Rethinking CityPlace with Art Affair

Florida Weekly
April 5, 2018

By Janis Fontaine

It’s hard to believe it now, but in 2000 CityPlace was new. New in concept, new in the way it used space and new in the way it attracted a wide selection of locals to its restaurants and bars, nightclubs and comedy clubs, its state-of-the-art theater and high-end shopping.

Now it’s re-inventing itself, as all of us must from time to time.

But how to make the old new again?

That responsibility fell to the Related Companies, whose experience in virtually every aspect of development, acquisitions, management, finance, fund management, marketing and sales made them the right brains to reinvent downtown and rejuvenate CityPlace, as well as develop the 400-room Hilton West Palm Beach, and the latest addition, RH West Palm: The Gallery at CityPlace.

But what’s a reimagination if no one knows about it?

To encourage the public to explore the changes around CityPlace, the city offers Art Affair. Inspired by World Art Day on April 15, Art Affair is a new 10-day art event in downtown West Palm Beach taking place April 6-15, and featuring arts and cultural events, live demonstrations, artist talks and more.

A huge part of Art Affair is the unveiling of “ASSEMBLAGE: An Organically Grown Exhibition,” a yearlong visual art project on the first floor of the Culture Lab, the former Macy’s storefront-turned-immersive arts-experience.

“ASSEMBLAGE” will showcase artists Ioanna Pantazopoulou and Jennifer Steinkamp. Pantazopoulou’s work, “Oasis,” consists of nine hammocks hung in a carousel like display that visitors are actually invited to lie back in.

“Cultured,” Ms. Steinkamp’s projection, depicts large-scale pearls, displayed in what used to be the jewelry department of the department store. The exhibit is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with special hours during Art Affair from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

On the second floor, there’s a site-specific sound installation created by artist Stephen Vitiello called “You Are the Magic.” Mr. Vitiello will be recording kids’ voices for a special project during Art Affair.

The eighth annual Downtown West Palm Beach Arts Festival, organized by Howard Alan, features more than 100 artists’ displaying their work. The popular art fair’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 7-8.

For those interested in the larger art scene, a special 90-minute walking tour is planned during Art Affair. See the art installations and murals created by artists from around the globe that are making West Palm Beach a haven for artists. The tour is led by Ashley Capps of Gravity, a locally based arts and culture consulting firm. The tour starts and ends at the Hilton, where tourgoers can valet park and enjoy refreshments and browse the hotel’s art, which features more than 1,000 pieces.

To call more attention to Art Affair and to prove West Palm Beach’s dedication to being a city where the arts are supported, avant-garde artist Steed Taylor will paint a road tattoo along Rosemary Avenue. The mileplus long banner will incorporate Celtic crosses, local flowers and names of revered citizens. Painting on the mural will be begin April 12 and will take about two weeks to finish.

“Art is a focal point in the re-imagination of CityPlace into a stimulating downtown urban district, and we’re excited to launch our efforts with the first-ever Art Affair,” said Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president at Related Companies.

We had more questions about Mr. Rajegowda’s vision for the city of West Palm Beach, but he was out of the country, so the mastermind answered our questions by email:

You said, “CityPlace 2.0 is about pivoting from the design as a lifestyle center to one of the country’s most exciting urban districts.” What does that mean?

Pivoting to an urban district in this case means that we’re dressing more like a city and less like a mall. The great cities of the world are rethinking public realms and spaces, ensuring they provide both surprise and delight. With the CityPlace district covering more than 70 acres in the heart of downtown, the reimagining will enhance the density of our offerings with the addition of new and engaging art, culture, food and beverage, community, education and retail experiences.

Your work is truly reshaping West Palm Beach, but what can you do about the traffic?

We’re in the business of development and very much looking forward to watching the continued growth of West Palm Beach. Something that is critical to our development philosophy is supporting smart mass transportation such as Brightline, increasing the ease and accessibility of both our corporate developments and leisure and mixed-use destinations.

Where do you see CityPlace/West Palm Beach in five years?

In the coming years, I see the Downtown West Palm Beach continuing to grow as a stimulating urban district with dynamic retail, dining and cultural experiences, as well as increased residential opportunities with the CityPlace district at the heart. I also see it as home to a growing number of businesses as new Class A office spaces are built, such as 360 Rosemary, which we just announced and are very excited about bringing to the north end of the CityPlace district. I see an overall healthier economy and better quality of life for our residents, and a place where people have all they need to live, work and play in downtown.

How much did the convention center benefit from the addition of the Hilton West Palm Beach?

Though Hilton West Palm Beach is a convention hotel and directly connected to the convention center, it’s anything but conventional. As widely mentioned, the Palm Beach County Convention Center was able to triple their bookings in 2017 as compared to 2015 and we are happy to see this growth. We believe that guests visiting both properties enjoy the convenience and proximity of the CityPlace district, the Palm Beach International Airport, the newly opened Brightline train, restaurants and entertainment. With the many art and cultural offerings Downtown West Palm Beach has to offer, as well as the new event courtyard underway at the convention center, we feel strongly that both Hilton West Palm Beach and the Palm Beach County Convention Center will see continued success.

Can you explain very briefly what Brightline will do to the city?

We are lucky to have the new Brightline station in our backyard and believe it is a game changer for South Florida. Any office building or development located in close proximity to Brightline stations in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and, upon its completion, Miami and Orlando, is strategically located and poised for future success with this mass transit option.

What did the closing of Macy’s mean to CityPlace?

The retail landscape has changed, and we are seeing experiential retail rise to the top, with the best local example being the new RH West Palm: The Gallery at CityPlace.

It was unfortunate that Macy’s closed locations across the country, but when Related Cos. ended up buying back the Macy’s site, I actually got really excited about the opportunity. The former Macy’s location is a strategic development site in the heart of the city which will allow us to build out density in the urban core. Density is necessary for the health of any downtown.

Culture Lab, which now occupies the former Macy’s site and is an experiential arts and cultural hub open to the public, is about the intersection of art, culture, community and education being surrounded by dynamic retail, food and beverage offerings. That’s what the reimagination of this project is all about.


Stay Connected