After years of planning, discussions and design, the Village of Royal Palm Beach received an update from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) on the State Road 7 Corridor Study on Thursday, Feb. 16.
The presentation was given by TCRPC Urban Design Director Dana Little. The study was a multi-agency effort that included the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA), the TCRPC and Royal Palm Beach.
“It feels like I’ve known all of you for a long time. We started this pre-pandemic,” Little said. “The objective of this effort when we started was to develop a community-based vision for what ‘redevelopment’ might look like on State Road 7, your primary commercial corridor, and to identify better or future connections. You’ve got a wonderful network of sidewalks and bike lanes and streets and water courses, and you’ve been working on connectivity for years, with the help of the TPA on occasion.”
There was a focus on finding locations to improve the connectivity with specific attention to the first and last mile — often the most significant challenge when trying to use public transportation. The inability to get that first mile to transit and the last mile to a destination often deters people from using public transit at all.
The study itself is a large, encompassing document that provides great details on specific projects, while simultaneously providing a framework of recommendations for land use and zoning amendments. This detailed assessment is designed to help the village decide how to package future development plans so the best possible projects can be explored.
One project is a sidewalk to the bridge connection on Goldfinch Lane. Little pointed out while there is a sidewalk on the bridge itself, there is not one leading to the bridge.
“That’s the level of finesse that your staff wanted us to look at to complete the whole plan,” said Little, who then expanded on the concept for a pedestrian bridge over Okeechobee Blvd. to the Brass Ring Pub. “We don’t always advocate for a pedestrian bridge. It is not like the old days when they were utilitarian and ugly. In fact, they’ve become real design elements and gateway places.”
The study recommended movement of the bike lane planned on Erica Blvd. and Lux Road, at the Tuttle Royale project site, to allow for trees to be planted between the bicycle and vehicular traffic. There is also a design for a Blueway Trail Network that would allow residents to kayak from one park to another.
The plan for Pathway Park has limitations due to the power lines and their required maintenance, but the TCRPC has concepts for shade structures and other creative ways to keep the path more aesthetic and realistic for use throughout the year, even in the summer heat.
Four sites were identified and used to test designs, including the 52-acre Weldon parcel, the 23-acre Regal Cinema plaza, the 25-acre Coral Sky Plaza and the Village Shoppes at the northeast corner of Southern and SR 7. All include residential space within mixed-use social centers.
There is a consistent theme of adding vegetation and green space wherever possible. Buildings have stoops instead of deep sidewalks and linear parks in place of dunes. Drive-through buildings and gas stations were also taken into consideration in the designs.
“All we hope for is that this work benefits you. We are your regional planning council. We don’t ever go away, so just ask us,” Little said.
The council was impressed with the attention to detail and intent to keep the corridor feeling like the rest of the village. Mayor Fred Pinto invited Little to return to future planning sessions as commercial projects move forward and village capital projects are considered.
In other business:
• When reviewing the consent agenda, Vice Mayor Selena Samios requested clarification on an item regarding engineering services for the La Mancha North Neighborhood Underdrains.
“They are installing underdrains, which will be a trench that will be dug at the back of the road, the edge of the road,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said. “It will be a couple feet deep, filled with sand and a pipe to bring the water table down. That area on the north end, many months out of the year, the water literally comes out of the ground, which damages the sidewalk, the driveways and the roadway. They will be cutting the driveways back at the edge of the road and digging trenches along the road.”
Liggins noted that there is not yet a timeline, and the plan is currently in the design phase. Once the design is complete, they will move on to the bidding phase. It is planned to come out of this fiscal year’s budget. “It’s best to do [the work] in winter, when it is a little bit drier — not during the rainy season,” Liggins said.
• The council was treated to a pleasant surprise by a visit from local residents of the Royal Palm Beach Writer’s Group. They came bearing both thanks and copies of the newest edition of Spectrum, an annual publication showcasing the written work of its members.
“As this group evolved, members honed their writing craft well enough to be published. In addition, we became a cohesive family, not just a group. In the past, Royal Palm Beach assisted in the publications of our book. You would pay, we would reimburse you,” RPB Writer’s Group representative Virginia Guido said. “Because of your alliance, our group is still a strong writing group. We have even been recognized and awarded a grant by the Florida Writers Association — all because you helped kickstart us. Fortunately, these past few years, we’re not asking for money anymore. Tonight, to show our gratitude, allow me to present to you with copies of our Spectrum 2022, and also, we’d like to provide you with a copy of a book written by one of our members, Hartley Barnes.”
Councilman Jeff Hmara said he knows Barnes and has a copy of one of his books.
“We thank you for taking the time to come here tonight and acknowledge us. We really appreciate that more than you know,” Pinto said.
The RPB Writers Group meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.royalpalmbeachwriters.com.