Concept photos released in floating plaza project near Currie Park

Posted at 10:02 PM, Nov 22, 2016

Currie Park in West Palm Beach could look a lot different in a few years. You might be able to physically walk out onto the Intracoastal  to shop and eat.

Italian-based design firm Carlo Ratti Associati came up with the concept and they just released these pictures this month.

The plan is to put a floating plaza into a vacant area on the Intracoastal near Currie Park.

It's a public/private partnership between the Community Redevelopment Agency of West Palm Beach and billionaire developer Jeff Greene.

"It's a unique concept, literally for the world," said Jon Ward, executive director of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Carlo Ratti Association created the concept of a floating plaza for the Olympics in Brazil.

"But they didn't build it, so this may be one of the very earliest examples of this kind of technology," said Ward.

Ward says the plaza will float like a submarine does, with adjustable air chambers for buoyancy.

"You're literally at eye level with the water. You're down in the water when you're standing on the dock," he said. "There's a lip about 10 cm that will float above the water and of course as water sloshes over, they'll have automatic pumps that clean it out."

Expect to see an organic restaurant with its own garden, a pool, an auditorium and retail shops. Boats will not be able to tie up to the plaza but there will be an onshore boat ramp and dock nearby.

"If you have a concert out on the water in that amphitheater that's going to be floating, I can see boaters coming in and anchoring to listen to the concert," said Ward.

As for parking, the designer came up with an idea to change the Currie Park landscape, similar to a design called "The Hills" at a park in New York City.

"Imagine a long triangle. And the long side would look like a hill or almost a ski slope," described Ward. "He would put the parking garage underground and then wrap the earth around the long side there, so you would create a hill."

Those who live and fish near the park worry this is just too much for an otherwise quiet area.

"The idea of a large floating structure blocking the view of the water, it's hard to want to let that go," said Alex Barit, whose family lives nearby. "We like the openness of the park, that's what it's been put here for so I think we would be opposed to seeing thousands of more people here on a daily basis."

Others say are more open to the idea bringing new opportunities to the area.

"I'd like to see it happen. People work, and they need jobs," said fisherman Shawn Fahey.

Development of the entire area includes condos along Flagler Road, street work, redevelopment of the park and the construction of the plaza.

Since the entire project is still in the concept phase, nothing has been finalized. It's still up in the air what the cost could be to tax payers.

The city still has to get all the permits needed to make this happen, which could take two more years.

Once the permits are granted, construction could take at least a year. Ward said they'll have to build the plaza in a shipyard and then float it in.

In the next few months, city leaders plan to host community meetings to allow for public input on the project. We'll keep you posted on the dates and times.

The land that is now Currie Park was donated to the city of West Palm Beach in 1920 by a former mayor, George Currie.  He donated it with the condition that it only be used as a public park. Some residents and family members say the latest plans violate his wish, as reported in a WPTV story last year.