WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The City of West Palm Beach’s redevelopment of Currie Park promises to create a world-class waterfront venue and destination.
“George Currie is one of the founding pioneers of the City of West Palm Beach,” said Attorney Reginal Stambaugh. “Before his death, he was able to convey a part of the acreage for a public park, specifically wanting it to be for recreational purposes.”
The park today sits at the intersection of both the past and the future of West Palm Beach. But now the century old park is slated for a remarkable transformation.
The city’s plan calls for pickleball and tennis courts, a living shoreline, event space and play area. Drawings also show an ambitious plan of bringing a cafe with a bar and indoor dining to the park along with event space.
Stambaugh told Contact 5 this is not the redevelopment Currie’s family envisioned.
“What we really need is a youth center that can provide recreational needs,” Stambaugh said. “What we are very concerned about is putting a café there, serving alcoholic beverages.”
The director of parks and recreation for the city told commissioners at a recent meeting that nothing is set in stone.
“Beverage could be alcohol and it could not be, but I know several people have said they would like to be able to grab a beer and sit by the water,” said Leah Rockwell.
Will Davis is the owner of the Day By Day Shoppe in Northwood Village, which is a 10-minute walk from the park. He is excited for the redevelopment and what it could mean for his neighborhood of unique restaurants, hip shops and galleries.
“It’s going to be great. It’s going to be for everyone,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a go-to destination.”
However, West Palm Beach resident Michael Cleveland said something is missing from the park’s plan.
“This park holds some historical value in that as a teenager we played ball here,” he said. “No park in the city should be without basketball, no park.”
Before approving the plan, commissioners and the mayor debated bringing basketball back to the park.
“I'm looking for a Currie Park that is inclusive,” Commissioner Shalonda Warren said.
Commissioner Christy Fox chimed in as well. “I too would ask that we look into ways to incorporate a basketball court,” she said.
“The park itself is available and has a number of amenities for adults, children, so to suggest that this park is not inclusive, because there’s not a design for a basketball court to me is ludicrous,” said Mayor Keith James.
The 13-acre park sits at the center of a building boom along the north Flagler waterfront.
As previously reported by WPTV in 2019, 18 acres of land across the street from Currie Park are slated to be developed as the Currie Corridor.
“I believe that there’s a commercial interest at hand with developers close by and they’re looking to influence the ultimate use,” Stambaugh said.
Cobbling together bond dollars, grants and taxpayer money, the park carries an estimated cost of $29 to $38 million—$8 million of that comes from a $30 million bond voters approved in 2020 meant to benefit 23 city parks.
“I think it’s going to be putting the north end and the city of West Palm Beach on the map,” Davis said.
Three months before commissioners approved the plan, Stambaugh said he sent a letter to city leaders telling the city, “Commercial uses are not acceptable to the family.”
“We are not looking to be litigious at this point. We do not want to litigate,” Stambaugh said. “We want to find a meaningful solution that keeps Currie Park in line with the original purpose which is recreational use.”
Despite Stambaugh’s letter, city leaders unanimously approved the eight-figure plan at a June meeting.
Contact 5 requested an interview with James, but he declined citing concerns over “the potential for future litigation.”
In a prepared statement to Contact 5, the mayor said:
The renovation of Currie Park will only enhance the attractiveness of our city. The social, economic, health and environmental benefits offered by the park, as well as its green space and improved amenities, will make it a place that our community can really enjoy and a world-class destination for residents and visitors.
I anticipate the renovation of Currie Park will spur increased development in the surrounding area, which is consistent with the pattern of interest by developers in the city.
“They called it Currie Commons and what does that suggest, the common people,” Stambaugh said. “This is not something that was meant to be elitist.”
Stambaugh told Contact 5, Currie’s family is comfortable with a small concession area at the park, but not a restaurant and bar potentially serving alcohol.