Urban Living: Downtown West Palm Life
Image Courtesy of Phillip Pessar
Palm Beach County is rich in world-class shopping, incredible restaurants, unique art galleries and cultural offerings, museums with intriguing collections, and West Palm Beach is the hub. With an exciting downtown that offers the benefits of a much larger city, this growing economic center is drawing not only visitors from around the world, but residents, too. With amenities that cater to the wealthy residents of Palm Beach, this small city offers big cultural advantages.
Living in downtown West Palm Beach provides convenient access to the rest of the city. With so much happening inside the central area, there is little reason to leave. West Palm Beach is one of the oldest cities in South Florida and the historic areas have a distinctive tropical ambiance, combining the Spanish Colonial Revival influence of renowned 1920s architect Addison Mizner with the updated beauty of sleek contemporary buildings. The distinctive skyline is much photographed from the water, and the city is instantly recognizable from the air as you approach for landing at the Palm Beach International Airport.
From bohemian and artistic to trendy and modern, from urban to upscale, West Palm Beach gives residents much more than balmy tropical weather. Its citizens have created a city where people can walk, ride bikes or push baby strollers, where they can feel safe on the streets day or night, and everyone can explore a longer list of things to do than anyone could ever imagine.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT
The heart of West Palm Beach is the Arts & Entertainment District, with every cultural amenity one would expect in a major urban area, including the Palm Beach Opera, Palm Beach Pops, Ballet Florida, the Symphony, world-class museums such as the Norton Museum of Art and the Flagler Museum, an active Historical Society, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, and much more.
CityPlace is at the geographic center of urban West Palm Beach. The European style plaza and walkways are lined with shops and restaurants, and live entertainment fills the balmy air with music all evening every Friday and Saturday night. Clematis Street is the place to go for food and just a short walk will bring you within range of nearly every cuisine in the world, including local landmarks as Roxy’s Pub, where more than 60 beers are available on draft, or the latest trend, Polynesian kava drinks at the Te Mana Kava Bar. Or head to the intersection of Dixie Highway and Forest Hill Boulevard to find Havana, likely the best Cuban restaurant in Florida.kava drinks at the Te Mana Kava Bar. Or head to the intersection of Dixie Highway and Forest Hill Boulevard to find Havana, likely the best Cuban restaurant in Florida.
Life in West Palm Beach is all about the water, and the city has amenities that no other place can offer. With the Intracoastal and Atlantic Ocean to the east and Clear Lake and Magnolia Lake to the west, this is a water activities paradise. Head down to the Waterfront to rent a kayak or Jet Ski, take a snorkeling cruise, or go for a sunset sail on a 50’ catamaran. While you’re at the Waterfront, on Saturdays from October through May you can walk down to the Waterfront for the West Palm Beach Green Market, a pet-friendly event where you can buy farm fresh produce or artisanal prepared foods.
In March the Palm Beach International Boat Show draws thousands of boats from around the world. The Waterfront is also the home of SunFest, Florida’s largest waterfront Music and Arts festival, attracting more than 275,000 visitors every April for a five-day celebration of sun, music, food and fine arts. At Halloween, MoonFest will close out the summer season with a costumed street party.
WHO'S MOVING TO WEST PALM BEACH?
While most people think of Florida as idea for retirees, that concept is long outdated. West Palm Beach is inhabited by a young and vibrant community, with the median age of 38, 46 percent of the population is age 25-64 and a full 78 percent are over the age of 18. Within the city itself the population is a shade under 100,000 – small enough to be cozy, and large enough to provide the diversity and variety loved by urban dwellers. The median household income is $69,500.
As a vibrant and growing waterfront city, West Palm Beach is highly attractive to businesses. Nearly 350,000 people live within a 15 minute drive of downtown, offering a large workforce and a strong consumer market that is an ideal climate for starting a business, or joining a thriving company.
While South Florida’s major roadways can move slowly during rush hour traffic, Florida’s Tri-Rail commuter train makes downtown easily accessible from surrounding communities. The major thoroughfares like I-95 and the Florida Turnpike connect West Palm Beach to other major cities like Miami and Orlando in only a few hours’ drive.
The city offers a wide range of housing options, from historic Art Deco style freestanding homes nestled throughout the area to luxury high-rise condominium living and beautiful new apartment buildings. It’s no wonder that a population of young and upcoming businesspeople and families is gravitating downtown. For those with fur families, West Palm Beach promotes itself as having a pet-friendly downtown.
WHERE TO LIVE?
Geographically West Palm Beach is bounded on both east and west by water, so the central part of the city has a long narrow profile. South of downtown, Flamingo Park is an artistic and historic neighborhood of Deco homes and stucco Mission style bungalows built in the 1920s. Once neglected, this neighborhood has become revitalized and fashionable. CityPlace, mentioned above, is West Palm Beach’s highly successful New Urbanism project, incorporating hundreds of townhouses, rental apartments and studio lofts smack in the center of town. Also downtown, the Prado offers 8 floors and 310 units in the heart of the city center, and One City Plaza is one of the newer luxury high-rises that are lighting up the skyline. Students coming to Palm Beach Atlantic University will want to investigate the Mango Promenade area.
Across the Intracoastal Waterway lies Palm Beach itself. For all the fame of its wealth and beauty, this small town on the barrier island has a population of only 10,000 people, with a median age of 67, who are generally highly affluent.
The town’s Worth Avenue is one of the most iconic streets in the United States, with upscale shopping in a beautiful tropical setting. Perhaps the most famous Worth Avenue shop was that of Lilly Pulitzer, whose comfortable, brightly colored, tropical cotton shifts came to epitomize ‘60s-era Florida and the ease of affluent life in the tropics. Boasting five star hotels like the Breakers and a town that can be walked entirely in an hour, rubbing elbows with the (possibly) wealthy at a Palm Beach lounge is a unique Florida experience that cannot be missed.
KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY
While many urban dwellers can forgo car ownership, that is not practical in Florida, where wide tracts of available land are spread out horizontally. Another factor is the climate; it simply is not practical to walk across town in the August heat and humidity.
Many first time visitors to Florida experience it during the balmy winter months, but summers bring a monsoon season characterized by intense heat and convective thunderstorms that typically spring up in the afternoons and bring deluges of rain. Because Florida is flat, lightning is especially dangerous.
Hurricane season runs from May through November, with the most active months being August, September and October. Homeowners will have to purchase windstorm insurance, and possibly flood insurance, as part of their mortgage requirements. It’s never a matter of if a hurricane will hit Florida, but when, where and how hard. Excellent guidebooks are available both online and in print, and will explain hurricane preparation in detail.
Whether you live in an urban or rural location, wildlife is part of everyday life in Florida. Any single body of fresh water may harbor an alligator, so caution is always advisable – they are much faster than they look!
West Palm Beach is arguably the best urban lifestyle location in Florida. With the amenities of a much larger city, a beautiful waterfront, a diverse population and less crowding, and a growing economy and business core, downtown West Palm Beach is a great choice for an exciting place to live.
URBAN LIVING RESOURCES:
City of West Palm Beach
Downtown & Clematis Street
Downtown Development Authority
Downtown Neighborhood Association
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