Design work will continue on renovations to Phipps Ocean Park after City Council decided to move forward last week with a proposed master plan.
Board members unanimously agreed to proceed with design development and clearance after getting a first look at plans presented June 8 by Miami-based landscape architect Raymond Jungles, Inc..
In his presentation, company representatives shared site research, community input, renderings, plans and diagrams for a renovation of the beachfront park, which sits just north of the course. Palm Beach Par 3 golf course.
The cost could range from $14 million to $16 million, Raymond Jungles senior partner Guy Champin told the board.
Donated by the Phipps family in 1948, the 18-acre park in Palm Beach’s South End hasn’t undergone a significant overhaul since it opened, said Amanda Skier, executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.
The foundation is spearheading current renovation plans and funded the $160,000 cost for a phased master plan and park study. He also pledged to raise funds for the project.
Continued:City Council approves $4.6 million redesign of Lake Drive Park
“I don’t think the park was ever fully realized,” Skier said. “It was never really fully developed, which represents a great opportunity.”
The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach has been involved with Phipps Ocean Park since 1990 and operates its living history program at The Little Red Schoolhouse, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1886 that now serves as a place of learning for fourth graders of Palm Beach, Broward and Martin Counties.
The living history program recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and foundation leaders marked the milestone with a focus on redesigning Phipps Ocean Park, Skier said.
“The school anniversary is what got us looking at this area and wanting to do something about it to refresh it,” she said. “It will give us the opportunity to elevate the look of the park in line with the other beautiful public spaces here, like Bradley Park. But we also want to be able to really provide a venue for public education.”
The foundation commissioned Raymond Jungles last summer to design a phased master plan for improving the park and worked closely with the architect on the development of the design.
Other feedback was provided by city staff as well as residents who participated in two community feedback sessions and one-on-one meetings, Skier said.
“Although the Preservation Foundation initiated and endorsed the Phipps Ocean Park Master Plan, the process leading to the final plan was guided by the wisdom of city staff and valuable input from city residents,” Skier said.
The overhaul plans will focus on five goals, Champin told council members. These are: maximizing the visibility of the park; improve the accessibility of the park; restore and preserve the natural environment of the park; increase educational opportunities; and beautifying and building resilience.
“The site stands as an opportunity to provide recreation and education through the restoration of original native ecosystems,” Champin said.
A key part of the redevelopment plans is to move the Little Red Schoolhouse to a more visible location in the park.
Currently tucked behind a hedge next to a Department of Public Works factory, the iconic structure is difficult to see from the road, Skier said.
Its new location will be near the base of a 22-foot beach dune, making it much more visible to guests.
“We wanted the school to not be the forgotten landmark like it is right now,” Skier said. “It’s kinda hidden. You wouldn’t know it’s there unless your child went there or stumbled upon it. It will be moved to the heart of the park.”
The redesigned school area includes a large outdoor space that can be used for meetings, lessons and activities for small and medium-sized groups, according to the proposed master plan.
Other major elements of the plan include a new entrance; footpaths with educational checkpoints; a dune playground that will reinforce the historic and natural features of the park; a Horizon Plateau area that offers views of the ocean and the west side of the park; and a nursery/propagation area that will educate guests about native plant species.
Native plants grown in the propagation area will be used to replenish the entire park, Skier said. Exotic plants will be removed.
“Right now there are probably 10 different native plant species in the park,” she said. “When we’re done, there will be over 100. We’ll have plants and ecosystems in the park that will be representative of anything you can find on the island. The park stretches from the Intracoastal to the ocean, so it’s on both sides of the A1A, which is a unique situation.”
Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2023 and should last about six months, Skier said.
The city council expressed their enthusiasm for the project and
after a long discussion, members agreed to move forward with design development and permitting.
“I think it’s a beautiful plan,” said Mayor Danielle Moore. “I think it will be an amazing addition for the city, especially for the South End.”