You asked and the city listened.
West Palm Beach is making a major change to the way you drive — and enjoy — the downtown waterfront.
The city is planning to give back over 60,000 square feet of city space back to the public in a new project called " Flagler Shore: From Pavement to People ."
In just a few weeks, two lanes of traffic on the easternmost side of Flagler Drive will be shut down for five months. The lanes will be closed on a half mile stretch -- from Lake Avenue to Banyan Boulevard -- starting Oct. 7, 2017 through March 1, 2018. The westernmost lanes will be kept open to maintain a north to south flow of traffic.
“What this research has told us is that we need to test a design without spending a lot of money," said Chris Roog, Director of Economic Development for West Palm Beach.
Roog said the project is a result of findings from studies done recently by the Gehl Institute, the Shore to Core design contest with the Van Alen Institute, and the walkability study by Jeff Speck.
"We did our first test last summer in July, when we closed the two lanes closest to the median for bikes. And we got a lot of public input, a lot of good comments and bad comments. And we went back and redefined the idea -- and now we're going to test another design based on that public input," he said.
He says according to community feedback, there's a strong agreement on one thing -- having more public space and comfortable connections to downtown.
“We want to see more people using it for alternative modes of transportation -- bikes, skateboards, roller blades. We also want to create a little bit more of public gathering spaces and access to the waterfront, and try more ideas with vendors and activities to see what is really going to draw people out into the city," he said. "We want to improve our public spaces and build a city for people. That's a step in that direction, to build a city that's people-centric.
Sherryl Muriente -- a local artist and the new Manager of Urban Placemaking for the Downtown Development Authority -- said the city has already planned out events for the space, ranging from themed bike rides to public coffee meet ups and lunches.
“We’re trying to create new habits for people to just feel like they can come out and use public space for themselves," she said.
The extra space on Flagler will also feature moveable benches and decorative potted planters, with barricades and other safety measures to redirect traffic.
“This will be available all the way from here to the bridge. So it’s not just the front of the green area -- it’s really trying to figure how to get people through the corridor, to feel like they can occupy it as an outdoor living room area where they can just come out with their families and have fun," said Muriente.
Uyen Dang, the city traffic engineer, said that traffic data shows this particular stretch of Flagler has about 10,000 trips a day. Even with the tourist season underway or any potential visits from President Donald Trump, she said the city is not anticipating any traffic issues.
“Two lanes of traffic in this area, we can accept up to 18,000 cars a day. And we’re only at 10,000. So we have a lot of capacity left on our roadways that we can refurbish it into something better," Dang said.
The DDA and the city is encouraging people to submit their ideas on what they want to see or do in the new space.
Just go to www.wpb.org/flaglershore or email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following information details some of the activities planned by the city so far for the Flagler Shore project (these dates and times are subject to change; please check the city's community events calendar for updates):
Coffee Outside -- Monday mornings, 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
- Meet up at the Shore at 7am for bike around city for 30 mins
- Brew coffee on the spot before work
Lunch on the Shore -- Tuesday lunch (bring your own) Noon to 2 p.m.
- Invitation to all businesses and government offices to have lunch at Flagler Shore
- Delivery from local restaurants encouraged
Pedal the Shore -- Wednesday afternoon, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Slow bike ride, walk or run for families
Pedal with Purpose -- Every last Wednesday of the month will feature a themed bike ride
- Oct. 25 -- Freak on Bikes (Halloween)
- Nov. 29 -- Santa Parade on Bikes
- Dec 27 -- Lantern Ride
- Feb. 13 -- Love Ride
Bike Valet -- Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Bike WPB will operate DDA's bike valet
- Features bike safety education classes, bike fix it station classes, bike tuning classes, bike law and other classes starting at 10am
Made in WPB -- Every first Saturday of the month
- Makers/prototypers series
- Individual vendors can teach their skills as part of a a new approach to engage the community into creating art, music or product at the Shore
- Classes TBD
Ciclovia -- Sundays (from dawn until dusk)
- As part of the international Ciclovia efforts, the city will host a family-friendly day to invite residents to bike, rollerblade or stroll with their kids.
- Games and small cart vendors are welcome
- Wellness and arts theme will be explored
Palm Beach Plage -- Every first Sunday of the month with exception of Oct. 8
- Community-wide picnic
- Bring your own hammock, chairs and picnic baskets