them like PGA, Jupiter or Boynton Beach.”
The docks are a key component of West Palm’s downtown waterfront revitalization project. The plan is to beautify and re-energize the entire downtown waterfront, from Banyan Boulevard to Lakeview Avenue. Completion of the revitalization is expected in December.
“They should make weekend dock hours later for boaters who want to take their boats downtown then and go out,” Pastorick commented.
Some worry that the construction on Flagler Drive is hindering some businesses downtown.
Bradley’s waitress Jessica Wieder, a PBA senior, said, “It took the view away from Bradley’s and the construction is taking too long. It is also taking business away from Bradley’s because people do not want to drive completely around just to get there.”
Businesses on Clematis are suffering from the months of detours and barricades, but once the project is completed a great increase is expected in the local economy, especially with the docks.
“The docks are convenient for boaters and will bring in more people downtown,” said PBA sophomore Lauren Mareri.
“It’ll be a completely different view of downtown,” Robbins said.
An opening party is set for February. The city hope the face lift will benefit downtown businesses.
“I am excited to see this project completed already,” said PBA junior Natasha Da Silva. “I believe it will make downtown look so much better and bring more people to our city.”