A new Tri-Rail station on PGA Boulevard is at the center of future redevelopment projects and could be the remedy to commuters sitting in bottlenecks on I-95.
Residents hunched over maps and sketched out their ideas for the future station at a workshop hosted by the city and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council Thursday night at City Hall.
Midtown resident Jimmy Collamore said the station could be a downtown the city has never had.
“The one word I haven’t heard is ‘destination,’” he said. “This could be a hub. This could be the place to go.”
Their ideas included:
- A bike share program with racks at the station and around the city.
- An elevated pedestrian bridge at Alternate A1A.
- A meandering bike lane from the Midtown complex to Kyoto Gardens Drive to Alternate A1A to the station.
- A boardwalk or nature paths around the man-made lake next to the PGA Boulevard flyover.
- High-rise hotel.
- An elevator system connected with the flyover.
- Trolley or shuttle service connecting the station to Downtown at the Gardens, the North County Courthouse and Palm Beach State College.
- Affordable housing for police, firefighters, hospital employees and educators.
The planning council will present a work in progress at 6 p.m., Nov. 2 at City Hall, 10500 North Military Trail.
It’s estimated the commuting population of South Florida will reach 7 million people by 2040, said Kim DeLaney, the council’s director of strategic development and policy.
Palm Beach Gardens has already determined that PGA Boulevard won’t be more than six lanes, so more transportation choices are warranted, DeLaney said. Traffic that relies heavily on roads is more prone to delay, she said.
There’s been talk of extending Tri-Rail north for decades, but planners say infrastructure for the northern leg of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline has sped up the discussion.
Tri-Rail stretches from Miami International Airport and stops at 45th Street in Mangonia Park. The tracks for the Coastal Link to Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter will connect to the Florida East Coast line in West Palm Beach’s Northwood neighborhood.
More than 14,000 people ride Tri-Rail every day, DeLaney said.
She asked residents to consider millennials and empty nesters in drawing up their plans. People age 65 or older are the largest growing segment of the Palm Beach Gardens population. People in their 70s and 80s are becoming trapped in their neighborhoods when they can’t drive, DeLaney said.
Jonathan Paul, a consultant working on a mobility plan for the city, said a lot of people won’t get on a bicycle or walk to the grocery store because they’re afraid of getting hit by a car.
He’s looking at how to make roads and sidewalks more compatible for people and bicyclists, not just cars.
Palm Beach Gardens alone provides enough commuters to justify the extension of Tri-Rail farther north, DeLaney said. There are 23,000 jobs and 7,500 Palm Beach State College students in the area surrounding the station.
Some local governments buy shared electric bikes or subsidize Uber rides to get to train stations, Paul said.
BBX Capital and Stiles Corporation plan to build a hotel and medical offices next to the future train station. That development has space for extra parking in the plan, if and when the train station is built, said Natalie Crowley, the city’s planning and zoning director.
The development and redevelopment of huge swaths of property surrounding the station remains a question mark. Florida Power & Light plans roughly 1 million square feet of office space on the north side of PGA Boulevard.
Palm Beach Gardens officials haven’t approved a site plan, Crowley said.
The former Loehmann’s’ Plaza, the next-door neighbor to I-95, is slated for redevelopment, possibly into an athletic resort with a rooftop beach club, although owner Kimco Realty hasn’t submitted an application to the city.
The owners of Downtown at the Gardens, to be renamed The District at the Gardens, have said they’re planning a complete overhaul of the shopping and entertainment complex including a boutique hotel, Class A office space and an apartment tower.
No formal plans have been submitted, Crowley said.
“We can’t look at it just in a vacuum,” she said of the station. “There’s a lot of change coming in this area.”