West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, population 82,103 (2000) lies on the west side of the Intra-coastal Waterway in Palm Beach County, roughly 75 miles north of Miami. The city’s climate, natural beauty and railroad accessibility prompted the construction of an upscale resort community starting in the 1890s.

West Palm Beach is justifiably proud of its historic character and has created no less than 14 historic districts encompassing 3,200 properties. The City promotes historic preservation through a property tax exemption program that offers owners up to 100 percent of the assessed value of improvements to historic properties resulting from their renovation, restoration or rehabilitation. In 2002, West Palm Beach adopted a TDR mechanism within its Downtown Master Plan to encourage the preservation of historic buildings and the creation of public open space.

The TDR section of the West Palm Beach zoning code includes a map depicting eligible sending and receiving sites. However the code section also includes a process for property owners to request eligibility as either historic properties or public open space and thereby making then qualify as sending areas. To qualify, historic structures must be on the West Palm Beach Register of Historic Places, be renovated in compliance with the City’s standards and be issued a certificate of occupancy. For an open space sending site, the proposed location must meet criteria for public open space and title must be conveyed to the City. The transferable floor area is calculated by multiplying the lot area by the allowable number of floors (and deducting the floor area of the existing structure in the case of a historic landmark sending site.)

Receiving sites cannot qualify as sending sites. To receive transferred density, a proposed project must comply with the TDR map showing where TDR can be used to reach an eight-, ten- and 20-story maximum. The transferable floor area from the sending site can be added to the receiving site to exceed a structure height baseline, such as five stories, up to the maximum number of floors shown on the TDR map.

Queen Ann’s Roman Catholic Church was the first property preserved by the City’s TDR mechanism. The Tabernacle Mission Baptist Church also used the TDR option. In all, perhaps as many as 15 properties have employed TDR in the first four years of the program’s existence. According to a Senior Urban Design Planner, owners of historic properties see the TDR mechanism as a good funding mechanism and developers are desirous of and willing to pay for the additional density in the receiving sites. TDR is particularly attractive for the owners of properties in designated sending areas such as the 500 block of Clematis Street which constitutes the Clematis Street Historic Commercial District.