A ‘floating plaza’ stretching into the Lake Worth Lagoon serves as the focal point for Currie Park’s redevelopment, under a master plan linking the public waterfront with adjacent parcels assembled by developer Jeff Greene.
The Palm Beach billionaire, joined by West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency, hired MIT urban planners Carlo Ratti Associati in June to come up with a plan for the 47-acre area, which includes a grassy park on a sparkling waterfront a few blocks from the city’s trendy Northwood Road but frequented by homeless people and surrounded by Greene’s vacant lots.
Artist’s renderings of Ratti’s plan envision the area dramatically transformed.
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The plan calls for an urban hub that melds residential buildings, shops, eateries and other leisure facilities. Two tree-lined walkways will lead through the park to the water, where the floating pathway begins.
“The floating peninsula will incorporate a series of public facilities, including an organic restaurant with its own hydroponic cultivation, a circular pool, an auditorium and a water plaza,” according to a release from Ratti’s firm.
The plaza would be built upon will be built upon a series of air chambers that automatically open and close, releasing or taking in water according to the number of people walking on the surface. The technology, developed in miniature form with global engineering firm Arup, would be employed on a large scale for the first time in West Palm Beach.
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On land, the park terrain would be re-contoured. On its north side, currently a parking lot, “a gently sloping hill will be created, allowing pedestrians to access the area and opening up the view” toward Palm Beach across the water.
Popular current features will remain, including the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and the park’s boat ramps.
“One of the main goals of the park improvements is to get the walkway along the shore with the ability of folks to literally get down to the waterline and launch kayaks and dip their toes into the water, as well as have hidden storage areas for coffee shops and other attractions,” CRA Executive Jon Ward said Thursday.
Ward cautioned that Ratti’s proposal has not been run by neighbors or city officials for input, let alone the state, which has jurisdiction over the lagoon and Intracoastal Waterway that runs through it. It’s just conceptual at this point, said Ward, who plans to present the design to city commissioners at a CRA meeting Nov. 21.
“This is the beginning of a process,” Ratti added in an email from Europe, where he was traveling this week. “The project will now follow the standard procedure of any architectural project involving both public and private subjects,” he said.
“We aim to reclaim West Palm Beach’s connection to the natural elements that surround it, and give shape to a vibrant new district that will serve as a creative catalyst for the entire city.”
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