West Palm Beach’s Flagler Shore experiment called anti-business


On a top floor of West Palm Beach’s Phillips Point office tower, the offices are plush and the water views divine.

But down on the street below, cones now block off the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive, baffling Dennis Hammond, chief executive of SandPointe Asset Management, which leases the penthouse office.

On Oct. 7, the city blocked off the eastern lanes going north on Flagler Drive, from Banyan Boulevard on the north to Lakeview Avenue on the south, for a project known as Flagler Shore. The street blockage ends March 1, when the Palm Beach International Boat Show takes over the waterfront.

City leaders say Flagler Shore is an experiment to attract more people to the waterfront, where they can bicycle, walk or just linger in a space free of cars. But some businesses leaders aren’t on board with the idea.

“As a business owner and employer in West Palm Beach, this decision could not be more inconvenient or frustrating,” Hammond recently wrote in a letter to city officials.

“There is plenty of green space along that stretch of roadway at present, including the park to the west of the roadway,” he wrote. “Why ‘reclaim’ more by robbing motorists of half of their traffic lanes?”

In an interview, Hammond said while the city may wish to turn Flagler Drive into a destination, the street is, in fact, a thoroughfare. It links the east side of the city between the Flagler Memorial Bridge and Royal Park Bridge, which in turn link the mainland to Palm Beach.

Having just suffered through months of traffic tie-ups over the Flagler Bridge redo, to now eliminate the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive is “goofy” as well as anti-business, Hammond said.

Hammond said his firm relies on Flagler Drive and other roads to allow staff and clients to travel to its offices. SandPointe employs 22 people at its 15,000-square-foot headquarters on the 18th floor of the west tower of Phillips Point.

Christopher Roog, West Palm Beach’s economic development director, said the experiment is far from unfriendly to business. “I would counter that these same folks also value the great public space and the recreational aspects that we provide,” Roog said. “The waterfront is a very important place for (our residents), so what can we do to make it better for everyone?”

But Hammond is not persuaded, especially since the city has branded this portion of the city the Flagler Financial District in a bid to attract more financial firms to the area.

On Oct. 5, Hammond did his part to boost the effort.

His firm hosted a seasonal kickoff event for the Palm Beach Hedge Fund Association , a growing group of hedge funds and private equity firms opening offices in the area. More than 100 people attended the event, despite the evening’s inclement weather.

West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board specifically have targeted hedge funds and private equity firms for recruitment.

Mayor Jeri Muoio even backed a failed bid by the Related Cos. of New York to win city commission approval for a new office building, One Flagler. The 25-story waterview building, proposed for church-owned land at Okeechobee Boulevard and Flagler Drive, would have catered to hedge funds and private equity firms by offering luxury finishes, concierge building services and soaring water views, like those found at SandPointe’s offices.

Hammond said when the Palm Beach hedge fund event ended Oct. 5, departing guests were confronted with street cones, including cones blocking a left turn going north onto Flagler Drive from behind Phillips Point. Hammond added that if the city wants to encourage people to have “pavement lunches on Flagler,” this effort should be tried during weekends, when fewer people work.

“West Palm Beach is not a retirement center,” Hammond said. “A lot of us try to carry on normal business.”

But Roog said setting up and taking down the cones every week would be too costly.

Of course, all bets are off when President Donald Trump starts his expected regular weekend trips to Palm Beach, where he has a part-time home and private club. Mar-a-Lago is near the Southern Boulevard Bridge, the most southern bridge to the island, but traffic often is rerouted to the middle Royal Park bridge when Trump is in town.

Roog is optimistic that Flagler Shore will work out, especially now that the Flagler Bridge is open: “If I had to guess, I’d say the traffic will be able to handle it just fine,” Roog said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in

‘Magic: The Gathering Arena’ may finally get game right for video games
‘Magic: The Gathering Arena’ may finally get game right for video games

Despite pioneering the trading card game on paper, Wizards of the Coast has had a rough go of it in the digital space. “Magic: The Gathering Online” hasn’t had wild success mainly because of stability issues and accessibility. “Magic Duels” was better but it didn’t seem to take full advantage of the medium or capture...
These Android phones have security defects out of the box
These Android phones have security defects out of the box

At least 25 Android smartphone models — 11 of which are sold by major U.S. carriers — carry vulnerabilities out of the box, making them easy prey for hackers, according to a new study from security researchers. Researchers from the firm Kryptowire found 38 vulnerabilities in 25 Android phones, according to Wired. They range from being able...
T-Mobile gets rid of robot system for customer service calls
T-Mobile gets rid of robot system for customer service calls

SEATTLE — T-Mobile is getting rid of that robotic voice on its customer service lines, the company announced recently. The telecom said it would connect users straight to a team of customer representatives, unique to their own city, when they call customer service. “ ‘Your call is important to us’ are the six emptiest words...
CNET: The best gadgets for dorm or apartment for less than $50
CNET: The best gadgets for dorm or apartment for less than $50

If you have a child, a relative or maybe even a friend away at school for the first time, their adjustment to a new living situation might be smoothed by a bit of technology, and you don’t need to break the bank to accomplish that. Here are four of CNET’s favorite gadgets for the dorm or apartment that can be had for less than $50. &mdash...
How to get data from one device to another

Q: I copied some photos from my camera’s memory card to a newly created folder on my two-year-old Surface Pro tablet PC, using a USB card reader. I could see the photos after I transferred them, but when I restarted the PC the photos were gone. I haven’t gotten any “low memory” warnings. What’s wrong? — Angie LaMere...
More Stories