Okeechobee Business District Gets Approval
The West Palm Beach commission gave final approval to Okeechobee Business district to attract and encourage Class A office construction. After 18 months of public hearings, debate, study and a September vote supposedly killing the proposal, last night the city commission gave its final approval to create the Okeechobee Business District. The commission voted unanimously to designate the busy section of Okeechobee Boulevard from City Place to Flagler Drive as a district with rules that encourage office and hotel construction. In previous meetings the commissioners cited the change’s potential to spur construction, spawn high-paying jobs and stimulate economic opportunity to attract Millennials and keep the city’s sons and daughters from moving elsewhere to pursue careers
Despite urging from the Florida Department of Transportation, Palm Beach and Palm Beach County, that the city wait for a state study to evaluate the zoning change’s potential traffic impact, the commission went forward at Mayor Jeri Muoio’s urging, arguing that the plan — by limiting development on the downtown Tent Site — would actually reduce what could be built in that area under current rules.
Development Services Director Rick Greene told commissioners that downtown traffic is not as bad as many people think, with rush hour trips from I-95 to Flagler drive taking seven-and-a-half minutes, well within tolerable standards for a downtown, in his view. The city hall auditorium was barely half-full, likely reflecting opponents’ view that after so many months of debate, commissioners’ minds were made up. New developments within the district would have to abide by rules encouraging mass transit and alternative forms of transportation, but opponents doubted the proposed alternatives to automobiles, like bicycling or walking, would be a substantive help.
The mayor argued that traffic is a part of city life and said the downtown has such a shortage of Class A office space that it has been hard to recruit companies and attract high-paying jobs. Time will tell what type of impact this bold move will have on the city and attracting new businesses.
This content was sourced from the following article in the Palm Beach Post.