Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach is a neat idea — for the fairgrounds, said retired businessman Robert Garvy. “At least they have public restrooms there,” Garvy said.
Garvey is one of a number of business leaders and residents who were sympathetic to the frustration expressed by Dennis Hammond of Sandpointe Asset Management, with offices in the Phillips Point office complex on Flagler Drive.
Recently, Hammond told the Palm Beach Post and city leaders he was dismayed by the city’s Flagler Shore project, which involve shutting down a portion of the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive to make way for chairs, bicyclists, street jugglers and graffiti-laden shipping containers.
City officials say they’re trying to broaden the waterfront’s appeal by making it a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly place. The partial road shutdown runs through March 1.
Hammond says the effort is “goofy” and anti-business.
Flagler Drive is an important north-south thoroughfare, Hammond said. He noted the area already has plenty of places to enjoy the waterfront, without necessitating the transformation of a four-lane road into a two-lane one so that people can partake in “pavement lunches on Flagler.”
Garvy, the retired chairman of money management firm, Intech, agreed wholeheartedly.
“How low can our city leaders take this town? The Flagler waterfront is beautiful as it is,” Garvy wrote Hammond in an email, copied to the Palm Beach Post. ” It’s amazing what lack of vision these people have.”
Garvy is an influential business leader who kicked off the leasing of the CityPlace Tower office building when he moved Intech to the tower’s penthouse, from a location in Palm Beach Gardens.
In an interview, Garvy said he’s making another investment in the city. He bought a unit in The Bristol, the West Palm Beach luxury condominium under construction at 1100 S. Flagler Dr. Garvey plans to move there from a single-family home on Palm Beach.
Now he’s wondering what will happen if the city’s vision of street merchants, roller-bladers and street artists remains a permanent fixture along the waterfront, an area he had contemplated strolling at night.
“The people I’ve talked to recently are appalled, just appalled, not only by the action but by the process that was followed here,” Garvy said, citing the minimal notice to the community.
He’s not alone in being bewildered by the whole venture.
“I can’t help but wonder who would create such an unsightly mess,” Michael Andersen, who works at Phillips Point, wrote in an email to city officials. “The experiment turned this stretch of road into an obstacle course of confused drivers and no new pedestrians.”
In a recent interview, West Palm Beach economic development director Christopher Roog said Flagler Shore isn’t anti-business. In fact, the business community benefits from the public space and recreational features there, Roog said.
“The waterfront is a very important place for (our residents),” Roog said, “so what can we do to make it better for everyone?”
A number of people have expressed their support for the experiment, on a Facebook page called Engage West Palm Beach.
“We drive on Flagler all the time and think it’s great!!” wrote Chris Costello Haerting.
“Flagler Shore is all about trying to better the city of West Palm Beach,” wrote Joseph Russo. “Once (in) awhile, our elected officials take a stand in defense of the new. But before many of these groundbreaking new ideas can take root and flourish, they are often knocked down for fear of change, detriment, or blight…..(While) we might not all agree on the means, we should unite behind the vision at least.”
Garvy hopes any further consideration to extending Flagler Shore will involve the residents and businesses.
The city’s website said it encourages public feedback on the new design and new activities via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.