Urban Regeneration: Returning the West Palm Beach Waterfront to Civic Splendor

-Michael Singer led design team creates active and vibrant downtown waterfront-

(February 9, 2010, West Palm Beach, Fl)- West Palm Beach has developed into one of the most unique mid-size cities in the United States. The city possesses natural beauty in its environmentally sensitive lands to the west and its urban waterfront to the east running six miles along Flagler Drive. Historically until the 1950’s West Palm Beach had a heavily planted, widely used, easily accessed beach front with boat docking along with recreational and commercial activity on the Intra Coastal Waterway.  This changed in the 1960’s with the dredging and construction of an expanded Flagler Drive. “In many ways our new design recognized the beauty of embracing the past to realize the future” says the project’s lead designer the renowned artist and urban design innovator Michael Singer.  “By reconfiguring Flagler Drive a few hundred feet to the west we have transformed a typical 1960’s auto-centric waterfront into one of the most dynamic new civic places in the country, a contemporary urban regeneration.”

Mayor Lois Frankel added “We are fortunate to have artist and designer Michael Singer’s many special elements for our new Waterfront Park.  Michael with the Planners, Engineers and Landscape Designers has provided us with an active and vibrant downtown waterfront that will distinguish our city as a world-class destination. This visionary collaboration has resulted in the design of an incomparable environmentally sensitive waterfront and public gathering place that will become our “City Commons.”

The new West Palm Beach Waterfront encompasses over 1/2 mile and 12.5 acres along the Intra Coastal waterway. This cohesively designed civic space revitalizes the City’s downtown and restores the natural beauty of West Palm Beach with a Commons Park, Water Gardens, a Landing, Esplanade, as well as an environmentally innovative Living Dock, two Boat Piers, and South Cove Walkways. After six years of planning, design, and construction the $30 million park (with $9 million of that coming from Federal, State and Local grants) is complete.  The opening celebration is on Saturday February 20, 2010 from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM at the WPB waterfront City Commons (for a complete list of activities please visit www.cityofwpb.com/waterfront/).

Highlights of the Project

Michael Singer Studio was hired by the City in 2004 and led the re-imaging process and design for a cohesive West Palm Beach Downtown Waterfront including the main Commons Park and event spaces, 3 new floating docks, shaded gardens, two community buildings, a continuous waterfront esplanade, 7 specially designed water elements, and a planned estuarine ecological regeneration area.

West Palm Beach Waterfront Commons

Island. Shaded garden pathways along both North and South Clematis Streets have six unique sculptural water gardens. The main central space of the Commons is a large open area to accommodate major downtown events such as the Boat Show and Sunfest.

West Palm Beach
Waterfront Lake Pavilion
The Lake Pavilion is a transparent glass-walled community building that opens onto the Commons with panoramic views of the waterfront. It is the first USGBC LEED Certified City of West Palm Beach building, and includes a 17Kw solar photovoltaic system on its roof. The building and its large terraces will be utilized daily as a community center and for special events such as art exhibits, receptions, conferences, and weddings.

West Palm Beach
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.

West Palm Beach
Waterfront Esplanade
The plan and design re-configured Flagler Drive and therefore provides expanded open space that now includes a waterside beach planted with coconut palms, a landing area, and a shaded esplanade along the newly constructed seawall. The new Esplanade consists of several discreet spaces including intimate seating areas and small event ‘rooms’ along a continuous bike and pedestrian path, as well as a unique water feature seating bench.  Trees were saved and moved from other areas of the old library site to create a mature shade canopy.

West Palm Beach
Waterfront: South Cove Ecological Regeneration
Michael Singer Studio focused on regenerative environmental opportunities as an important overall design goal for the West Palm Beach Waterfront Commons. Michael Singer Studio worked closely with county and state environmental agencies to help make the West Palm Beach Waterfront project a model of ecological waterfront regeneration in a heavily utilized urban site. Newly constructed tidal gardens and oyster reefs will provide stormwater filtration and habitat enhancement to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the estuary. There will be an educational boardwalk from the South Cove walkway edge to the islands. Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management has applied for and received county, state, and federal funding to build the South Cove area.

Michael Singer Studio

Since the 1970s Michael Singer’s work has been at the forefront of the art world, as demonstrated by his many museum exhibitions including a one-man exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.  He has had a seminal influence on the role of artists and creative thinkers in the public realm.  In the 1980s he formed Michael Singer Studio, a multifaceted art, design, and planning studio focused on understanding and expressing innovative approaches that incorporate each specific project’s environmental systems and interactions as well as exploring and realizing the social, economic, and functional potential of a site. Michael Singer Studio’s works of public art, planning, and architectural and landscape design are noted for their innovation, aesthetic beauty, and functionality.

Other Michael Singer Studio Projects in South Florida include:

Howard Park, Lake Worth Oceanfront Park,

Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority Renewable Energy Facility, and

Several Whole Foods Market stores

For More Information about Michael Singer Studio Projects please visit www.michaelsinger.com. For additional information on the West Palm Beach waterfront project, please visit www.cityofwpb.com/waterfront/project.

Project Credits

Artist and Lead Designer: Michael Singer
Singer Studio Project Manager and Environmental Designer: Jason Bregman

Singer Studio Team Designers: Jonathan Fogelson, Husayn El Sharif, Itai Singer

Landscape Architecture: Carolyn Pendleton Parker at Sanchez & Maddux Inc. and Connie Roy- Fisher

Architect of Record: Steve Boruff Architects

Lighting Design: Barbara Horton and Lee Brandt at HLB Lighting

City Project Manager: Joan Goldberg

Planning: Ana Aponte, Amy Stelly, and Matt Flis from the West Palm Beach City Planning Department and the Thompson Design Group

Construction: Catalfumo Construction, Whiting Turner and Technomarine (Living Docks), Macon Construction (Flagler Drive), Wesco (fountains)
Design Criteria Phase Project Lead and Initial Site Engineering: CH2M Hill

Photography: Tom Hurst (Dock photography)