5 Great Neighborhoods in West Palm Beach
Many of the homes built in West Palm Beach in the 1920s boom, be they Mediterranean or Mission style, vernacular frame houses or stucco bungalows, went through a period of neglect as the suburbs became trendy in the 1960s and '70s.
But they have come back strong, as urban pioneers and then moneyed Northerners came in and snapped them up in the late 1980s and '90s. Now they are very desirable, artsy and friendly places with property values to match -- and Flamingo Park is perhaps the most prominent of these. Tree-lined streets are pleasant and unhurried. There are tours of restored homes, holiday decorating contests and a sophisticated neighborhood association, so this is a good place if you want to be involved in the community.
This area just west of downtown West Palm Beach is very convenient to shops and cultural amenities, and it’s near major highways and Palm Beach International Airport.
The Neighbors: Business owners and professionals as well as well-to-do retirees not into the condo scene. More families with kids appeared as the crime rate dropped.
Also Consider: Grandview Heights, El Cid/Prospect Park, Old Northwood
This successful New Urbanism project in downtown West Palm Beach has integrated hundreds of townhouses, rental apartments and studio lofts, and more condo towers have been built nearby.
Built around a European-style town center, the development took the place of a run-down section of downtown West Palm Beach, which was razed in the 1990s. Its historic showpiece is the restored 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival church adapted to a new role as the Harriet Himmel Gilman Theater.
There are units overlooking the town plaza for those who adore being in the middle of things. National retailers, specialty shops, restaurants, bars, a comedy club and a 20-screen Muvico cinema are steps away.
CityPlace, a successful New Urbanism project in downtown West Palm Beach, is built around a European-style town center.CityPlace is expanding its offerings with more restaurants that feature live entertainment as a way to combat the retail blues. Cultural options nearby include the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and Ballet Florida. A highly regarded high school, the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts, is also a walk away, in the beautifully restored buildings of the 1908 Palm Beach High School.
The Neighbors: Young professional singles, on-the-go couples and “young" retirees looking for an urban feel.
Also Consider: Abacoa Town Center or Riverwalk, both in Jupiter
For the horsey set, Wellington is a little slice of heaven. The Village of Wellington has 57 miles of equestrian trails that also can be used for walking, running, biking and inline skating. The nearby Palm Beach Polo and Country Club hosts prominent polo matches that attract thousands of spectators, including celebrities and royalty. The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame is just east of Wellington. Other equestrian events, such as the International Horse Show in the fall and the Winter Equestrian Festival, also attract national and international attention.
There are tack shops, veterinarians and other businesses to support all these horses. There is an equestrian preserve in the southern part of Wellington, and many horse communities include sophisticated equestrian facilities.
Wellington, about 12 miles west of West Palm Beach, was carved from what was once the world's largest strawberry patch, the Flying Cow Ranch, in the 1970s. Its meandering roads set it apart from the grid-type system in most of South Florida. It began mainly as a bedroom community for the coast but has developed a variety of housing. Aside from horse communities, there are golf developments and even the Aero Club, which features a 4,000-foot private runway. Many homes have private hangars.
The Neighbors: Predominantly middle- and upper-middle-class families, but also the wealthy. You also may run into an Argentinean polo player or horse trainer or two.
Also Consider: Jupiter Farms
DOWNTOWN DELRAY BEACH
This self-styled “Village by the Sea’’ is one of the great redevelopment success stories of South Florida downtowns. The main drag from Interstate 95 to the ocean, Atlantic Avenue, has become trendy and there are plenty of good restaurants and art galleries. Delray Beach may be busier than ever, and its downtown no longer has an Old Florida feel, but it has not lost its charm.
There are plenty of gorgeous older homes and a first-class public beach. Tasteful condos and other in-town living options are available for those who like to walk to the local coffee shop to read their paper in the morning. Singles can hang out at Boston's on the Beach, and there are plenty of cultural activities going on at Old School Square, a National Historic Site constructed from the restored 1913 Delray Elementary and 1925 Delray High School buildings. The Pineapple Grove Arts District is a delight with cafes, boutiques, spas and the like just off Atlantic Avenue at Northeast Second Avenue.
Delray Beach’s location near Interstate 95 makes it possible to commute to work in West Palm Beach to the north or in Boca Raton or Broward County to the south. There’s also the Tri-Rail commuter train west of downtown and a free downtown shuttle.
The Neighbors: Some longtime residents, but also middle-aged transplants who can afford higher housing costs. Downtown living attracts professional singles and couples.
Also Consider: East Boca Raton or downtown Lake Worth
It’s quaint. And it’s on the water. This community in northern Martin County, north of the St. Lucie River, is small-townish in a good way, a place to slow down and relax.
Jensen Beach's old downtown is only a few blocks but is worthwhile: there's an oxygen bar and massage joint just down from an old-style barber shop where you might expect to see Mayberry haircutter Floyd hard at work. A biker bar is not far from tiny cottages where artists sell their wares. Jammin' Jensen on Thursday night brings merchants and musicians to the sidewalks.
There's a wide variety of home types and styles, including some reasonably priced homes in tidy neighborhoods. Don't miss the Skyline Drive area, sitting atop the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, which reaches a height of 83 feet above sea level and is the highest point on Florida's eastern coastline. It has killer views of the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean. Wealthier residents moved into some areas during the boom and replaced modest houses with lovely Key West-style multilevel homes. Real estate isn't as cheap here as it used to be, but there still are some relative bargains to be had in Jensen Beach and along Indian River Drive, including waterfront property that may come with your own dock. A few low-rise condo communities have been built on the island side; Martin County's slow-growth height restrictions don't allow condo towers.
The Neighbors: Lots of locals -- bikers, fishermen, surfers, shop owners -- who mix well with newcomers. Friendly folks who fit with the Old Florida hometown feel. Families, too -- Martin County schools are top notch.
Also Consider: Historic downtowns in Stuart and Fort Pierce