We’ve pulled together the top five things you need to know about.
1. We have an opening date for the new convention center hotel.
It took decades to get a Palm Beach County Convention Center hotel off the ground. But now that construction of the Hilton hotel in West Palm Beach is underway, the process is going faster than anyone expected. In fact, the hotel now is set to open mid-January — weeks ahead of schedule, hotel developer Ken Himmel told The Palm Beach Post.
2. One developer has a plan for two massive towers downtown.
Billionaire Jeff Greene plans to build twin, 30-story towers on land he owns in downtown West Palm Beach. The property, at 550 Quadrille Blvd., is slated to be an office/hotel/condo complex that would total 829,000 square feet. Architectural plans for the project were submitted to the city on Wednesday.
The Northbridge Centre, aka the Darth Vader building, is on the market for sale. Real estate sources expect the Force to be with the brokers who are peddling this property, which for years has been associated with the Dark Lord of the Sith, owing to its imposing black glass.
4. What’s happening with the 1515 Flagler property?
With the real estate market so hot, you’d think there would be some development happening on the prime piece of land at 1515 Flagler, which housed the now-just-a-memory 1515 Tower condo. But real estate brokers and developers say the parcel and another prominent piece of land, Opera Place, are having trouble overcoming several factors: Price, timing and a concern the market may have become overheated, both in land and construction costs.
Two new restaurants are coming to CityPlace in the new year. The deals give new life to the 15-year-old center, which is now undergoing a revival as a shopping, dining and entertainment destination in West Palm Beach. The Regional Kitchen and Public House, a creation of local restaurateur Thierry Beaud, will take the former Pampas Grille space along Okeechobee Boulevard. And City Tap House, a craft beer bar and restaurant, will take over the long-shuttered, 11,500-square Brewzzi restaurant and outdoor bar on the second floor of CityPlace, overlooking the fountain.
Bucking the national trend, South Florida houses are adding value faster than condos.
Nationally, condos appreciated 5.7 percent in the past year, compared to 3.7 percent for single-family homes, Zillow reports. But in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, houses are up 8.8 percent, edging out condos’ 8.5 percent.
South Florida’s condo market remains hampered by strict lending requirements that call for heftier down payments than house buyers must cough up. Nationally, though, condos are benefiting as buyers look for bargains.
“Condos increasingly represent a strong-performing, often affordable choice, particularly for first-time buyers interested both in homeownership and in keeping a lower-maintenance, city lifestyle,” Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell says.
Not only are few Floridians helped by the Hardest Hit Fund, those that are must endure long waits. Out-of-work Florida homeowners seeking unemployment assistance through the program had to wait a median of 167 days, the inspector general said.
UPDATE: Florida’s acceptance rates are low because the state program doesn’t weed out applicants who might not qualify, said Cecka Green, spokeswoman for the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which runs the state’s $1 billion Hardest Hit Fund.
“Because we don’t do any type of pre-screening, that’s one of the reasons it looks like our denial rate is higher,” Green said. “It’s really apples-to-oranges.”
Jupiter homeowner Michael Jordan raised eyebrows when he built a 43,000-square-foot mansion at Bear’s Club. But the basketball legend’s house outside Chicago is even more over the top.
The 56,000-square-foot spread includes an indoor basketball court. Jordan recently slashed the price to $14.855 million.
“Those digits add up to 23, Jordan’s famous jersey number, which is also emblazoned on the 7.4-acre property’s entrance gates,” Realtor.com reports. “Clearly His Airness isn’t the type to check his ego at the door!”
Jordan himself narrates a video espousing the mansion’s attributes:
South Florida home values jumped 7.4 percent over the past year, outpacing the U.S. average of 4.7 percent, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday.
S&P/Case-Shiller defines South Florida as Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, San Francisco and Denver had the heftiest appreciation, at 10.7 percent each. New York’s 1.8 percent was the lowest.
Medical implant firm Zimmer Biomet will receive $1.6 million in state and local tax incentives to add 178 jobs in Palm Beach Gardens, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday.
The announcement ends the suspense surrounding Project Bruin, as the economic development project was codenamed. Biomet long has run a dental implant operation in Palm Beach Gardens.
Zimmer Holdings and Biomet Inc. merged this year to create Zimmer Biomet Holdings (NYSE: ZBH) of Warsaw, Indiana.
After that deal closed, the new company had to decide whether to consolidate their dental implant operations at Zimmer’s facility in Carlsbad, California, or Biomet’s operation in Palm Beach Gardens.
“We were pitted against Southern California,” said David Josza, general manager of Zimmer Biomet’s Palm Beach Gardens operation.
Zimmer leases its 125,000-square-foot plant in Carlsbad, while Biomet owns the 165,000-square-foot operation in Palm Beach Gardens.
Other factors that played into the decision, Josza said, included Florida’s lower taxes and lower cost of living, along with the $1 million subsidy Florida offered. That includes $1 million from the state, $350,000 from the city of Palm Beach Gardens and $250,000 from Palm Beach County.
As part of the incentive package, Zimmer Biomet promised to keep 473 jobs and create 178 new ones. The average salary is $83,000.
Developers plan more than 1 million square feet of warehouses for the industrial area between Southern Boulevard and Belvedere Road along Florida’s Turnpike, a building boom that reflects a return to normal for Palm Beach County’s commercial real estate market.
Duke Realty (NYSE: DRE) of Indianapolis plans 822,850 square feet at Belvedere and Jog roads along the turnpike. Palm Beach County developer McCraney Property Co. aims to build 388,000 square feet at its Turnpike Business Center.
FedEx (NYSE: FDX) expects to move into a 225,000-square-foot distribution center on Pike Road next year. And a couple miles east of the turnpike on Southern Boulevard, Liberty Property Trust (NYSE: LPT) is marketing 218,160 square feet.
“It feels like 2004 all over again,” said Robert Smith, a broker at CBRE who markets Duke Realty’s Turnpike Crossing.
This boom looks unlikely to lead to bust, developers and brokers say, simply because so few warehouses have been built in recent years.
“For far too long, there was little to no activity,” said Steven McCraney, head of McCraney Property Co.
The result? Microscopic vacancy rates for warehouse space in Palm Beach County.
“We’re basically out of space,” said broker Michael Falk.
Falk says the vacancy rate for industrial space is 3 percent. Smith pegs it at 4 percent. Either way, there’s little space to accommodate distribution companies such as FedEx, or the construction-related companies that typically occupy Palm Beach County’s industrial buildings.
The flurry of new development “is much-needed,” Smith said. “I literally have lists of tenants who are looking for space and can’t find it.”
Even so, Duke Realty will take care not to build too quickly. The landlord has begun construction of two buildings at Turnpike Crossing but won’t build more until those warehouses are rented, Smith said.
Industrial tenants typically don’t sign leases until buildings have been built, but McCraney already has landed one tenant for Turnpike Business Center. Adrenalin Rush, an indoor go-kart track planned by a French entrepreneur, took 69,896 square feet.
As for FedEx, which has seen shipping volumes soar amid an explosion in online shopping, it aims to hire 190 workers at the new distribution center. FedEx said business is so brisk that it will keep its two other hubs in Palm Beach County.
The construction projects are in an unincorporated area west of West Palm Beach.