Turning point: Carousel’s reopening marks Downtown pivot

Downtown Palm Beach Gardens at crossroads as renovations nearly done on south end but dramatic changes await north end.

Downtown Gardens

“Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?” – Billy Preston, 1972

The carousel at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens is going round in circles again even as the 50-acre shopping center next to the Gardens Mall spins into the next phase of its ambitious revival. 

The center’s owner, Shopcore Properties, teamed Jan. 20 with mia’s miracles to welcome back children and families to the tropical-themed carousel that first started revolving on the center’s main walkway in November 2010. 

Workers shut down the carousel in August 2020, took it apart, refurbished it and reassembled it on the center’s east side, near The Cheesecake Factory, which Shopcore envisions as a community magnet.

carousel
Riding the carousel at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens during its reopening event on Jan. 20. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The reopening, with cotton candy, a small petting zoo and face-painting, packed the plaza with parents and toddlers and raised about $1,200 for the charity founded by golfer Camilo Villegas and his wife, Maria Ochoa, for their daughter, Mia, who died in 2020 at 22 months from brain and spinal cancer. 

“The carousel was our special place where we created so many happy memories with Mia every Monday after grocery shopping,” Ochoa said in a statement.

The charity aims to provide “small blessings with large impacts,” its website says, “bringing smiles and positivity to children and families facing challenging circumstances.”

What’s in store for Downtown?

Chicago-based Shopcore, which paid $141 million in 2014 for the outdoor shopping center anchored by a Whole Foods and a movie theater, is dedicating Mondays at the carousel to support the Mia’s Miracles Foundation.

Shopcore is putting the finishing touches on a rebuild of its south-end plazas, anchored by restaurants Voodoo Bayou, Yard House and Avocado Grill as well as Whole Foods. Major changes remain for the north end, where the building housing the closed Texas de Brazil restaurant is slated for demolition, as is the building across the street featuring original tenant,  The Cheesecake Factory

The proposed nine-story hotel building viewed from the central plaza. (Presentation to city by Shopcore, Cotleur & Hearing, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design and edsa)

In their place, Shopcore plans a 280-unit apartment building, a 174-room hotel sitting atop two stories of restaurants, stores and offices and a 432-space parking garage. The idea is to reinvigorate the center with a daily injection of traffic.

While an REI Co-op outdoors store and a Life Time health club are to open this year and the movie theater remains, stores such as Sur La Table and west elm and restaurants such as Le Bouchon French Bistro and Toojays have departed. 

A new restaurant, Parm, is coming to the plaza’s lake side this winter, The Palm Beach Post reported in November. And a Subculture coffee shop is expected to open this spring next to Voodoo Bayou.

The proposed 280-unit apartment building, called Alta at the Gardens, as seen from the west. (Presentation to city by Shopcore, Cotleur & Hearing, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design and edsa)

© 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

One thought on “Turning point: Carousel’s reopening marks Downtown pivot”

Leave a Reply