Waterfront Commons: A Destination, Not A Pass Through

November 15, 2011 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

It's the predominant feature of West Palm Beach's latest downtown destination. A 12.5-acre, half mile stretch of concrete waterfront transformed into a $30 million public space featuring sprawling lawns, walkways, docks, a beach and a greed certified glass-encased community building that can be used for special events: Waterfront & City Commons.

About Waterfront Commons

The Waterfront and City Commons project is the long-awaited answer to bringing the spectacular West Palm Beach waterfront to life! Few cities in the United States have a waterfront feature like Flagler Drive, a graceful, winding roadway along the Intracoastal lined with stately Royal palms. A collaboration led by internationally acclaimed urban planners and designers, artists, and engineers transformed the waterfront with features such as a mile-long esplanade, sweeping green spaces, and new amenities that showcase the City’s heritage, culture, and natural beauty.

Grand Opening images courtesy of http://www.wpb.org/waterfront/gallery.html

The Waterfront and City Commons project opened with a spectacular celebration on Saturday, February 20th, 2010.  Over 100,000 people came to the event and were delighted by the new project! Currently, you can find entertainment on the waterfront each weekend, see spectacular laser light shows every night at 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm, and enjoy a variety of diverse events. For more information on the Waterfront and City Commons, please visit http://www.cityofwpb.com/waterfront.

Centennial Square at the Waterfront Commons (The Fountain)

Centennial Square is anchored by a large interactive fountain and has become a popular downtown destination for kids of all ages.  A dense cluster of a mix of uses and the vibrant Clematis Street district is well integrated with Centennial Square.

The Palm

The Palm is a stage area that connects Centennial Square with the Great Lawn.  The Palm is now home to the free Clematis By Night Fountainside Concert Series, which runs every Thursday from 6pm to 9pm.

Great Lawn

The Great Lawn is the main central space of the Commons.  It is a large open area of "flex space" designed to accommodate major downtown events such as the Boat Show and Sunfest.  Prior to the construction of the Commons, this site was the location of the city's public library building.

Visitors Center/Water Gardens

The Great Lawn is encased by a vistors center and public water gardens, featuring seven specially designed water elements.  Canopies surrounding the visitors center are also design to accommodate public market and vendor kiosks for special events.

Lake Pavilion

The USGBC LEED certified Lake Pavilion uses solar panels to reduce the City's carbon footprint.  It is equipped with a 17 kilowatt solar system connected to the FPL grid.  The pavilion features floor to ceiling windows on three sides providing clear views to the City's waterfront.  The building is utilized as a community center and for special events such as art exhibits, receptions, conferences, and weddings.

Waterfront Esplanade

As a part of the Commons project, four lane Flagler Drive as reconfigured to allow for more open space along the waterfront.  This linear public space now features intimate seating areas and small event 'rooms' along a continuous bike and pedestrian path, as well as an unique water feature seating bench.  Trees were saved and moved from other areas of the old library site (now the Great Lawn) to create a mature shade canopy.

Waterfront Living Docks

In 2009 the City of West Palm Beach completed three new docks that allow for boat tie-ups and a water-taxi to encourage visitors into the downtown. One of the docks includes in-water planters containing native mangroves, spartina, and a visible oyster reef set into the dock surface. Perhaps the first of its kind in the nation, this boat dock and promenade designed by Michael Singer Studio actually functions as an environmental living system- filtering water and providing small pockets of habitat set within an estuarine man-made structure.  This element, the first completed of the larger Waterfront project, won a Marine Industries Award in 2009.  Use of the docks is free for non-commercial boats. Rafting up is not permitted. The docks are open seven days a week from 5:00 a.m. to midnight.

North Dock

Dock 1 (the northern-most dock) has a maximum capacity of 12 vessels, dock 2 (the middle dock) has a maximum capacity of 24, and dock 3 (the southern-most dock) has a maximum of 12.

Middle Dock

Stretching 440' into the Intracoastal Waterway, the middle dock is the main pedestrian dock, offering the perfect spot for families taking a walk, business people looking for a tranquil spot to enjoy lunch or visitors soaking in the downtown scenery. It features unique underwater ecosystems, planters with native plants, shaded seating areas for the public and day docking for boaters.

The docks project was completed with the support of the Florida Inland Navigation District, which presented the City a check for $4.25 million for waterfront revitalization at the grand opening. The docks have also already been honored with the Florida Marine Industries "Project of the Year" award. The Florida Marine Industries Association and Show Management (producer of the Palm Beach Boat Show) also contributed $500,000 each to the docks project.

What's Next: South Cove Ecological Regeneration

The South Cove Ecological site will feature newly constructed tidal gardens and oyster reefs that will provide stormwater filtration and habitat enhancement to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the estuary.  This will be complemented with an educational boardwalk system.

South Cove renderings courtesy of http://www.wpbwaterfrontproject.com/?page_id=6

For more information: www.wpb.org/waterfront/

Article by Ennis Davis