The HUB

Collaborators: Theresa O’Neil, Daniel Xu, Jerolim Mladinov, John Arroyo

Role: Landscape Architect / Project Lead

Status: 2016 Van Alen Institute Shore to Core Visions for a Waterfront City Design Competition Shortlisted

Location: West Palm Beach, FL

“As more and more people move to waterfront cities, designers, urban planners, and municipal leaders are responsible for redesigning cities so they support health and well-being. Many cities often focus only on current needs, but there is growing value in creating healthier spaces that adapt to shifting demographics, changing weather, and sea-level rise. Van Alen Institute and the City of West Palm Beach sought to identify these opportunities in their Shore to Core design and research competition. Building from Van Alen’s exploration of public space’s impact on well-being and resiliency, the initiative looks at West Palm Beach as a model waterfront city and asks how we can create healthier, more vibrant cities that are intelligent, flexible, and responsive. How can we recreate an urban core so its design is intelligent, flexible, and responsive to the needs of residents and visitors?”  - Van Alen Institute 

 

In preparation, we explored case studies of successful developments in Florida, organized brainstorm sessions with field experts and conducted extensive research on effective ecological planning strategies. 

 

Our proposal The HUB looks at urban development and activation with resiliency, asking the question of what is smart growth and how can the city grow sustainability with its environmental constraints. The vibrant waterfront in West Palm Beach will offer visitors not just a single destination, but a gateway to discovering the city’s identity and spirit.  A dynamic, evolving public art walk/corridor will create points of focus along the existing waterfront and in the alleys around Clematis Street, turning the waterfront into the heartbeat of the district. Visitors can park once and explore the city on foot, ending up at the Marketplace on Banyan Blvd. Where they can see the latest exhibition, event, or enjoy the view from the rooftop park.

If we had to describe the Hub in a single word? Energy!

Comprehensive Vision

Creating a comprehensive vision of how to elevate the corridor’s sense of place will require critical thinking and input from stakeholders. We envision a district that is a vibrant destination for visitors and locals, supports a variety of businesses, institutions, and cultural pursuits, connects richly to the surrounding districts and waterfront, and thrives in changing climates.


The overall vision will evolve over the course of the project with input and engagement from the people who know West Palm Beach best. Well-defined, collectively generated, and clearly described design principles will provide the day-to-day guidelines for the project, touchstones to measure the relative strengths and weaknesses of scenarios and concepts as they are developed. We propose the following design principles as examples of what we, as a team, might arrive at over the course of the project.

Social Spatial Connectivity - Weave the Community Fabric Together 
The plan proposes the creation of a central civic hub at the Banyan Marketplace with scattered outdoor gathering spaces to get people out of their cars and interacting with one another. Strong community networks enhance resilience; engaged citizens invest in their urban environments and in one another. Strong communication and wayfinding help people make the most out of events and spaces. A new plan for the study area will also strengthen physical connections to existing waterfront assets. We envision the waterfront not only as a passive, scenic place, but as a buzzing destination of its own for visitors, residents, and businesses.

Use Public Art to Create Playful and Memorable Moments 
An evolving public art corridor with interactive exhibits will create opportunities for people to meaningfully and playfully engage with their built environment. Public art will crystallize the rich identity of West Palm Beach. The built landscape will serve as a platform for creative expression; dynamic light exhibits, street theater, and outdoor film festivals are just a few examples of installations and activities to support and spotlight West Palm Beach’s creative life. Rotating art installations within the alleys around Clematis Street will help round out the street network and create public interactions with art at an up-close, intimate scale. A walk through one of the alleys will offer a sense of discovery, complexity, and uniqueness of West Palm Beach. 

Create a New Urban Destination On Banyan Boulevard
The Marketplace will become a lively hub embedded in the urban fabric in downtown West Palm Beach. More than just a place to shop, the marketplace will host rotating art exhibits and serve as an incubator space for artists, designers, startup food operations, and craftspeople. The new building will exemplify the city’s renewed commitment to public art; it will be as much of an art piece as those found on the open studio tours that happen within. It will be transparent; the activity and creation happening within the building will be visible from the street and accessible from all sides. The marketplace will culminate in a rooftop event and public space, a new center of gravity for civic life and activity.

Phasing
The project team understands that the success and popularity of any public realm project can often depend on effective implementation. A well-executed project must generate momentum with the public and create a strong identity for the spaces it creates. The proposed project will incorporate strategic phasing to the renewed waterfront connections and to the new urban landmark at the Banyan garage site. Early wins will include tactical moves at the Banyan Garage prior to demolition; outdoor movies hosted on the roof with a temporary screen and sound system will help set the project tone. Bold, impactful, but low-cost installations like pavement paint marking the future arts corridor will help test emerging themes and focus limited resources where they will make the most impact. Early phases of the project will be a lab of sorts for discovery and focus on which project elements resonate most with the community. 

How We Work
Our team represents the disciplines of urban design, planning, economics, architecture, and landscape architecture and will take a twofold approach to this project: combining technical rigor with a stakeholder informed comprehensive vision. We bring an objective outside point of view to the challenge of enhancing the public realm and activating and connecting the waterfront to West Palm Beach’s retail cores, but our point of view on the project will be informed with careful listening and cultivation of organic ideas that respond to the urban landscape and its population. We will also draw upon our deep pool of experience working on urban waterfront projects throughout the country.

 © 2023 by Wendy Yifei Wang.