Success spreading in West Palm Beach

In 2000, downtown West Palm Beach had no more than 2000 residents with only 20% of its main street occupied. Today the main street is at 90% and the downtown population is on track for 10,000 in a few years.

“I’ll have what they’re having.”

Leadership, vision, and more leadership. It starts with one forward-thinking mayor, Nancy Graham (pictured), initiating a form-based planning code that guides what the urban fabric will look like (i.e. think San Franciso, Charleston), but not the uses (i.e. no ‘you can only build houses here and open a store there’). This way the building uses could evolve with the ever changing economy – ever seen a failed big box turned into housing? Nor would you want to. Not only that, she made sure to hire one of the top urban planners in the country to do it right.

That’s just the bricks and mortar. She then filled that up with ‘beer and live music’, so to speak, to bring the early adopters and creatives out (second image) to what was an all but abandoned downtown.

Next came the wildly popular CityPlace, presented yesterday, though geared more to the boomers.

While Nancy is no longer in office, her vision has laid the groundwork for an even more ambititous development. More tomorrow…

Source: New Urban News, which by the way, is the de facto news journal for the new urbanism movement.

Know of any mayors like Nancy Graham or witnessed the influence, good or bad, they can exert? Speak your mind below…