Related inks deal for office tower on Christian Science land

First Church of Christ, Science in West Palm Beach

First Church of Christ, Science in West Palm Beach

The Related Cos. has wrapped up a contract to buy prime property next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, where Related hopes to build a soaring, 30-story tower along Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach.

A top Related executive on Tuesday confirmed the church signed the contract, which now paves the way for the company to start seeking city approval to build a 300,000-square-foot luxury office tower.

“Yes, they signed it. And we made a deposit a week ago,” confirmed Ken Himmel, president of Related Urban, the mixed-use unit of New York-based Related Cos.

Related built CityPlace, the CityPlace Tower office building and the new Hilton convention center hotel.

But the company always has coveted the parking lot and building next to the Christian Science church, at Flagler Drive and Lakeview Avenue.

It’s a prime corner across from the Royal Park Bridge to Palm Beach.

Other suitors have wanted the property, too, but sources say they weren’t willing to pay the big bucks sought by the church’s parishioners.

Related was willing, however, and the church finally was ready to sell, too, after months of negotiations.

The membership is aging and dwindling, down to less than 75. That prompted interest in selling the land, which would finance the preservation of the church, built in 1928 in the Classical Revival style of architecture.

The church’s reading room, now at 138 Lakeview Ave., would move to new space in the office tower’s ground floor.

Related’s plan for the tower is ambitious. The project’s architect is David Childs, who designed the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center in Manhattan.

The Class A office building at the church site would offer tenants unobstructed views of the Intracoastal, Palm Beach and Atlantic Ocean.

In a statement, Childs said the tower’s design is akin to a lighthouse, linking the ocean to the “continent,” which in this case is West Palm Beach.

The slender, illuminating lighthouse-style tower might be creative, but it’s not without risk.

The big challenge: Winning approval to build taller than five stories on the property, which is zoned for lower-rise buildings. The tower would need special approval from the city.

Another challenge: The neighbors. The tower would rise above the nearest office building, the Esperante Corporate Center, which just changed hands for a whopping $127.75 million.

Also, it’s not clear if the city’s residents would favor another tall building near the water, even if it does preserve an aged church and provide the city with new office space.

 

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