By AARON WORMUS
Palms West Monthly
Posted Jan. 3, 2020
The new year is upon us and Rosemary Square – the outdoor shopping/entertainment area formerly known as Cityplace – has something to party about.
After two years of planning, construction and road closures, the square reopened Nov. 30. There was music, snow fell from the trees, people were dining outside at Il Billagio and the square was packed with children and families waiting for the big event – the lighting of the brand new Wishing Tree.
I walked up to the second level of Rosemary Square to watch the festivities with friends and have a drink at one of the oldest businesses there – City Cellar. Sitting at my favorite spot by the outside bar, I could see how much has changed.
Gone is the bandshell. In its place is a grassy lawn, two very mature trees and many coconut palms. That night, the band was set up on a movable stage near Rosemary Avenue.
The old fountain has been replaced with an artistic installation by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, titled “Water Pavilion: West Palm.” The new fountain emerges up from the square with water jets creating a “lyrical and engaging” water feature that kids can run through and play in. Since there was live music that night, the fountain was turned off and hundreds of people stood and danced in its place, enjoying the funky tunes coming from Mr. Trombone and his band.
South Rosemary Avenue’s redesign was completed and opened this past April. Now, the rest of Rosemary and the adjoining streets have completed their transformation. The curbless design of the street blends the avenue into the square. During events like this, vehicular traffic is diverted, the square is expanded and people are everywhere.
This is the beauty of the flexible space that the square’s new design embraces. One square, many different uses.
Art and culture was an intentional focus in the square’s redesign, joining with the nearby newly renovated Norton Museum of Art and the Kravis Center to add to the legacy of West Palm Beach as an arts-rich community
“By infusing art and culture into our public spaces, Related Companies is creating memorable shared experiences for guests, while enhancing the quality of life for residents and contributing to the overall economic growth of downtown West Palm Beach,” said Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice-president of Related Companies at the square’s grand re-opening.
The Wishing Tree is a unique work of art that anchors the square. The concept was created by San Francisco-based group Symmetry Labs and debuted at Burning Man in 2017. The tree, with 100,000 individually addressable full-color-spectrum LED lights, lit up the desert and stole the show.
Our Wishing Tree is styled as a beautiful 32-foot-tall Banyan tree and is a permanent art piece that can be viewed from both Rosemary Avenue and Hibiscus Street. After a few words by The Related Companies’ Rajegowda, Mayor Keith James counted down to the grand lighting of the tree.
We had great seats to see it all from City Cellar as the switch was flipped and swaths of colorful lights lit the square while the tree’s leaves pulsated and danced to the music being played. It was magical.
Todd Herbst, co-owner of Big Time Restaurant Group, opened up City Cellar on Christmas Eve 1999 to a brand new Cityplace. Now 20 years later, business is still going strong. I asked him what was different from that first day to today.
“So much has changed!” Herbst exclaimed. “Both Rosemary Square itself and City Cellar have evolved in so many ways. Everything from the interior and exterior design, menu items to the new tenant mix throughout the square.
“We’ve succeeded because of our ability to evolve over the last 20 years and to stay current with what and how people like to dine.”
What is Herbst most excited about in the new design?
“The new shade trees along Rosemary Avenue and the new fountain. Both are designed to help keep people cool during our hot Florida summer days,” he said.
Things have been slow for Rosemary Square over the last year, but expect an exciting rush as businesses get back into gear. The movie theatre has been renovated, the latest technology has been built into the square’s parking lots, new-concept restaurants are opening up and there’s a full program of events in the square for every day of the week.
For everyone who swears they’ll never use the name Rosemary Square, whether tomorrow or in the next 20 years, one day soon everyone will have forgotten about Cityplace and will call it Rosemary Square. So you might as well get with the program now. Rosemary Square is here to stay.
See you there.
Pictured above: Families enjoy the newly-installed fountains at Rosemary Square in downtown West Palm Beach over the holidays. Remodeled and rebranded, the outdoor shopping/entertainment area formerly known as Cityplace also features a Wishing Tree, which is seen behind the fountains. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly