West Palm Beach officials are looking at ways to make it easier for pedestrians to cross Okeechobee Boulevard at the edge of CityPlace.
And if they’re successful, that could give a major boost to real estate in the area, local professionals say.
Commercial space in CityPlace could particularly see a benefit. “It would give owners of real estate more options for the use of their property,” William R. Cummings, a real estate broker for Century 21 told The Real Deal. “They could choose among different types of tenants, because there would be more pedestrians, more feet on the ground.”
Okeechobee Boulevard now includes eight lanes, with a 74-foot wide median and a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit that drivers often fail to observe. That makes any pedestrian crossing a bit of an adventure, especially considering that green lights are shorter for north-south traffic.
“Put the road on a diet,” architect Rick Gonzalez, president of REG Architects, told TRD. “Narrow the lanes, which should slow traffic down. There will be more of an opportunity for green space, crosswalks will be shorter and pedestrians will have a better chance for survival.” Shelters in the median also would be helpful, he said.
Green lights should last longer for pedestrians too, Cummings said. “Cars don’t increase the value of real estate, people do.”
Okeechobee should be turned into a gateway boulevard like Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Gonzalez said. “Now it’s run and gun, with drivers acting like they’re already on I-95,” which has an exit just west of CityPlace on Okeechobee.
There is plenty of opportunity for foot traffic between CityPlace, whose southern border is located on the north side of Okeechobee, and the south side of the street. The Palm Beach County Convention Center sits on the south side, and a 403-room Hilton Hotel, developed by Related, is expected to open next to it early next year. CityPlace South Tower, a 420-unit luxury condo building, is also on the south side.
Gonzalez and Cummings noted that the first floor of this building, designated for retail, has been vacant since it opened in 2008. “That would be the first new commercial space to be leased,” if Okeechobee is improved, Cummings said.
He noted that few CityPlace restaurants have thrived on the north side of Okeechobee. National-brand retailers and restaurants have failed, even inside the shops.
“More people [as a result of improved pedestrian accessibility to CityPlace] makes it possible for those retailers and restaurants to do well,” Cummings said.