Boca Raton theater sells for $5 million

A performance at the Wick Theatre.
A performance at the Wick Theatre.

Talk about vertical integration. Costume World, a Deerfield Beach-based seller of garb worn by theater performers, just paid $5.2 million for the 30,000-square-foot Wick Theatre & Costume Museum in Boca Raton.

The property at 7901 N. Federal Highway once was home to the Caldwell Theatre Co., but that operation lost the building to foreclosure in 2012.

Marilynn Wick, head of Costume World and the philanthropist behind the Wick Theatre, in 2013 leased the property with an option to buy. Wick said Friday that she exercised that option. Wick Theatre, a nonprofit, reported revenue of $1 million in 2013.

“I leased it and put $1.5 million into the building even before I knew I was going to buy it,” Wick said. “That’s not the best business deal you could make, but the community really got behind it.”

See how much Frank McCourt paid for new Wellington polo property

George Rawlings (blue shirt) in action with Crab Orchard in 2010.
George Rawlings (blue shirt) in action with Crab Orchard in 2010.

Earlier this month, former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt sold a Wellington equestrian estate for nearly $12 million. Seems McCourt isn’t leaving Wellington: He just paid $20 million for another property there.

McCourt bought an 18-acre estate owned by George Rawlings this week, according to property records.

The property is at 13180 Southfields Road. Rawlings owned Crab Orchard, a polo team that played its final season in 2014. He also owns the 20-acre property at 13176 Southfields.

Billionaires Bill Gates and John Malone own estates in Wellington.

Bank merger to close Boca Raton branch

stonegate

Broward County institutions Stonegate Bank and Regent Bank said Tuesday that they’ll merge, a deal that will lead to the closing of Regent Bank’s branch in Boca Raton.

Stonegate has branches at 3850 N. Federal Highway in Boca and 3555 Military Trail in Jupiter. If the merger is consummated later this year as scheduled, the Regent Bank branch at 580 Yamato Road would close, a spokeswoman said. The Regent Bank branch at 1572 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. in West Palm Beach would become a Stonegate location.

Both banks are small players in Palm Beach County. As of mid-2015, Pompano Beach-based Stonegate had $261 million in deposits, a market share of 0.58 percent, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Davie-based Regent Bank held $87 million, or 0.19 percent of Palm Beach County’s money.

Stonegate gained national attention last year when it launched a debit card designed to work in Cuba.

 

Fraud trial scheduled for September, but former Miami Dolphin Will Allen says that’s too early

Will Allen
Former Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen, shown stretching before a 2009 game. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The federal fraud trial of former Miami Dolphin Will Allen is scheduled to begin in late September in Boston, but attorneys for Allen and his co-defendant say they need more time to prepare his defense.

“This case will involve very intensive investigation efforts which will require the interviews of a large number of out of state witnesses,” attorneys for Allen and co-defendant Susan Daub wrote in a motion. “These witnesses include a large number of investors in the company the defendants operated, professional athletes working in different states who acquired loans from their company, and the agents/attorneys/team franchise representatives who aided the athletes in acquiring the loans.”

Allen, who has told the judge he’s so broke he pawned his watches and leaned on a former Dolphins teammate for bail money, is represented by a federal public defender. Daub is represented by Boston attorneys Bradford Bailey and Adamo Lanza.

Defense attorneys want the judge to delay the trial until January. Federal prosecutors argue that the defense has had months to prepare and that the trial should start Sept. 26 as scheduled.

Federal prosecutors accuse Allen of committing 23 felonies in the course of running a Ponzi scheme. Allen made short-term, high-interest loans to athletes such as the NHL’s Jack Johnson. Prosecutors say he fabricated loans to raise money from investors.

See more coverage:

Will Allen stiffed Pro Player Funding on a high-interest loan in 2010. In 2012, he started a company making high-interest loans to pro athletes.

Allen calls Jack Johnson deadbeat, Johnson calls Allen loan shark.

Former Dolphin Bryant McKinnie also defaulted on high-interest loan.

Read the SEC complaint.

Falling vacancies, rising rents: Palm Beach County office market tightens

Phillips Point
Phillips Point

Palm Beach County’s office market continued to tighten during the first three months of the year, according to a report by commercial real estate brokerage CBRE. Vacancies fell to 18.9 percent, and rents have risen for 10 quarters in a row.

“Traditional concessions, such as free rent, generous improvement allowances and free garage parking, are almost non-existent,” CBRE said.

In a separate first-quarter report, Cushman & Wakefield said Palm Beach County ranked in the top 10 among 87 metro areas in rent growth and absorption of office space. Despite strong job growth, the county’s office market has seen no new construction of offices in recent years.

“Lenders aren’t willing to make loans on speculative office buildings,” said developer Jeff Greene.

Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, plans to build two 30-story towers on his property at 550 N. Quadrille Blvd. in downtown West Palm Beach, where the vacancy rate is 13.8 percent.

Real estate is local, as the saying goes, and the fortunes of Palm Beach County’s submarkets vary widely. Delray Beach’s vacancy rate is 46.5 percent, CBRE says. Royal Palm Beach’s vacancy is only 6.3 percent.

The Class A market — the designation for high-end office space — had a vacancy rate of only 14.2 percent in the first quarter, CBRE says.

“We don’t have as much Class A space as we need if we’re going to continue to attract companies into the county,” said Jordan Paul, chief executive of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman in West Palm Beach.

Palm Beach County ranked No. 7 nationally in job growth, Census says

census

Palm Beach County had the seventh-fastest pace of job growth among the nation’s 50 largest counties, the Census Bureau said last week.

San Francisco County and Travis County in Texas topped the list. Each showed growth of 5.7 percent.

Palm Beach County posted the best showing among large counties in Florida, at 3.9 percent. It’s another mixed signal from Palm Beach County’s job market, which has combined strong job growth with weak wages.

Miami, Palm Beach Realtor associations make up, share MLS data

money-house-nt

Back in September, the head of the Miami Association of Realtors was on a witness stand in a federal courtroom in Palm Beach County, being peppered with hostile questions by an attorney for the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.

The Palm Beaches association filed suit after the expansion-minded Miami association announced that it would take over the Jupiter-Tequesta-Hobe Sound Association of Realtors, a merger RAPB officials saw as an incursion onto their turf. The Miami association responded with a countersuit.

Thursday afternoon, the two groups said they’ve reached a detente.

“The Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches and the Miami Association of Realtors jointly announced that they have reached an agreement to share Multiple Listing Service data once again to benefit their collective members, as well as consumers,” the Palm Beaches association said in a statement. “Their MLS data will be combined and available in both MLS systems in the near future. RAPB and MIAMI will also continue to provide shared electronic keys and lockbox services for the convenience of their collective members and to facilitate access to properties for ease of showings. RAPB and MIAMI are looking forward to a long and successful working relationship to benefit their members and consumers.”

By my calculations, the Miami Association of Realtors’ 2014 revenue of $15.4 million makes it the nation’s fourth-largest Realtor group, behind only the National Association of Realtors, the California Association of Realtors and Florida Realtors. RAPB reported $3.2 million in revenue in 2014.

Business Development Board wooing nearly 1,700 jobs for Palm Beach County

West Palm Beach skyline. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post
West Palm Beach skyline. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is negotiating with 11 companies that would employ 1,669 people, President Kelly Smallridge said Thursday.

The biggest prize is a technology company code named Project P2P. The employer is considering a move to Boca Raton that would bring 838 jobs at an average salary of $55,000. The company would receive $6.1 million in tax incentives, including $5 million from the state and $576,400 each from the city and county. Boca officials this month signed off on their part of the package.

The Business Development Board also hopes to land Project Scandinavian, a financial company that’s considering a 260-person headquarters in West Palm Beach.

Seven-year legal battle between Boca brokers ends when jury shoots down defamation claim

3D_Judges_Gavel

After a seven-year legal battle between two heavyweights in Boca Raton real estate, Premier Estate Properties emerged with a courtroom victory over Royal Palm Properties.

A jury this month ruled that Premier Estate Properties didn’t defame Royal Palm Properties when it quoted a former client of both firms panning Royal Palm Properties and praising Premier Estate Properties.

The backstory: In 2008, homeowner Rick Felberbaum listed his 8,597-square-foot home for sale with Royal Palm Properties. The property languished on the market, and in 2009 Felberbaum hired Premier Estate Properties. His house soon sold for $2.8 million, and Felberbaum wrote this testimonial:

“We listed our home located in Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club with the realtor [sic] that seemed to have the ‘corner’ on the Royal Palm market and felt assured that we would have the quickest sale given that agency’s notorious domination of that community. We could not have been more mistaken. After one year plus of virtual inactivity, ignored emails, unreturned phone calls and our perceived complete lack of their regard for selling our home, we signed up with Premier Estate Properties. Finally withing a few short months of listing with you, our home was in contract. We have closed this past Friday and my wife and I could not be happier with the result.” — Seller of 2016 Thatch Palm Drive

Premier Estate Properties included Felberbaum’s tale in marketing materials sent to homeowners in Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club. Royal Palm Properties broker David Roberts responded with a lawsuit alleging trade libel.

Named as defendants were Felberbaum, Premier Estate Properties and brokers Gerard Liguori, Carmen D’Angelo and Joseph Liguori. Royal Palm Properties also named as a defendant Christie’s Great Estates, the marketing network that counts Premier Estate Properties as a member.

Felberbaum hired Greenberg Traurig to defend him, and through years of depositions and hearings, his legal fees rose into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Premier Estate Properties and Christie’s hired separate attorneys and ran up their own legal bills.

Felberbaum said he unwittingly stepped into a rivalry between the two brokers — and after spending seven years defending his right to publicly state his opinion, Felberbaum says he plans to retire from review writing.

“I’m not sending any more testimonials,” Felberbaum said. “Once bitten, twice shy.”

Weak wage growth leads to feelings of financial insecurity

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Officially, the U.S. and Florida job markets are on the mend. Unofficially, Americans still don’t feel all that chipper about their financial prospects.

Despite an improving economy, Bankrate.com said Tuesday that its Financial Security Index is at its lowest point in 19 months.

“A key reason why Americans aren’t feeling as rosy about their finances is stagnant income,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “Although the market continues to add more jobs, with the supply of workers in many fields outweighing the demand, there have been fewer pay raises.”

Income insecurity is underscored by the job market in Palm Beach County — where the three most commonly held jobs (retail sales, waiter/waitress and cashier) come with median wages of $10 an hour or less.