Since 2005, the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency has targeted this district for revitalization and provided incentives to encourage new businesses to open and existing ones to make improvements. Today, this historic urban commercial district is home to over 70 unique merchants. Jacksonville, meet West Palm Beach's Northwood Village.
What is Northwood Village?
Map of Northwood Village. Click on image to enlarge.
Similar to Riverside's Five Points, Lackwanna's McDuff Avenue, Durkeeville's Kings Road and San Marco's Hendricks Avenue, Northwood Village is a historic urban commercial district where small buildings and businesses line narrow streets. Northwood Village is located just north of downtown West Palm Beach between Broadway (US 1) and Dixie Highway.
The area has become a destination with eclectic and one-of-a-kind businesses, shops, cafes and restaurants. In addition, the "Art and Wine Promenade" held once a month, draws hundreds of local residents and visitors looking for a diverse experience.
History of Old Northwood
Old Northwood was developed in the early 1920s during the Florida boom era. Prominent architects such as John Volk and William King designed homes that made Old Northwood one of the most exclusive communities this side of Palm Beach. By the 1970s, however, the boom time glamour was long gone. The renaissance of Old Northwood began in the mid eighties when residents formed an association to revitalize and restore this important part of West Palm Beach history.http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/revitalization_with_palm_trees.html
Revitalization Support From The City
Instead of being boycotted, this pawn shop improved its facade with support from the city. Today, it contributes to the business diversity of Northwood Village.
This hasnt happened by accident but because of a great deal of commitment, investment and work involving a range of public, private and philanthropic partners. Much of the enabling framework was established by the city of West Palm Beach and its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). In particular, a neighborhood plan was developed with the assistance of a 14-member citizens planning committee and adopted by the city in 2003. In addition, the CRA administers a number of revitalization incentive programs for its Northwood/Pleasant City district:http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/revitalization_with_palm_trees.html
A. Capital Improvement Grants: CRA will provide 50 percent of the interest on loans for rehab or renovation of property in designated areas, including the Northwood Business District.
B. Relocation assistance: CRA will also support tenant relocation, property acquisition, build-out or rehab/renovation in target areas.
C. Infrastructure improvements: for large projects representing $5 million or more investment, the city will undertake customized infrastructure improvements and provide innovative assistance mechanisms such as tax-increment financing.
D. For projects representing up $5 million worth of investment, CRA will fund 50 percent of the cost of streetscape improvements in the public right-of-way. for development projects up to $5m.
E. Housing investment: CRA will provide a subsidy of $5000 per unit of additional housing, plus an additional $5000 for affordable units in mixed-income projects.
F. Façade and exterior improvement assistance: The agency will subsidize landscaping, awnings, exterior painting and other approved exterior improvements, up to $10,000 throughout the area and up to $25,000 in targeted areas such as the Northwood Village and Broadway business districts.
Neighborhood Renissance CDC
The citys most active partner in the rebirth of Northwood has been Neighborhood Renaissance, a nonprofit community development corporation formed in the 1990s. Neighborhood Renaissance works with neighborhood associations, merchants and residents to solve neighborhood planning issues, renovate troubled properties, create affordable homeownership opportunities, complete neighborhood improvements, and to encourage business development and job creation. With the assistance of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Florida Community Loan Fund, Neighborhood Renaissance has managed the Northwoods streetscape, facade and infrastructure improvements, particularly to Northwood Road in the Northwood Village commercial area, and has developed a mixed-use project called The Courtyard, with 4,500 square feet of office and retail space and 3 residential apartments.
The CDC is perhaps best known, however, for its Model Block program, whereby a single block is targeted for comprehensive improvements, including new street lighting, landscape improvements, and construction or rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- to moderate-income homebuyers. The project started on 34th Street, about ten blocks north of Northwood Village, where the organization purchased, rehabilitated and resold nine mission-style homes while adding façade improvements to adjacent houses, new street lighting, landscaping, and traffic calming to the neighborhood. The program next expanded to 32nd and 33rd Streets. LISC provided homebuyer assistance, and a community land trust was established. All told, 33 affordable homes and $8 million worth of investment was added to Northwood as a result.
Neighborhood Renaissances biggest project so far is Village Centre, a mixed-use, five-story building providing 60 affordable apartments along with retail space in Northwood Village. The project, which is under construction, is being assisted by LISC and the Florida Community Loan Fund.
In 2005, Neighborhood Renaissance won a community stewardship award from 1000 Friends of Florida. In nominating the CDC for the award, LISC's then-senior program director Annetta Jenkins observed that, with the organizations assistance, "Areas with slum landlords, vacant lots and aging infrastructure are being returned to compact, walkable, livable neighborhoods."
The majority of urban Jacksonville's intact walkable commercial districts, similar to Northwood Village, were located along streetcar lines.
For a city blessed with multiple historic commercial districts scattering its urban core, West Palm Beach's Northwood Village serves as a great revitalization example that utilizes both private and public sector innovation and creativity. For more information on Northwood Village, visit: www.northwoodvillage.org
Article and images by Ennis Davis.