An Unpleasant Development

The plan to build Merry Place could rekindle an inner-city dream

Some Merry Place supporters think their opponents' agenda is just that: gentrification à la CityPlace, where a West Palm Beach neighborhood disintegrated and was bulldozed away. "John Zakian's experience is in business," Ed Horton points out, "not community redevelopment."

"If you want to wipe out a neighborhood, property is property," Annetta Jenkins tells New Times. "Pleasant City is near the waterfront, near downtown. It's got to be tempting."

Zakian rules that out. "I know about CityPlace," he responded. "We won't let that happen here. I'm not here to get hoodwinked."

Michael McElroy
Everee Clarke's Heritage Gallery is in Pleasant City's heart. After visitors sign in at her desk, they see walls of photographs that describe the neighborhood's long, uneven past. Pictures of some of West Palm Beach's African-American luminaries fill the walls.
Michael McElroy
Everee Clarke's Heritage Gallery is in Pleasant City's heart. After visitors sign in at her desk, they see walls of photographs that describe the neighborhood's long, uneven past. Pictures of some of West Palm Beach's African-American luminaries fill the walls.


Back at the Heritage Gallery on a recent weekday morning, Everee Clarke is sitting at her desk working on grant applications. "I'm just getting by here," Clarke says. "You really going to write something? Tell them I need money."

In 1994, Clarke organized a Pleasant City reunion in West Palm Beach to coincide with the city's 100th anniversary celebrations. The Heritage Gallery grew out of that event, and Clarke moved back to the area. She settled in the Northwood district, just north of Pleasant City. "I'd love to be back in the neighborhood," she says, "but there's no good housing here."

Grants from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council were the mainstay of the gallery when it opened in 1996, she says, but funding has been a constant struggle. "The city signed off on a dance program here two years ago," she complains. "I'm just starting to see that money come through."

Asked why she keeps chasing her Pleasant City dream, Clarke smiles and points a finger at her right temple, like she must be crazy. It's hard to be hopeful, she admits. "There's so much petty jealousy here," she says. "The housing authority wants to take over. The ministers do for their churches. It's about control of the land. It's always been.

"If Merry Place were done right, it could be good for the area. But people don't want something shoved down their throats."

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