From architectural style to streetscape furnishings, every community has its own unique identity. This is especially true for South Florida’s City of Lake Worth Beach. People are drawn to the area by its independent character, diverse population, many historic structures and distinctive residential neighborhoods. KCI, through the acquisition of Keith and Schnars, created design guidelines for the City of Lake Worth Beach and the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The thoroughfare guidelines document will assist the city and CRA in an effort to increase redevelopment while still preserving the community’s eclectic character.
Although development in Lake Worth Beach has been intermittent for the last two decades, the city was determined to attract new residents, businesses and activities while still remaining quaint, distinctive and authentic. Because most of the properties are already built-out with the necessary rights-of-way and utilities in place, the focus was on developing and redeveloping seven previously identified corridors. With an “open for business” attitude, officials wanted to easily showcase how each of the areas could be enhanced and modified to fit in with the existing sense of place already present.
Over the last five years, the city had updated its regulating plans, including their comprehensive plan and zoning code. Although the documents were intricate and detailed, there were some inconsistencies and contradictions that needed to be addressed. With a clear understanding of who they wanted to be and what they wanted to look like, the city sought to develop a clear, comprehensive visual road map to guide future developers and architects. Usually these documents are fairly wordy, resulting in back and forth negotiations between the city and the developers. The goal of the new design guidelines was to emphasize the unique features and requirements of each of the major thoroughfares through illustrative graphics. By taking away the interpretation of words, the hope was that developers would be able to visually understand the city’s vision.
Developing the new thoroughfare guidelines required research of existing regulations, zoning, land-use, maps, existing guidelines and public information. Planners also spent time in the field documenting the study areas and immersing themselves in existing conditions and culture. “We approached the project like a developer,” said project manager Heidi Siegel, AICP. “We observed the built-form and mapped out what was allowed along the corridors, and then got creative and considered what would work and look best on some of the most developable sites.”
This process allowed KCI planners to lay out designs for streets, pedestrian connections, buildings and outdoor spaces that were consistent with the Lake Worth Beach vision and direction. While it was important to include all of these specific design guidelines, the team understood and respected the challenge of disseminating this information in a simple manner within a limited budget. A customized template, which used a mix of text and illustrations, helped to break down the necessary content and allowed planners to easily input information while maintaining a consistent look throughout. Rather than having to recreate maps used in the document, urban designers added layers to already existing drawings, eliminating the need to recreate information. He also saved time and budget by not creating full 3D models. Instead, AutoCAD and SketchUp were used to capture two sides of a structure that showcased all of the essential elements. These architectural models and graphics paired with the written design standards helped to communicate a very clear picture.
Throughout the planning and documentation process, collaboration with the city and CRA was key to steering the project in the right direction and creating a final product that met all of their goals. A valuable takeaway was the importance of getting feedback early and consolidating comments from the staff. The team identified one identified spokesperson from each group to minimize back and forth comments. This helped streamline remarks and edits, resulting in an approved decision that was in line with their scope and vision.
After review by the city’s land use boards and City Commission, the document was adopted. The city and CRA have already begun to implement certain aspects of the plan, such as installing street furnishings that meet the new design styles suggested. In addition, any new development or redevelopment projects are also being asked to adhere to the requirements laid out in the document.
These thoroughfare guidelines combined with the city’s zoning requirements help to better explain the goals and objectives of the current codes. Developers can more easily gain a clear understanding of the requirements for facilitating development and redevelopment along the city’s major corridors.