Vibrant waterfront for hipster Lake Park? Leaders say time’s right


Empty boat slips and dated condos hardly make for a vibrant waterfront for the town of Lake Park — once dubbed “The Jewel of the Palm Beaches.”

Mayor Michael O’Rourke is hoping to recapture that past glory with a marina makeover that includes a promenade with restaurants and shops. As for those condos, how about brand new 15-story towers? All would connect seamlessly with a downtown currently undergoing a renaissance.


“You have this beautiful marina and it’s kind of underutilized,” O’Rourke said. “We are trying to get investments.”

That’s why city leaders met last week with a group of about 50 investors, bankers and brokers.

While Lake Park residents have heard ideas about redeveloping the marina for years, town leaders say now may be the time to finally make it happen.

But O’Rourke’s big dream will require big money for the small town (about 9,000 residents in 2.3 square miles) that’s tucked between North Palm Beach to the north, Riviera Beach to the south and Palm Beach Gardens to the west. Lake Park has a mix of middle- and lower-income residents and more than its share of strip malls, but its marina always has been the town’s diamond. And a makeover of the waterfront could further Lake Park’s new identity as a destination, rather than a drive-through, town leaders hope. “Lake Park has rediscovered itself so to speak,” said O’Rourke. “In the downtown area, we have a different component than the proposed waterfront property. But, we want to try to make this town grow and become really thriving.”

The town’s downtown Park Avenue area, which has seen an upgrade in recent years, has a kind of hipster feel. Artist-turned-entrepreneur-turned-local real estate investor A.J. Brockman opened Brewhouse Gallery four years ago and revitalized the former Kelsey Club, which this weekend is the center of a block party. The downtown also has an art supply store, a Vietnamese restaurant and a tattoo artist studio.

As for the plans for revitalization, town leaders envision a higher density living area (plans show building heights up to 15 stories) near the marina, then a gradual decrease in heights and architectural styles of buildings toward the residential edge to the west. Lake Park is looking to emulate West Palm Beach’s Antique Row, with thriving businesses on the ground level and housing above.

The town of North Palm Beach aims to revitalize its retail and housing along U.S. 1 — which is plagued by empty office buildings — to encourage foot traffic and bicycling.

Lake Park residents have heard pitches before about redeveloping the marina area. But town manager John D’Agostino said the dream has picked up steam in recent years.

In January, Lake Park rezoned the approximate 80 acres, which stretches from Silver Beach Road to Palmetto Drive, for mixed-use development. Then it hired Redevelopment Management Associates, a Pompano Beach-based consulting and management firm that worked to remodel parts of Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.

On Wednesday, D’Agostino, during the meeting with potential investors, said: “We are looking for partners. We want you to make our visionary idea a dream come true.”

While the town would like to see 10-story buildings near , the luscious green space overlooking the water, D’Agostino said he wants developers to have some freedom to create, not just develop.

Whatever gets developed farther inland will not be as high.

The town is asking to keep buildings at two to three stories, so they blend into the residential area. More greenery, sidewalks and lighting running from Kelsey Park into the 700 and 900 blocks of Park Avenue also is proposed to help make a smooth transition between the neighborhoods.

Town officials boast that residents and the county are on board for this renovation mission, but what they seem most excited about is finding a way to get their town back on the modern map.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for Lake Park to really establish itself and create a future for its community,” said D’Agostino.