Big redesign for Clematis Street on the way — here’s what the changes are

Updated Jan 26, 2018
This artist’s rendering shows one look being considered for Clematis Street’s redesign this year. (Courtesy of Dover, Kohl & Partners)

By now eyes have wearied at the parade of consultants marching through West Palm Beach.

There was the walkability study, the bike master plan study, the Okeechobee Boulevard-oriented mobility study, the Gehl Studios downtown life study, the Van Alen Institute waterfront connectivity study. Mayor Jeri Muoio is an educator by training, an ideas person by nature, and by marching teams of thinkers through the city, has amassed bicycle baskets full of urban planners’ glittering day dreams.

Comes a time when action is required, though, to bring the promise of ideas to reality. That time might be soon for the 200 to 600 blocks of Clematis Street, with an initial $2 million worth of work scheduled to start in June, to reshape the look and feel of the street into a place more human, more inviting to those of us on foot, or who’d like to be.

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It’ll take the help of a consultant, though, this being West Palm Beach. Victor Dover, a South Miami-based expert in community design, hosted a city hall workshop last week to gather locals’ input. The idea is to bring the city options to help it make decisions quickly, Dover told the gathering of a few dozen residents and business people.

As he summarized it in an interview Wednesday: “This is all about action and doing something now.”

The street has had its share of redesigns and is better than in the past, in Dover’s view. But it needs more work to undo past design contortions that favored cars, he said.

The options now on the table include:

- Curb-less streets, to lend a more “pedestrian-dominated” feel and add flexibility for on-street events and dining, Dover said.

- Look for more shade trees, fewer palms. The center line for vehicles might move several feet southward, to make room to move shade trees on the north side a bit farther toward the center, so they’ll be freer to grow, spread their branches and block the sun’s glare.

- Re-configuring the street also will mean reducing the number of parking spaces, so one question to be addressed is how many, Dover said.

Using remote clickers to survey opinions, Dover asked if those in attendance would rather spread out the proposed changes over the five blocks in the initial budget burst of construction, or load all the new features into one block, for starters. Seventy percent said they preferred the concentrated approach, to see the full impact of the changes, with the other blocks addressed over time.

“The big thrust is, how to make it more pleasant for pedestrians, with more shade and calmer traffic,” Dover said.

The public was invited to register thoughts by email at clematisstreetscape@wpb.org. The City Commission is expected to make a final decision on the designs on Feb. 26.