POINT OF VIEW: West Palm Beachers should embrace Flagler changes

The new Flagler Shore Project that’s organically evolving along the waterfront deserves the support of West Palm Beach residents.

Its potential to bring family-friendly vibrancy to the downtown area seems timely, if not overdue, from my perspective. The four lanes of vehicle traffic always appeared to be frivolous and impractical, or at other times, dangerous when speeding cars would zoom through the lights. Now, the two-lane flow fits with the volume of the car traffic, and helps diminish the impulse for drivers to speed. But what Flagler Shore symbolizes to me is the adaptation of West Palm’s waterfront as a more pedestrian and bike-friendly mentality, in order to commute and meet for neighborly and human engagement, rather than, a superficial facade used as a backdrop, like in a movie.

Of course, it’s understandable that some would respond negatively to the process of change here in West Palm Beach, but I’m quite astonished by the bullying tactics that have appeared on social media, to squelch and sabotage any attempt to improve the waterfront for the greater good of the majority.

For example, what happened to the CANVAS Mural containers? As a barrier to direct new traffic patterns, they provided a creative and cost-effective means to an end. And it was so cool to have public art along the waterfront. As a photographer and artist, I believe in the power of art as a unifying and democratizing vehicle for society, especially the public art experience, because it helps initiate curiosity and conversation with one another, whether we’re strangers or family or friends.

Additionally, there seem to be pragmatic openings to improve ongoing community events, by re-designing their space and scale, in order to cohesively work with each other. For instance, there’s so much room to spread out the Antique Market along the waterfront, on Saturday mornings when the Green Market is in full swing. Perhaps adding some new vendors, or an artisan market could now be included, and even, extended hours could be discussed. All would encourage a wider customer base that would garner a more energetic business vernacular, as much as it imparts a community environment.

After all, when we view West Palm Beach from the lens of plenty, by witnessing families gathering by the waterfront on a regular basis — to bike, skate, walk, picnic or play games or whether to meet their friends, associate with new neighbors or for a new Flagler Shore activity — we have the potential to reflect the positive elements of how a community bonds for a collective benefit.

The people associated with the Flagler Shore Project are tasked with helping our city’s citizens to re-connect with our humanity, in a way, rather than continuing the petty, tribal bickering that American politics has exposed. Time and support lend themselves to growth, where prosperity can flourish. The naysayers may impulsively respond negatively, in order to indulge their inertia, but business and government leaders must demonstrate the healthy and strong spine of leadership for the next five to seven years, so that West Palm Beach’s waterfront can mature into a more welcoming and unique vibrant urban landscape, that affirms its citizens’ humanity.


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