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Despite the worst real estate crash in Florida since the 1920s, West Palm Beach has boomed over the last decade. The city’s population rose 21.7 percent, by more than 17,000 people, from 2000 to 2010 — fueled in part by thousands of new residential units downtown and the revitalization of adjacent neighborhoods. Crime has dropped sharply — down more than 50 percent since 2000, a bigger decline than any other major city in Florida.
Twenty years ago, 80 percent of downtown storefronts were unoccupied. Much of the surrounding land was underutilized or vacant, including 14 blocks of that were cleared for urban renewal in the 1980s, after which the developers went bankrupt and left a swath of empty land.
In 1993, the city hired Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company to create a plan and a code for a 100-block area of downtown. The code, approved in 1994, was one of the first examples of a form-based code.
As these codes go, it was simple — with four building types, “A” and “B” streets, minimal parking requirements, and administrative approval (no hearings) for projects that meet the code. It ensured that every new building — regardless of architectural quality — would contribute to the