When urban planner Jeff Speck, one of the country’s leading experts on making cities more walkable, visited West Palm Beach in 2014 to create his Walkability Plan for the city, he said that West Palm Beach is one of the nation’s cities that has benefited most from good urban planning.
This planning started with Henry Flagler and the design of West Palm Beach – not as a resort town, but as a functioning urban city. Clematis Street was the “Main Street” in a well-defined downtown and the city grew and prospered from there.
After 100 years of growth, another round of urban-planned development came into play in the 1990s with the development of CityPlace. Since then, CityPlace has come into its own with its open-air music venue, dancing fountains, shops and restaurants. Impressively, it attracts close to 8 million visitors every year.
Part of CityPlace’s vision was the development of a world-class convention center and an adjacent convention center hotel. The Palm Beach County Convention Center opened in 2004, but due to financing, politics and the economic downturn, hotel plans stalled. Finally, this year, the 400-room Hilton West Palm Beach opened next to the convention center, completing a large part of the vision for our downtown.
I stopped into the brand new Hilton within the first week of its opening. Even while the finishing touches were still being put on portions of the project, the hotel already had its first group of conference attendees enjoying the hotel and local amenities.
Talking with the hotel’s general manager John Parkinson, I was very impressed with the high level of knowledge he had in the industry, as well as how connected he was with our downtown.
AW: At its core, this is a convention center hotel. What amenities do you provide to conference goers?
JP: The Hilton West Palm Beach is the only property connected to a convention center in South Florida, so we provide a great draw for meetings and events. We offer a panel of local ambassadors that provide various immersive programs for team building, technology and special amenities to support maximum productivity during meetings and conventions.
For meeting attendees, we offer outdoor fitness boot camp classes that I lead alongside other notable instructors to the beat of music designed by the on-site music curator.
To decompress after meetings, we offer glow-in-the-dark lawn games such as bocce ball, bean bag toss and ladder golf, as well as deejay classes, city-wide scavenger hunts, ice sculpture challenges and more.
AW: What’s available here that locals can enjoy?
JP: For locals, Hilton West Palm Beach puts musical influences at the forefront by delivering a Mediterranean vibe through a partnership with famed deejay Adam Lipson. Known as the hotel’s music curator, Adam has developed an exclusive eclectic musical experience inspired by tunes that transport guests to the true sounds of today’s Sunshine State.
Our nautical-inspired bar, Galley, is a Prohibition Era-style bar that combines new-age millennial décor with a stylistic homage to old Palm Beach. The contemporary space boasts nautical inspirations and designs throughout the indoor/outdoor area. We created the space for locals to chat by the nearby fire pits and sip on specialty drinks like Hooch and our Bathtub Gin cocktail.
Other notable infusions include “The Speakeasy” cocktail with tequila-infused jalapeños, blood oranges, freshsqueezed lime juice agave and ginger beer.
For local foodies, Manor, the hotel’s signature farm-to-fork style restaurant, serves contemporary American cuisine. Manor is led by celebrated Palm Beach chef Matthew Byrne, former chef to Tiger Woods and owner/executive chef of the popular West Palm Beach restaurant, Kitchen.
AW: How has the Hilton been accepted by the downtown community?
JP: The local community has been at the forefront of our vision for Hilton West Palm Beach. We collaborated with Palm Beach County, the city of West Palm Beach and the developer, Related Companies, to conceptualize and deliver an innovative, immersive hotel experience for locals and visitors alike.
Tapping into the community, the hotel features a multitude of local inspirations from partnerships with local deejays, breweries, a custom local bourbon blend, photography, art, coffee roasting company and more. As collaborating with local businesses is a top priority, I am on the board of directors for Discover The Palm Beaches to ensure that the hotel caters to the community in addition to travelers who check in.
I’m very excited about this new phase in our downtown’s growth. I’m glad that downtowners have an exciting new place to add to our list of evening spots and I look forward to seeing all the out-of-towners who will now be staying in walking distance of CityPlace and Clematis Street.
I welcome our new guests to explore our little town, grab a SkyBike and cycle down to the waterfront, enjoy the street art, catch a show at one of our live music venues, take a sunset cruise on the Hakuna Matata, go to the theater, enjoy the Norton Museum and take full advantage of the hundreds of shops and restaurants in our beautifully planned and walkable Downtown West Palm Beach.