There are city fathers, and then there are city mothers.
Lynda J. Harris was a city mother.
She was the attorney for the Related Cos., which built CityPlace and helped kick off the renaissance of West Palm Beach’s downtown.
Harris died Dec. 14, following an illness and complications from a botched 2013 spinal surgery.
Ken Himmel is president of Related Urban, the mixed-use unit of New York-based Related Cos.
Here are Himmel thoughts on Harris, in his own words:
I have been leading the development of CityPlace, with my partner Steve Ross (owner of the Miami Dolphins), since its inception and opening in October of 2000.
We began our work together in West Palm Beach in 1998 when we competed with top national developers and got selected to take on this game changing mixed-use development, aspiring to create a new “downtown ” for West Palm and Palm Beach County.
Our decision to enter the competition and enthusiastically compete changed to a ” go for it” mode the day three dynamic professional woman came to our New York headquarters office to pitch us to take a hard look at this small community city and lead a transformational development.
Those three professionals, Pat Pepper (former mayor of West Palm); Nancy Graham (then mayor of West Palm) and Lynda Harris, the leading land use attorney in West Palm Beach, all came to New York that day with a mission: To convince us to give this competition our best effort.
And that we did then, to win the competition. And we’ve been working that vision even to this day.
Behind all that visioning and leasing and marketing and construction was a combination of political leadership and drive from Nancy Graham — and the legal leadership and community understanding that comes with years of successful experience, the full complement of skills and savvy that came with every assignment and challenge that Lyn took on with such commitment and enthusiasm.
Lynda Harris was in a league of her own when it came to legal and community counsel.
The original master plan for the complete 72-acre downtown CityPlace that Lynda Harris and Nancy Graham began with Steve Ross and me 18 years ago continues today under the able guidance and support of our current mayor, Jerry Muoio, as she enthusiastically envisions the next generation of quality growth for West Palm Beach and its downtown.
There is no question in my mind that if Lyn Harris had successfully survived her surgery from three years ago, she would be directly in the middle of all this new exciting development that Mayor Muoio is now leading.
And Lyn would be, as always, the go-to legal and community resource to get things done and built.
Lyn Harris was far more than my lawyer in West Palm. She was a close family friend and provided genuine counsel and friendship to my wife and children, who looked on in awe of what she had sacrificed in her life to achieve her great professional goals.
We will all miss her, but what a wonderful legacy to leave behind, knowing she made the difference in creating a vibrant new community in this special place called West Palm Beach.
Go in peace, Lyn. Your contributions here are a permanent part of this city, never to be forgotten!