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Van Alen Institute and the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency are launching Shore to Core, a design competition and a research competition that uses West Palm Beach as a model to reimagine our waterfront cities and better understand individuals’ relationships to the built environment.

The design competition seeks two multidisciplinary design teams to envision the future of waterfront cities. The winning design team will work with West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency to develop the first phase of their proposal in West Palm Beach.  The research competition seeks a research team to identify ways that the urban environment affects our minds and bodies. The winning research proposal will be developed into a pilot research study in West Palm Beach.

Shore to Core asks: How can we recreate an urban core so its design is intelligent, flexible, and responsive to the needs of residents and visitors? Many aspects of our lives are shaped by the environments in which we spend our time, and by developing a better understanding of these relationships, we can use design to improve wellbeing in cities.

West Palm Beach is a young city that is growing quickly. Many associate this region with a large retirement community, but there is also a growing population of people in their 20s and 30s, as well as large Black and Hispanic populations. The city’s downtown and 10-mile waterfront present an opportunity to develop new amenities that reflect the city’s emerging populations, and design is a crucial tool for tackling these evolving needs. As the city changes, we want to create a framework for future development and a means to measure how these physical transformations are affecting the wellbeing of West Palm Beach’s residents and visitors.


August 21, 2016
Submission deadline

September 2016
Team informed

October 2016
Competition Launch Event

November 2016

January 2017
Conduct Research Pilot (research team only)

February 2017
Final Deliverables and Exhibition

March 2017
Exhibition and Final Presentation

April 2017
Announce Winner


Raphael Clemente
Executive Director, Downtown West Palm Beach

Colin Ellard
Associate Professor, University of Waterloo – Department of Psychology

Patrick Franklin
President and CEO, Urban League of Palm Beach County

David van der Leer
Executive Director, Van Alen Institute

Jeri Muoio
Mayor, City of West Palm Beach

Penni Redford
Sustainability Manager, City of West Palm Beach

Terrence Riley
Principal, K/R

Jon Ward
Executive Director, West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency

Lilly Weinberg
Director of Community Foundations, Knight Foundation

Claire Weisz
Founding Principal, WXY Studio

Nancy Wells
Professor, Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Design and Environmental Analysis Department


A public exhibition of the design and research team proposals are being showcased in West Palm Beach. Residents and visitors can see the ideas presented, and provide feedback. The feedback will be shared with the competition jury to inform their decision on a winning design team.

Where: Clematis Street and South Dixie Highway

When: March 14- 30.


Outside Meyer Amphitheater by Narcissus Street and Evernia Street, two young boys find ways to make the built environment more interactive and engaging.
Local residents meet, shop, and relax - the urban core serves as a place for productivity, errands, and leisure.
Local schoolchildren on a field trip to the local library, while the others rest, mingle, and keep cool under the shade of palm trees.
The West Palm Beach train station is very active during rush hour, but throughout the day, there is ample space to wait for the train in the shade.
West Palm Beach train station is on South Tamarind Avenue and Clematis Street. The Amtrak station connects residents from outlying neighborhoods to the urban core.
North Flagler Drive rests just along the water and is used by many as a scenic walkway and a jogging path.
ER Bradley’s parking lot on Datura Street between Flagler Avenue and Narcissus Avenue supports local surf businesses.
The local farmers market takes place every Saturday on the Great Lawn and always brings in a large crowd. The morning market draws diverse groups and is a place for families to explore together.
A bird’s-eye view of West Palm Beach shows the city’s urban core, including South Olive Street and Clematis Street.

About the Design Competition

Shore to Core is a design competition that looks to create a healthier and more resilient  downtown and waterfront in West Palm Beach. The competition asks: How can we reimagine our downtowns to make them more engaging and vibrant? How can cities collect information that informs future adaptation and growth? How can we facilitate social interaction among diverse groups? How can the built environment improve residents’ physical health, mental health, and social capital? Over 40 firms submitted proposals, Ecosistema Urbano and Perkins + Will were selected as our finalist teams.

The teams were asked to develop flexible solutions that are adaptive to changing demographics and economies, changes in sea level, and that can facilitate improved civic wellbeing. The teams spent the last four months developing their proposals, you can find their full proposals in the sections below.

Key Objectives

The teams’ strategies for physical interventions, programs, and other initiatives should aim to achieve the following:

The Socially Smart City

  • Reimagine how we think about, perceive, interact with, share, and develop information within the city’s downtown and waterfront
  • Create a new framework for the urban core that is flexible and adaptive to changing populations, economies, and sea-levels
  • Develop an innovative city that supports wellbeing at an individual and community level

Activation, Economic Development, Resiliency and

  • Create a socially and economically vibrant waterfront district, that not only creates a sense of place and improves public safety but activates space in unique and unforeseen ways
  • Develop designs that can adapt as sea levels rise to ensure the sustainability of the vibrant downtown and waterfront district
  • Create connections to the surrounding neighborhoods and populations and develop wayfinding systems within the urban core

Key nodes

  • Create a conceptual framework and designs to redevelop or activate key points along or approaching the water
  • Transform the underutilized Banyan Garage into an icon for the city. The site should be a social condenser and act as a symbol of the city and its emerging presence as an economically vibrant waterfront city
  • Activate and program the alleyways on north and south of the 200 Block of Clematis Street between Narcissus Avenue and Olive Avenue

Finalist 1: Perkins + Will

Adapt to Thrive

In the coming decades, cities will face many inevitable social, economic and environmental changes. Populations will grow or shrink, communities will be pulled apart or pushed together, and economies will respond. Coastal cities, like West Palm Beach are especially vulnerable. The likely impacts of climate change – frequent powerful storms and sea level rise – will be felt by coastal cities first. Change is a certainty of the future. How our cities navigate change, however, is not certain.

West Palm Beach will define what it means to be a model coastal city by embracing change with hope and ambition, making smart investments that enhance the quality of people’s lives. The formula for progress is to: 1) think differently about infrastructure, 2) respond incrementally with investment, and 3) dream big about the city you want to live in.

The Perkins + Will proposal transforms West Palm Beach’s waterfront into a dynamic social and environmental space, rethinks the city’s streets and alleys as destinations in their own right – not just conduits for cars – and envisions mundane architecture, like parking infrastructures, as opportunities to create community.

To view Perkins + Will’s full proposal click here.

Share your feedback with us! Contact

Perkins+Will Team: Cesar Garcia-Pons, Associate Principal and Senior Designer; Cassie Branum, Senior Associate and Senior Urban Designer; Janice Barnes, Principal and Global Resiliency Director; Gerry Tierney, Associate Principal; W. Thomas Lavash, Managing Principal, WTL+a

Finalist 2: Ecosistema Urbano

A Lively and Inclusive Downtown with a New Iconic Waterscape Experience

Ecosistema Urbano imagines the future of West Palm Beach as a dynamic and inclusive downtown. It will provide access to a new urban waterscape, enhancing the city’s connection to the lagoon and all of its infinite possibilities of urban leisure and enjoyment.

The proposal is designed to foster a lively city in which the waterfront plays a key role in West Palm Beach’s most representative space. The new activities and public spaces that enhance the urban experience and multiply the possibilities of interaction with water. The intervention takes into consideration the needs of youth and seniors alike in order to make a positive impact on the city as a whole and create a healthier living environment for all of West Palm Beach’s residents and visitors.

The ecological and resilient design allows people to enjoy a more comfortable environment all year round: by coordinating natural elements and bioclimatic devices, each public space will be characterized by a specific micro-climate matched to the different activities that will take place there. This also presents an opportunity to users to reconnect to nature and to the uniqueness of Lake Worth Lagoon. The climatic comfort and range of activities will foster social interaction, making the downtown more active and appealing all year round.

To view Ecosistema Urbano’s full report click here.

Share your feedback with us! Contact

Ecosistema Urbano Team: Belinda Tato, Founder and Principal; Jose Luis Vallejo, Founder and Principal; Luisa Zancada, Architect and Urban Designer; Jorge Toledo Garcia, Architect; Antonella Marlene Milano, Architect and Urban Strategist; Marco Rizzetto, Architect and Urban Designer; Carlos León, Architect and Urban Designer; Andrés Walliser, Sociologist; Constantino Hurtado, Architect and Civil Engineer

Research Competition

About the Research Competition

Shore to Core invites a research team to develop a framework to identify, measure, and analyze relationships between the design of the built environment and individuals’ wellbeing. Each person is affected by his or her environment in a variety of ways, and these effects can be studied at a range of scales. Insights from the social sciences, medicine, neuroscience, and other fields have emerged that allow us to deepen our knowledge of these relationships. How can we leverage these opportunities and tools to better understand how discrete elements of the built environment are affecting us? Is the way that we currently design cities beneficial for the people living in them? How can we use this information to inform future urban development?

The research team should focus on either physical health, mental health, social capital, or the clearly defined interaction between these things. The research team should develop a proposal for measuring the effects of the built environment using a predefined set of indicators that act as a framework for future studies.


Metrics: Wellbeing and Human Senses

  • How can we measure how distinct elements of the built environment affect wellbeing?
  • How can we measure how the built environment affects physical health, whether we have high-blood pressure, healthy lungs, or weight?
  • How can we measure how the built environment affects mental health, such as our levels of satisfaction or anxiety?
  • How can we measure how the built environment affects social capital, such as our relationship to others or stewardship of space?
  • How can we identify relationships between our senses and specific elements of the built environment? For example – the color or massing of a structure, or the width of a street.
  • How will you engage the study participants and/or residents of West Palm Beach?

Winner: Happier by Design


West Palm Beach is facing challenges of rapid growth, socioeconomic inequality, and environmental discomfort. Urban design can be part of the solution. Great places have the power to positively influence human feelings and behavior. Through tactile design intervention, West Palm Beach can nurture healthier, happier, and more resilient communities.

The Happier by design project will provide robust evidence to guide transformative interventions. It will combine tools from environmental psychology and spatial analytics with community engagement to test how key sites influence individuals’ bodies, behaviors, and emotions. Through this research program, we will identify successful interventions to improve individual and civic wellbeing.

Team: Charles Montgomery, Principal, Happy City Lab; Jennifer Roe, Director, the Center for Design and Health at University of Virginia; Sherryl Muriente, Project Director, Street Plans Collaborative; Anthony Garcia, Project Director, Street Plans Collaborative; Anna Rose, Director, Space Syntax; Houssam Elokda, Researcher, Happy City Lab; Dana Wall, Research Assistant, Street Plans Collaborative; Jacob Izenberg, Researcher, Street Plans Collaborative

This new structure, the Alexander A. Kolter is one of many new developments in West Palm Beach. This structure is being developed between Fern Street and Evernia Street on South Olive Avenue.
Dominated by low-lying structures, West Palm Beach has maintained a good balance between public open space and infrastructure. While residents and visitors enjoy this balance, there is opportunity to use these open spaces to unite diverse communities.
West Palm Beach train station is on South Tamarind Avenue and Clematis Street. The Amtrak station connects residents from outlying neighborhoods to the urban core.
At the corner of Corner of Narcissus Street and Banyan Street, residents wait to shop at the West Palm Beach Green Market.
This mural was done by a local artist, Case, for the Canvas Outdoor Museum Show last year. It is one of many new murals in West Palm Beach.
Local musicians take advantage of an open space near the local market. The market draws in a crowd, creating an informal site for cultural performances.
An overhead view displays the city’s diverse uses, new developments, and abundance of trees, which provide respite from the summer heat.
Two women wait at the Amtrak and Greyhound Bus station on Tamarind Avenue between Okeechobee Boulevard and Banyan Street.
The corner of Olive Avenue and North Clematis Street is the heart of city’s downtown. The downtown is active during weeknights and weekends, but is also frequented by the employees of local businesses, who come for lunch during the workweek.