Clematis makes list of 10 ‘great streets’

Planning association cites recent makeover, architectural showcase.

By Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH — Clematis Street has been named one of the “Ten Great Streets in America” for 2014 by the American Planning Association.

The association names streets, neighborhoods and public spaces that add value to communities and foster economic growth and jobs. Since Great Places in America was launched in 2007, the group has designated 230 such locations.

In its designation, the association noted the many ground-floor shops and restaurants that occupy historic buildings, serving “the dining, retail and entertainment options for the startup businesses, small-tech companies, creative office industries, and artists that occupy the spaces above.”

It said the historic street, which dates to the city’s founding in 1894, “has become an eclectic and authentic display of nearly every significant architectural era and style of the last 115 years.” And it noted the more recent makeover that brought in a new City Hall/Library complex and a waterfront green space and pavilion. The 500 block of Clematis Street was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Palm Beach County has one other past recipient, Plaza Real in Boca Raton.

West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen said Tuesday the city plans to install a plaque on Clematis to mark its “Great Street” designation.

“It’s a huge honor for our city. It’s focused on the downtown but Clematis is really the heart and soul of our city,” said Raphael Clemente, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.

There was a time, Clemente said, when Clematis was anything but that.

“We all remember it. It was pretty much abandoned,” Clemente said. He said business owners hung in, and a big step was making the road bidirectional, which brought in several businesses.

“When I first got on the street, they were just changing it to two lanes and putting in pavers and beautifying the street,” said Rob Samuels, owner of Provident Jewelry, which has been at 331 Clematis St. for more than 20 years.

“We had a little hiccup in the early 2000s with some construction issues,” said Samuels, who also serves on the downtown authority’s board, but “even with the downturn in 2008, Clematis Street has been on the upturn the whole time.” ekleinberg@pbpost.com

Twitter: @eliotkpbp