April 20, 2014

community portrait

Palm Beach County

Mizner Park in Boca Raton
Mizner Park in Boca Raton includes offices and apartments as well as upscale shopping. [Photo: John Ricksen]

Communities

» Boca Raton, population 84,823. Famously upscale, Boca is over-whelmingly white (10% Hispanic), well-off, loaded with tech firms, financial firms and wealth managers. The city’s business profile includes a history of boiler rooms and other financial shenanigans, but Boca also is the birthplace of the PC, home to corporate headquarters, Arvida community planning, FAU, Lynn University and the Boca Raton Resort & Club. In books and TV, it’s Seinfeld’s Del Boca Vista, but it’s also thick with parks and busy youth sports leagues. The city has upgraded its downtown and has plans for a public space on its Intracoastal waterfront and a pedestrian promenade.

» Boynton Beach, 66,978. The Boynton Beach Club movie resonates in more than name. The city has experienced a boom in its Jewish population, which has quadrupled since 1987 — and is now larger than St. Louis’ Jewish population. Yet Boynton also is more than a quarter African-American and one-tenth Hispanic.

» Delray Beach, 63,789. Delray’s never had the glitz of its southern neighbor Boca. As a result, it kept a small-town downtown along Atlantic Avenue that’s now been revived through smart planning. Home to a large Haitian and African-American population, Delray is more diverse than Boca. It has received national attention for the growth of an industry centered on addiction recovery — the place where the upscale go to work out their problems and then stay. Meanwhile, Delray leaders work on more economic development.

» Jupiter, 50,275. Named, so the story goes, for the Hobe Indians — after a series of map-translation errors — Jupiter like the rest of its north county neighbors is home to a slew of retired and current athletes. The community is a mix: Migrant workers waiting for day labor, upscale housing, spring training, bioscience centered on new kid Scripps Florida, an FAU campus and FAU’s honors college. Burt Reynolds has made his home and theatrical pursuits here.

» Lake Worth, 36,173. Long a place for the modest in income, Lake Worth is at work on improving its oceanfront, including renovating the beachfront casino property. (The first casino was a milestone in Lake Worth’s development.) The city’s artistic scene has been underscored by the decision of the non-profit Palm Beach County Cultural Council to move its headquarters to Lake Worth. A disproportionately large share of Lake Worth’s population comes from, of all places, Finland. But the 1,000 Finns — six of 10 born overseas, the Census says — have been swamped by newer arrivals from Latin America. Latin Americans outnumber Finns six-to-one. More than half the city population speaks a language other than English at home.

Delray Beach
Art & Jazz on the Avenue is held six times a year on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach. [Photo: Leonard Hellerman]

» Pahokee/Belle Glade/South Bay, 27,921. The towns on Lake Okeechobee’s rim are agricultural, poor, heavily minority. Shuttered buildings speak of a more prosperous past. High school football provides about the only uplift. Unlike other cities in the county, this is the place where NFL players come from, not retire to. Unemployment levels are stunningly high — an estimated 27% in Belle Glade to 48% in tiny Canal Point.

» Palm Beach, 9,650. Almost from its founding by Henry Flagler, the mansion-dotted town of Palm Beach has been a byword for luxury. The residents of the island, the state’s easternmost town, tend to be older — about half are over 65 — and wealthy, with a per capita income of well over $100,000. The population is sprinkled with celebrities, and its philanthropic and cultural inclinations are well documented.

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