Best Mile of Palm Beach 2003 | Lake Avenue/Lucerne Avenue | Subtropical | South Florida
It wasn´t long ago that downtown Lake Worth´s only positive attribute was that it was near to West Palm Beach and Delray Beach. Now the downtown nestled around Lucerne and Lake avenues draws from the areas that used to look down their municipal noses at little Lake Worth. The past six months are indicative of its progress; a couple of headliner businesses have opened, and plans have been germinated for more activities. New to town is Brogue´s on the Avenue, an upscale pub with mahogany and brass delivered from Ireland; and Lake Avenue Chocolates, which retro-designed a pioneer storefront to its original splendor. Downtown hops twice a month for Evenings on the Avenue, and there are plans for a Saturday-morning green market and brown-bag lunch lecture series.
The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park makes a day at the beach, well, a day at the beach. The entrance fee is $3.25 per carload and $1 for bikes and pedestrians. That´s cheap for a shady respite from the sun and access to a tunnel that crosses beneath busy A1A to the beach. There´s a mile-long loop on the paved road through the park and a couple of trails through hammocks and a new tidal wetlands area that is being restored. Pack a picnic, grill some meat, go for a walk, and when you feel like a swim and a spell in the sun, you can cross A1A from the park on the west side through a tunnel and emerge onto the beach. On the Hugh Taylor side of the tunnel are bathrooms, snack machines, and an ice-cold water fountain. And hey, if you´re feeling pummeled by the heat, you can spend some time underground.
Developers salivate over this small neighborhood just northeast of downtown Fort Lauderdale. So naturally, home values have skyrocketed, which has led to a feeding frenzy. Cozy bungalows have been torn down to make way for McMansions or, worse yet, crammed parcels of townhomes. Strip malls are pressing in from the west. Still, there´s one forward-thinking development smack in the middle of this transfiguring hell: a new traffic circle at the intersection of Sixth Street and 14th Avenue. Maneuvering east-west through this neighborhood requires dealing with a quagmire of pointless stop signs, but this roundabout is a sane idea to keep traffic rolling. Now if we could just send the speculators packing down this unconstrained road.
The key to proper scenic motoring is the absence of other vehicles. Think about it: If you´re concentrating on defensive driving and cursing the typical maniacal South Florida driver, how can you enjoy the scenery? The Heritage-Park excursion is a five-mile pastoral loop off the beaten track -- in fact, most of it´s off the tar. Part of the fun is navigating the water-filled potholes that dent graveled Park Lane. This is, after all, agriculture country and home to Clintmore Heritage Nursery, Heritage Farms, Indian Trails Native Nursery, and Lions Nursery. Old Florida growth abounds here, but the nursery fields provide a floral fullness that Mother Nature didn´t have time for. Heritage Boulevard intersects Highway 441 about a mile south of Lantana Road.
The rooms are, let´s say, intimate, and the plumbing has a clunky, antique, pre-war look, but the Colony has ambiance in spades. The buttery yellow building with burgundy trim almost demands that passersby on Atlantic Avenue step in for a look around. Have a house-specialty Bloody Mary on the shady front porch as a ceiling fan turns lazily and you view the passing crowd. (The redhead in the cool white linen top and slacks over in the corner -- could that be a Rita Hayworth apparition?) Then chill out for a few moments in the rattan-furnished lobby, or wander into one of the vividly painted meeting rooms, where bougainvillea-pink walls and an aquamarine ceiling can put anyone in a party mood. Guest rooms may be small, in the 1920s style, but they´re damn comfortable, looking more like a guest room in somebody´s well-kept old house than a hotel. The dresser is mahogany, floors are the original polished Dade County pine, the beds are covered in soft bedspreads and comforters, and the watercolors on the walls are originals. The walls of the bathrooms are white ceramic tile, and the shower and the pedestal sink, lovingly preserved, work as well as they did when the place was built in 1926. You could say the Colony´s beach club, a couple of miles away, is inconveniently located, but it has the same Jazz Age elegance as the hotel, along with a footstep-shaped saltwater swimming pool. And unlike the beachfront hotels in town, the Colony is right in the midst of Delray Beach´s bubbling dining and nightlife scene. Rates range from $75 off season to $245 for a suite in season.
You´re tired of living in a place where the oldest architecture is a strip mall built in the 1950s? Well, soak up the past and shed this use-it-up-and-run South Florida culture by hopping on Alligator Alley and heading to Everglades City on the other coast. And we don´t mean the Pacific. There, you must stay in the Rod and Gun Club, which was built back in 1840 by fur traders. In the 1920s, mogul Barron Collier bought the place and turned it into his own private club, where he hosted a few obscure fellows like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, nobodies like us can stay there for a mere $105 a night plus tax. As you sit on the grand veranda or in the restaurant with its rich, polished wood as the Barron River (yeah, the guy had an ego) flows nearby, you can feel the history. That´s right, Dorothy: You´re not in Sunrise anymore.
This scandal seems almost too good to be real. You have the last decent public park on the beach slated for massive condominiums by a greedy, unscrupulous developer (Michael Swerdlow). There´s the sleazy, glad-handing mayor (Bill Griffin) who sells out the beach and his town (Pompano Beach) for political and financial gain. You have a do-little state attorney (Michael Satz) pretending he´s investigating the mayor´s corruption, including a new job that the developer helped him get at one of the country´s largest construction firms. And there are hordes of concerned citizens clamoring for all their heads. That´s just the first episode. In the second one, the mayor is voted out of office, then leaves the job. And the project is given the boot by the new city commission. Can´t wait for the next installment.
What you are about to read is true. And it has never before been published. Last year, a teacher asked third-grade students at the prestigious Lighthouse Point Academy a seemingly innocuous question: Can you name your favorite food? Surprisingly, sushi surfaced as the preferred chow for several savvy members of the Sponge Bob set. Not to be outdone, the young son of Boca Raton Mayor Steve Abrams thought hard. Then the boy, whom New Times is declining to name to protect him from animal rights wackos, piped up. ¨Caviar,¨ came his response. After a pause, the stunned teacher asked, ¨What kind of caviar?¨ ¨Sturgeon,¨ the boy replied confidently. Three words: Only. In. Boca.
Peter Sheridan isn´t just a local boy; he´s a mama´s boy. Mom Joan Sheridan is a long-time Fort Lauderdale political activist who has been involved in litter pickups and neighborhood watches. But she should have been watching her son more closely. Pete, when he was assistant city engineer for the City of Fort Lauderdale, got a little too cozy with a company called Recreational Design and Construction. While he oversaw RDC´s contracts with the city -- and steered the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in public business -- its workers built a $13,000 spa in his home. Funny thing: Pete didn´t pay for it. When his underhanded dealings were made public, his mother quickly wrote a check. An ensuing criminal investigation found that both Pete and Joan were unethical, but no charges were filed. Pete resigned with dishonor, but bless us all, he landed on his feet. Local engineering firm Keith and Schnars -- which also has numerous contracts with the city -- hired him tout de suite. It just goes to show that in Broward County, everything´s upside down. As Bob Dylan told us: ¨What´s good is bad, and what´s bad is good/You´ll find out when you reach the top.¨
A year ago, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant was one of the brightest stars in the South Florida political firmament. We said so ourselves, naming her Best Politician in our 2002 Best of Broward-Palm Beach issue and concluding, ¨Seems the woman in charge of the political process in Broward knows a thing or two about politics herself.¨ She was young, gifted, and black, not to mention photogenic and a liberal Democrat with a lofty vision for an office that had been held for a gazillion years by the uncharismatic, if reliable, Republican Jane Carroll. Oliphant seemed destined for success -- until she actually had to do her job. Now beleaguered and botched elections are the words that seem destined to cling to her. She may have pulled off the February and March 2003 elections without major problems, but it could be argued that she did so by scaring voters away from the polls. Regardless of how Oliphant fares in the future, her legacy, alas, will almost certainly be allegations of cronyism, nepotism, financial irregularities, and incompetence.

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