Okeechobee Boulevard is an integral part of my daily drive, and it’s probably the same for everyone else living or working in West Palm Beach. Whether commuters enter downtown from the Western Communities or get on or off I-95, we all have to deal with this busy road. It’s by far the most hated yet most used road in the city.
One night recently as I was heading out of downtown I was stopped in traffic at Rosemary Avenue. I’m not sure what convention was in town, but hundreds of people were streaming out of the Palm Beach County Convention Center and adjacent Hilton West Palm Beach, heading to CityPlace.
In my younger days I spent a lot of time speaking at and attending technical conferences in some of the most well-known conference cities in the world: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Chicago, New York, London, San Jose, San Francisco, Miami and Oslo.
Seeing these people spill out of the convention center looking for a nice place to eat and getting ready to blow off some steam with a company credit card in their pocket, after what was no doubt hours of mind-numbing speakers, brought back those memories.
As the crowds passed the new Restoration Hardware building that sits in the median between Okeechobee and Lakeview Avenue, some chose to explore the four-story, 80,000-square-foot showroom. Some may have eaten at the rooftop restaurant which the Palm Beach Post called one of the best 15 restaurants with a view in Palm Beach County.
You wouldn’t think that a restaurant in a furniture store overlooking an eight-lane street is glamorous, but it really is spectacular, especially during sunset. To quote the Post, “To dine on the rooftop of the new, four-story Restoration Hardware ‘mansion’ on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach is to peer at the city through its grand, sparkly crown.”
I didn’t mind sitting in traffic an extra five minutes because I knew that every one of the conference-goers who were heading out for a night on the town were amazed by what they saw. The great convention center, the amazing amenities at the Hilton, the beautiful weather, having all the dining and retail options of CityPlace right across the street and the waterfront an easy 15-minute walk from there. I could see the excitement in their faces as they walked past my car.
Each Instagram story they shared on this beautiful evening showed their friends in a cold town a thousand miles away what a great time they were having. I knew that thousands of people around the world would see the pictures they were posting and would wish they could be in West Palm Beach at that moment. That made me proud. Proud of a city that is very unique.
Created in the shadow of our wealthier eastern namesake, we have developed in a way that is unlike any South Florida city. We are not a sleepy oceanside community with quaint restaurants for the tourists and we are not a just a canyon of office buildings and condos. We have found a way to grow and embrace our place as the capital of Palm Beach County, a city that businesses want to move to, all while maintaining the integrity of our downtown, beautiful neighborhoods and waterfront.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking that the fumes coming from the car in front of me are going to my head and giving me rose-colored glasses. Of course the city has issues, some of them serious. I am not trying to minimize the work ahead of us to meet the challenges of a city our size.
But next time you’re sitting in traffic or are inconvenienced by having to wait a few minutes for the Brightline train to pass before you can continue your commute, just think of the people getting off that train or walking across Okeechobee Boulevard and for the first time experiencing our beautiful city.