Like many industries, the retail sales business has changed significantly since March of 2020. While some well-established online merchants have thrived during this unprecedented time, brick and mortar businesses have had to swiftly adapt to the abrupt changes brought by the pandemic. In South Florida, some retailers have maintained by downsizing their operations and offering a combination of curbside and in-person sales. Still, others have left their storefronts and transitioned to an online sales business platform. In some South Florida communities, these changes have impacted commercial real estate occupancy rates. In view of these developments, Royal Palm Beach has plans to study the shopping corridor along State Road 7 to plan for the area’s future. Here is more on why Royal Palm Beach is studying State Road 7:
Changes in Retail and Royal Palm Beach Commercial Real Estate
For the past 20 years, State Road 7 has been a thriving retail-centered zone. However, with the sudden changes created by the pandemic, the retail sector is shifting. With more people shopping online and avoiding public places and retailers closing their outlets, commercial centers along the corridor may see more vacancies in the future. Community leaders are aware of this possibility and are beginning to examine what to do with the area’s emptying commercial properties.
Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto indicated that the village wants to get ahead of the area’s changing landscape due to concerns that developers, rather than the community, would be making future decisions about the corridor’s future. He related that “We really need to understand what is going to happen on State Road 7… and not let (changes) happen without plans in place and strategies in place.”
Village Manager Ray Liggins related that although the community needs residential properties, the village is remaining cautious in its plans for the area’s future. He commented that “We know once (commercial property) changes to residential, it seldom comes back. Before we make that change, we’re stepping carefully.”
The State Road 7 Study
Royal Palm Beach village officials plan to work with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) on the study of State Road 7 to evaluate future zoning and other changes to the corridor. According to a recent report, Royal Palm Beach officials contacted the TCRPC regarding the future of the State Road 7 corridor because of changes to the retail industry brought on by the pandemic as well as other factors. TCRPC design director Dana Little commented that “Some of the trends that were already underway, that were emerging pre-COVID, have now been accelerated.”
The study will cover the area south from the intersection of State Road 7 and Okeechobee Blvd. The TCRPC is expected to review the village’s current land use and zoning codes, examine existing projects, and interview area residents and employees to develop its recommendations. The process will include workshops conducted by village officials and public information sessions. Part of the study’s focus will include providing residents with transportation alternatives. The Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency is also conducting a study of State Road 7 and Okeechobee Boulevard to improve area mobility. The TCRPC and agency are working together. According to Little, “There’s a lot of interest regionally in figuring out ways to get people out of their cars.” The State Road 7 study is expected to last ten months and does not have an official start date
According to its website, the TCRPC was established in 1976, through an agreement between Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach counties, and is a regional forum “where elected and appointed leaders regularly come together to discuss complex regional issues; develop strategic regional responses for resolving them; and build consensus for setting and accomplishing regional goals.” The TCRPC is comprised of 19 elected officials who serve annual terms and nine gubernatorial appointees who serve three-year terms. TCRPC membership includes all 52 municipalities within the four counties.
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