CityPlace 2.0: A reimagined plaza, greener and more tied to downtown
Palm Beach Post
April 23, 2018
By Tony Doris
WEST PALM BEACH — CityPlace 2.0 is on the way.
Within the next two months, visitors will see the 18-year-old, Mediterranean-styled shopping and entertainment center begin a transformation into a venue that’s more comfortable, lush with vegetation and flexible in its configuration.
The plan, which requires West Palm Beach approvals, calls for a curb-less Rosemary Avenue narrowed to slow traffic. Look for trellises loaded with plants, walkways cooled by overhead shade sails.
Artist’s renderings show buildings up and down the street covered with vines, and even the pavers underfoot mixed with patches of greenery.
The prominent fountain would be replaced with one of a different design, an interactive splash pad kids could play in, like the fountain on Clematis Street.
The permanent stage would vanish from the plaza, making the public space more adaptable for activities, events, outdoor markets and other experimental uses. There’ll be more shade and seating outside the venue’s ground floor restaurants.
The road work, awaiting city approvals, would be the project’s first phase. How much it will cost and how it will be funded has not been determined, a Related spokeswoman said.
Matthew Lister, a Gehl Architects partner consulting for CityPlace owners Related Cos., told the city commission the center is responding to changes in the city and the retail environment.
“People have changed,” he said. They’re prioritizing experiences over transactions, rather than coming “to just buy stuff,” and that’s changing the way retailers see the world, he said. So CityPlace will alter its appearance to meet that need, he said.
West Palm has changed since CityPlace was built and that’s why CityPlace must change, he said.
Downtown has become more vibrant, there’s a strong market for development, and a high-speed rail station is adding activity. CityPlace, once isolated in its way, now must integrate with the rest of downtown, Lister said.
One problem is that at night, once one steps outside CityPlace, streets become much dimmer, he said.
That’s a problem the city will be addressing, with plans to add better lighting along Rosemary, reaching into the Historic Northwest neighborhood just to the north of CityPlace. Work began this week on another project to connect CityPlace with that area, a ‘road tattoo’ that will stretch down Rosemary from Okeechobee Boulevard to 11th Street.
“It’s important to make CityPlace more a part of our overall downtown,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said.
Lister agreed. “The time is now to think bigger about CityPlace and how to move from a lifestyle center to being a strong participant in a rich and vibrant downtown,” he said.
Many of the changes contemplated for the center match those West Palm Beach recently approved for Clematis Street. Starting with the 300 block of Clematis in June, the city will be remove curbs, add shade trees and widen sidewalks to create a more pleasant walking and outdoor dining experience.
Like CityPlace’s plan, the Clematis project is a response to a difficult retail climate challenged by online sales and competition from outside downtown, such as Palm Beach Outlets.
The CityPlace project aims to make the center a place that looks better, provides experiences rather than just storefronts and where it’s comfortable to visit, Lister said. “CityPlace 2.0 is going to use comfort as a primary driver of the public realm, not an afterthought,” he said.
“As an important destination in the heart of downtown, it’s critical we continue to evolve and play close attention to the needs of the people that live, work and play in our environment,” Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president of The Related Cos., said Friday. “With a bustling hotel, convention center, and RH Gallery at the south end, and now the Brightline train station at the north end, we believe it is the most exciting time ever for West Palm, and we are thinking creatively about how to craft the landscape.”