The West Palm Beach Community Development Agency ranked #5 of 60 applicants for the Florida Division of Historical Resources’ Special Category Grant. The agency earned a 90% score for a $500,000 request for the renovation of the Sunset Lounge in the city’s Historic Northwest district. The purpose of this grant program is to provide funding to assist local, regional and state-wide efforts to preserve significant historic structures and archaeological sites, and promote knowledge and appreciation of the history of Florida.
The Florida Historical Commission recently evaluated and ranked the applications based on historic significance, endangerment, appropriateness of the preservation treatment proposed, administrative capability of the organization, adequacy of technical and financial resources, educational potential, economic benefits, and public good resulting from the project. The Commission sends the ranked list to the state legislature with a recommendation for full funding of all requests. While the CRA has to wait for the state’s budget to be approved in order to confirm how much money will be available for the Sunset Lounge project, because the projects are funded by ranking, the agency is optimistic it will receive full funding for the project based on their top ranking.
Jon Ward, Executive Director of the WPB CRA, congratulated the team for their work and stated, “It was hard enough to win $500k last year, but to get funded a second year shows the strength of the project. The renovation of the Sunset Lounge is an important project that highlights the extensive and substantial black history in this West Palm Beach neighborhood.”
The WPB CRA is working to revive the Northwest district of West Palm Beach and will renovate the historic Sunset Lounge and transform it into the epicenter for a new African-American cultural tourism destination. In the 1940s and 1950s, the famous jazz venue drew hundreds of patrons to watch the notable artists of the time including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong. The redevelopment of this celebrated site will pay homage to the rich jazz and black history of the area and is a vital component for the residents and community members.
The West Palm Beach CRA was also named a finalist in the 2017 Knight Arts Challenge Miami by the Knight Foundation. The agency was selected for their proposed art project in the city’s Historic Northwest District with world-renowned artist Lily Yeh. The CRA plans to create a cultural hub in the community by having residents and community artists work with Yeh to create a block-long public park across from the Sunset Lounge. Yeh visited West Palm Beach on Aug. 12 for a Design Your Park workshop with the CRA, community members, local artists and architects to discuss ideas for the park.