WPB hot topics discussed at Philosophers Club


By AARON WORMUSaaron_bio_pic
Exclusive to Palms West Monthly
Posted July 3, 2017

Subculture Coffee, located on the 500 block of Clematis Street, recently expanded into the empty space next door. The new space is called The Annex and it’s designed to look like a quaint private library.

There are tables by the window, a library of antiquarian books line the wall and a cafeteria counter that serves a fresh menu of salads, sandwiches and breakfast from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Inside, there’s a plaque just to the right of the entrance that designates a table for the “Downtown Philosophers Club at Subculture Coffee.” The club was started by Rick Gonzales, a local architect noted for his dedication to historic preservation. The work of his firm – REG Architects – ranges from the restoration of the historic 1916 Palm Beach Courthouse to work on Mar-a-Lago to the redevelopment of the Carefree Theatre on S. Dixie Highway.

There’s no barrier to membership in the Downtown Philosophers Club. If you’re interested in meeting up with locals and discussing local issues, you’re welcome. Show up and you’re in.

The club meets Fridays between 8 and 9 a.m. Some members stay longer, some just check in for a few minutes before heading off to work.

True to its name, the discussions do not have a structure, but are largely freewheeling, comprising the interests of those who attend.

Recently, I was interested in hearing what members thought about the Okeechobee Corridor Public Meeting and Charrette, which took place June 12-15.

This meeting was part of the ongoing West Palm Beach Mobility Study that the city is conducting, and this 4-day event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center was focused on finding solutions for the Okeechobee Corridor.

I attended the first day of the event, where an estimated 300 area residents, business owners and experts got together to brainstorm.

I wasn’t able to attend the last three days, so I was looking forward to getting an update from the Philosophers.

On this particular Friday morning, the first two members to show up at The Annex were Juan Orellana, general manager of the bike-sharing program SkyBike, and Jim Kovalsky, president of the Florida East Coast Railway Society.

The conversation moved quickly from parking on Clematis to the benefits of using SkyBike for short commutes around town. We discussed the poor state of public transportation in West Palm Beach and the county as a whole.

As more members joined in, many bringing their breakfast with them, the topics shifted to other passions.

Bill Newgent, a long-time resident of the Flamingo Park and Grandview Heights neighborhoods who recently started The City Voice Podcast, also joined in and got us back on the topic of Okeechobee Boulevard.

“There was a lot of discussion about minimizing traffic on Okeechobee by bringing in public transport,” says Newgent. “There was even an idea to help Okeechobee traffic flow better by burying the TriRail train tracks at Okeechobee and Tamarind.”

Rick Gonzales chimed in. “We made this proposal back when Cityplace was being designed,” says Gonzales. “We discussed the cost that a massive undertaking like that would incur.”

Kovalsky then gave his opinion on the logistics behind burying the very long freight trains that run down the CSX tracks.

This range of experience is one of the things I appreciate about the Downtown Philosophers Club. You can talk to experts about the issues that the city faces and they’ll give you answers based on their general studies.

The 30 minutes I had set aside to catch up with the Philosophers was now up, so as is our tradition, we took a picture for Facebook and I headed off to work.

If you’re interested in joining the Downtown Philosophers Club, just come on down to Subculture Coffee any Friday morning. We’ll be there and we’ll be happy to have you.

Pictured above: A group of West Palm Beach residents, known as the Philosophers Club, gather on a recent Friday morning at Subculture Coffee.  

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