April 24, 2014

community portrait

Palm Beach County

» Palm Beach Gardens, 49,941. Long before his foundation’s eponymous genius grants, magnate John D. MacArthur secured thousands of acres and began Palm Beach Gardens. It is overwhelmingly white and about one-tenth Hispanic. This is a planned city: Wide roads, thought-through design, the PGA of America headquarters and residents that on average are much better educated and have higher incomes than the rest of the nation.

Palm Beach
The view from A1A in Palm Beach [Photo: Jessica Klewicki]

» Wellington, 55,010. Prince Charles and Tommy Lee Jones played polo here. Bruce Springsteen owns a home to be close to his kid’s equestrian pursuits. But aside from the sprinkling of glitter from the horse crowd, Wellington is all about basic ’burb living. Wellington is that unusual Sunshine State place whose senior population is below the national average. The municipality is mostly white, but it’s still south Florida — roughly one in five residents is foreign-born and doesn’t speak English at home.

» West Palm Beach, 103,150. The place for Henry Flagler’s “help” has helped itself with a two-decade-long, rolling reinvention of the blocks closest to its waterfront. Clematis Street was reborn as a shopping and hip destination, the public Dreyfoos School of the Arts came along, the Kravis Performing Arts Center was built, followed by the massive CityPlace mixed-use project, another rebirth of Clematis and now a major rebuild of the city waterfront with three new docks and a “Great Lawn” open space with nightly light shows. As you move farther west from the water, things fade into non-descript commercial and residential stock. The Palm Beach Mall is dead. Average income is below the national average.

West Palm Beach
Downtown West Palm Beach’s new “Great Lawn” on the Intracoastal waterfront, where nightly light shows are held. [Photo: City of West Palm Beach]

Tags: Treasure Coast

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