Will $2.5 billion downtown redevelopment ruin or revitalize W. Palm Beach, Florida?

With $2.5 billion in construction projects lined up, West Palm Beach, Florida is growing up.

But will it grow up a beauty or a beast?

The city of 100,000 boasts a natural setting like few others in the United States, with views of a yacht-dappled lagoon, a green barrier island and an azure Atlantic beyond.

But its man-made environment, while manicured by city hall planners armed with dusty tomes of rules and regulations, has yet to produce the winsome architecture that distinguishes a bayside burg from a world-class metropolis.

That may change.

City officials, developers, an economic upswing and competition are encouraging a trend toward enhancing West Palm Beach’s skyline through more innovative design of buildings large and small.

With the great demand now, we have the opportunity to be more particular, more demanding,” says Rick Greene, head of the city’s Development Services. “Our code is pretty stringent.

The code requires, for example, that buildings engage the street, with ground floor shops or other active uses, for example, and that they don’t have blank walls.

The idea is to make the downtown more accessible and walkable.

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