Approaching its completion, the apartment building being constructed by Moss & Associates rises over the Harriet Himmel Theater in The Square.
Approaching its completion, the apartment building being constructed by Moss & Associates rises over the Harriet Himmel Theater in The Square.
Belen Rivera

Reshaping the Square

Renovations in downtown West Palm Beach transform recreational space into commerce-focused areas

Gray rubble piles on the ground, where a movie theater once stood. Blue wallpaper covers vacant storefronts. When walking to Publix or Starbucks, students pass through the shadows of developing skyrises, with cranes assembling office buildings that will soon become part of the school’s periphery. 

The downtown area of West Palm Beach surrounds the campus and hosts a multitude of both official and informal events. However, in recent years the area has seen renovations that change the downtown’s landscape. 

“It’s not a convenient place to be anymore, which I feel is really sad for Dreyfoos kids now,” Spanish teacher and Dreyfoos alumna Monica Zarini said. “We used to have a lot more cheaper options for food. You know, we had a Moe’s, we had a Panera Bread, places to eat that were affordable for students.”

A cement truck backs up in front of Hibiscus Street, in between The Cheesecake Factory and the new apartment complex being built.
(Belen Rivera)

The Square is frequented by students, both before and after school. Many events, from open mics at Rohi’s Readery to fundraisers at Sloan’s Ice Cream, are affiliated with the school. In addition, The Square hosts monthly events; such as candle making and painting classes. Seniors can also attain the privilege of visiting The Square for lunch. According to a recent survey from The Muse, 11.4% of students said they visited The Square daily, with another 35.1% visiting weekly.

“Just from a community perspective, having other places to be around or activities like a movie theater is great for a community,” theatre senior Ronan Evans said. “It’s a nice little place to just have for yourself.”

The renovations have shut down buildings, businesses, and temporarily some sidewalks. One of the recent developments is the demolition of the AMC Movie Theater, that has stood since 2000, when CityPlace — before any of its numerous rebrandings — was first constructed.

To some students, like communications freshman Maya Bourak, the changes aren’t seen as an issue.

“I’ve just been exploring the area with my friends,” Bourak said. “Anything that’s closed down isn’t a big deal, because I like to see the different things the space has to offer.”

The recent construction project within The Square itself displaces the AMC Movie Theater, Brio Tuscan Grille, the Palm Beach Improv, and Copper Blues Rock Pub. In their place will be a pair of buildings that will provide office space amidst the shops and restaurants of The Square.

The remains of the AMC West Palm Beach 12 movie theater lie in The Square, waiting to be replaced by high-rise office towers. The site was bought out by The Related Companies, who began demolishing the building over the summer. The movie theater opened in 2000, along with many other stores that have since closed.
(Belen Rivera)

“We are currently in the demolition phase of the future site of two towers that will go on the east side of Rosemary Avenue,” Related Companies’ vice president of marketing & communications Sasha Jozefczyk wrote in an email. “They are the newest additions to Related’s signature Lifestyle Office collection, which redefines what it means to be in the office through world-class architecture and sustainable design.”

In a recent Muse survey, nearly 70% of respondents said they did not approve of the renovations in The Square.

Evans has felt the effects of downtown construction physically while eating at City Pizza across from the new mixed-use apartment building, 575 Rosemary, under construction.

“I’m sitting outside, trying to get underneath one of the little overhangs they have there,” Evans said. “As I’m eating, there’s just debris that rains on top of me. It gets in my drink, it gets on my second slice of pizza, it gets on my hair and everything.”

Changes to the downtown landscape are likely to continue for years to come, reshaping the shopping center that originally redefined West Palm Beach’s downtown. Jozefczyk’s statement on behalf of Related Companies emphasized the group’s commitment to a “vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood”.

Just as CityPlace changed to Rosemary Square and then The Square, its offerings have changed. What once was a community hub for restaurants and bars is on a path towards a modern, commercial future. 

“Considering the rate they’re building offices, along with restaurant prices going up, by the time I’m in senior year, I’m not sure I’m even going to go to The Square for lunch,” vocal sophomore Crisa Colmenares said.

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Graeme Melcher
Graeme Melcher, Writer
Graeme Melcher is a first-year staffer and writer on The Muse. When not writing, he's taking film classes, playing video games, and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. He's on the Dreyfoos slam poetry team and has fainted in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. He's thrilled to write for the Dreyfoos public and share his words with the world.
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    Daniel GreenglassMar 30, 2024 at 8:44 am

    The redevelopment of the Square is fantastic and a welcome change – Steve Ross and Related are hero’s in my book – we should be cheering them on