Port of Palm Beach to ask county to take over JFK bunker

The Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island.

In a bid to rescue a faded bit of Palm Beach County history, the Port of Palm Beach will ask the county to take over the John F. Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island.

The port commission on Thursday unanimously directed staff to approach county officials about a deal to lease the landmark and turn it into a county park. However, port commissioner Peyton McArthur noted that the county’s tight budget might make it reluctant to take on a new expense.

Estimates for repairs range from $500,000 to $5 million.

If the county declines to turn the bunker into a county park, the port could turn to state or federal agencies.

The Port of Palm Beach owns the property and leases it to the Palm Beach Maritime Museum. That 25-year lease expires Oct. 31.

The bulk of 80-acre Peanut Island, just inside the Lake Worth Inlet, also known as the Palm Beach Inlet, is already a county park. It is a popular weekend gathering spot for boaters, swimmers, fishermen and snorkelers and offers campsites, picnic tables and a hiking trail.

The underground bunker was built for Kennedy in 1961 as a top-secret nuclear bomb shelter. It was equipped to house 30 people for up to 30 days. The fallout shelter, three-story gabled wood former station, and the other buildings are open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

The proposal to look into a possible county takeover comes after three years of discord between the port and the museum over Palm Beach County code violations and condition issues at the property. That’s on top of years of turmoil over disrepair, lawsuits and disagreements over its use for special events.

In 2005, the county considered taking over the property, but couldn’t wrest the lease from the museum. Then, last October, the county commission directed its staff to research taking over the facilities as a county park. The county’s lease or purchase of the property couldn’t be pursued then because the property was leased to the museum.

After price cut, Florida’s priciest listing back on market at $165 million

After languishing on the market for more than a year, the Ziff estate in Manalapan — and its $195 million price tag — disappeared from the multiple listing service last month.

Now, the property is back on the market with a new agent and a new price tag. Cristina Condon of Sotheby’s International Realty in Palm Beach is marketing the mansion for $165 million.

Condon also is marketing Netscape billionaire Jim Clark’s Palm Beach home for $137 million. UPDATE: The Ziff estate is listed in the MLS. Here’s the Realtor.com listing.

The 15.7-acre estate at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. includes 1,200 feet of oceanfront, a 33-room mansion and a tunnel under A1A. It had been shopped off the MLS for about a year before it hit the listing service last year. Premier Estate Properties of Boca Raton had first crack at the listing.

Palm Beach County’s mansion market has cooled noticeably over the past year.

See how much offices near Gardens Mall sold for

The once-troubled Professional Centre at the Gardens just sold for $18.6 million, commercial real estate brokerage Avison Young said Thursday.

The four-building complex is on Kew Gardens Drive, just east of The Gardens Mall. No deed is available yet, but Avison Young says the seller was special servicer LNR Partners. The buyer is an affiliate of Miller Development Co. of Bethesda, Maryland.

The 86,349-square-foot property was half empty 18 months ago, Avison Young said, but it’s now 98.5 percent full.

Seacoast Bank continues shopping spree, snapping up Tampa bank

Seacoast Bank’s ad at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. (Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post)

Less than a year ago, an investor in venerable Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida was pushing for a sale of the Stuart-based company. Instead, Seacoast Banking Corp. has launched a buying spree of its own.

In the latest deal, Seacoast (Nasdaq: SBCF) said Thursday it will pay $32.1 million for NorthStar Banking Corp. of Tampa. NorthStar has deposits of $168 million and loans totaling $137 million.

Seacoast last month completed its acquisition of GulfShore Bank in Tampa. And this month, Seacoast said it would buy Palm Beach Community Bank of West Palm Beach.

Seacoast has $4.8 billion in assets, and the two latest deals would push it past $5 billion. The family-run bank is part of a rare breed: It has operated with the same FDIC certificate number since the Great Depression.

Star CEO of CSX is working from home in Wellington, not from HQ in Jax

AP photo

If the CEO of a Fortune 500 company works from his home office in Wellington, can Palm Beach County lay claim to a trophy headquarters? That’s a question economic developers might be wondering about Hunter Harrison, who took the helm at Jacksonville-based CSX in March.

The Wall Street Journal reports Harrison’s undisclosed medical issues mean he’s rarely at CSX’s headquarters in Jacksonville.

Harrison, 72, is a railroad industry star and a member of Wellington’s horsey set. CSX shares jumped 30 percent on news he would take the helm. His health issues and work arrangements are in the news because CSX shareholders are about to vote on an $84 million compensation package offered to woo Harrison away from his previous post.

Hunter Harrison (Meghan McCarthy/Palm Beach Daily News)

The Journal says that when Harrison was CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway, he worked from Florida because the thin air in Calgary aggravated his breathing problems.

“For many years he has conducted most of his business from his home office near West Palm Beach,” the Journal reports.

More precisely, Harrison lives in a 9,200-square-foot mansion in Palm Beach Polo & Country Club, according to property records. He paid $4 million for the property in 2008. The property now is held in the name of Harrison’s wife, Jeannie Harrison. They have a homestead exemption.

And the Harrison family’s Double H Farm owns a 22-acre property in Wellington.

With $11.9 billion in revenues last year, CSX ranked 239th on the Fortune 500. Palm Beach County’s two members of the list, NextEra Energy of Juno Beach and Office Depot of Boca Raton, are larger.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County long has focused on recruiting corporate headquarters, reasoning that they bring high-paying jobs and prestige.

Legal weed sales top revenues for Viagra and Cialis

Weed at a dispensary in Oakland, California. Photo by Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post

Sports fans who are bombarded with an endless loop of ads for erectile dysfunction drugs might think Viagra and Cialis are massive sellers. In fact, the prescription pills are being outsold by legal weed.

That’s according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017, compiled by the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily. It says legal pot sales in 2016 totaled $4 billion to $4.5 billion, eclipsing the $2.7 billion in sales racked up by Viagra and Cialis.

The states of Colorado, Washington and California have thriving weed industries, while state programs in Florida, Illinois and New York are getting ramped up.

So far, legal pot is a relatively small industry. Even if one publicly traded firm commanded the entire revenue of the regulated cannabis business, it still wouldn’t crack the Fortune 500. The last spot on the latest list belongs to Burlington Stores, at $5.1 billion.

However, Marijuana Business Daily’s Chris Walsh expects ganja sales to grow to $17 billion by 2021.

“While 2017 growth will be impressive, the longer-term growth potential for the industry is even more promising,” Walsh said.


Donald Trump’s press secretary: Medical marijuana is OK, recreational weed is very bad

How did weed win in a landslide? Credit the white, rural voters who gave Florida to Trump

A decade after boom, prime PGA center sells for discount

In a reminder of just how frothy commercial real estate values were a decade ago, a prime property at PGA Boulevard and U.S. 1 in Palm Beach Gardens just sold for 24 percent less than its 2006 price.

The 98,000-square-foot mixed-use property at 2000 PGA Blvd. and a 3.2-acre vacant lot sold last week for $28.1 million, according to property records. The center last sold in 2006 for $36.8 million.

In the latest trade, the seller was Lionstone Investments of Houston. The buyer is Brian Waxman’s AW Property Co. of North Palm Beach. Waxman took a mortgage for $20.36 million on the property, according to property records.

Tenants at the property include a BB&T bank branch and a number of other retail and office users.

For Palm Beach’s priciest official listing, yet another price cut

The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.

The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach is the priciest official listing in the tony town, but the asking price keeps falling. The oceanfront spread went on the market in March 2015 for $84.5 million.

Last year, the seller cut the price to $79.5 million, then $74.5 million. This year the price fell to $69.9 million and now $64.9 million.

Palm Beach County’s once-hot mansion market slowed markedly in 2016. The Shiny Sheet’s Darrell Hofheinz has more on the Palm Beach property here.

Realtor associations in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach County announce merger

(Getty Images)

The main Realtor associations in Palm Beach and Broward counties are merging, reflecting an industry-wide wave of consolidation.

The combined Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors will have 25,000 members, making it the third-largest regional Realtor association in the country after organizations in Miami and Houston.

The merger will generate savings of a few hundred dollars a year for agents in Boca Raton, who often join both associations, said Dionna Hall, chief executive of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.

“We saw an opportunity to cut down on that cost, and cut some of the red tape,” Hall said.

Ron Lennen, president of the Fort Lauderdale association, said the combination will create an organization with greater clout.

“It’ll give us a stronger political voice,” Lennen said. “We’ll have more power when we go to Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.”

The two associations have been in merger talks for more than a decade, Hall and Lennen said. The merger happened now in part because of a 2013 change to the structure of the multiple listing service for Palm Beach County, Hall said.

Lennen said the crucial strategy was involving just three people from each organization in negotiations.

“The key was having just a small group in the merger talks,” he said. “When you get too many people together, there are too many opinions or egos.”

Members of both organizations must approve the combination.

“We think this is such a big win for them that they will be more than happy to approve the merger,” Hall said.

Talk of a combination was renewed after the Miami Association of Realtors in 2015 expanded into Palm Beach County by buying Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound Association of Realtors. That move led to speculation that the Broward and Palm Beach associations might join forces to fend off the growing Miami group.

In March, the Miami group announced the opening of its third office in Broward County. And the Miami association has put out a flurry of press releases touting the Rock the Market event it hosted in Jupiter, also in March.

The Miami association and the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches once were allies. They worked together on training events until the Miami association bought the Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound association in 2015, a deal that spurred a lawsuit and accusations of fraud by the Palm Beach group against the Miami association.

The expansion-minded Miami Association of Realtors has 46,000 members — more than many state associations of Realtors — and calls itself the nation’s largest local Realtor association. The Miami Association of Realtors reported $16 million in revenue in the year ended June 30, 2015, dwarfing the revenues of the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach associations.

In 2011, the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale filed suit in federal court against the Miami Association of Realtors, saying the Miami group aimed to poach its members.

In mailings and ads such, the Miami Association of Realtors marketed membership to Broward and Palm Beach County members of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale. But the Fort Lauderdale group says the Miami association exaggerated the cost savings from switching associations and has overstated the number of agents who have transferred affiliations.

Says the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale in its suit: “MAR has caused loss and injury to RAGFL through an on-going campaign of false and deceptive advertising by which MAR has brazenly sought to divert and has diverted real-estate licensees from being members of RAGFL and injured the good will and reputation of RAGFL.”

And in 2015, the Palm Beaches association sued the Miami association for fraud.


Darth Vader 2.0: Office tower gets reboot

Northbridge Centre in West Palm Beach

The Force is awakening at the old Darth Vader building in downtown West Palm Beach.

Plans are in the works to do a major upgrade of the Northbridge Centre, the 21-story office building informally named after Luke Skywalker’s father, thanks to its ominous black-glass exterior.

Inside, however, plans are to brighten the 515 N. Flagler Dr. tower with a $10 million upgrade.

Rendering of lobby renovation planned for Northbridge Centre

The goal is to lure new office tenants to the city’s downtown, before talked-about new office towers start rising during the next couple of years.

City business and government leaders have been crying for months there’s not enough office space in the city’s core, prompting developers such as The Related Cos, Charles Cohen and Jeff Greene to draft or consider plans for new office towers.

But owners and brokers at Northbridge say there’s plenty of space in their waterfront building, especially for those coveted hedge funds and private equity firms that the county’s Business Development Board is trying to hard to lure.

“We’re the last game in town, and we’ll be the best game when these renovations are completed,” said Peter Reed, managing principal at Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

“With nearly 100,000 square feet of vacancy, we’re the only building with any appreciable waterfront space left in the market,” added Angelo Bianco, managing partner of Boca Raton-based Crocker Partners, a co-owner of the building.

Commercial Florida is representing Northbridge, along with Tower Commercial.

They are working to draw attention to the sometimes-overlooked property that was acquired last year by Greenfield Partners of Connecticut and Crocker. The companies paid $68.24 million for the 294,000-square-foot building, which includes a separate four-story pavillion with a rooftop garden.

Northbridge, which now houses a number of law firms, is about 70 percent leased. The property was built in 1984.

Plans are afoot to make the building physically as appealing as those waterview vistas, Bianco said.

For starters, gone will be those red stripes on the outside of the building. (Darth Vader didn’t have them; Northbridge soon won’t have them, either.)

Inside, plans are underway to build an upscale conference center that will be able to hold about 140 people. The roughly 3,000-square-foot space will feature all the latest high-tech gadgets and will serve as a building amenity to tower tenants, Bianco said.

Crocker also will add expand the health club and build a brand new café. Bathrooms and floor lobbies will be upgraded and new elevator cabs put in, Bianco said.

Bianco said the building is well-positioned in the market. Physically, it’s right next to the new Flagler Memorial Bridge, which is nearing completion.

Once this north bridge opens, Reed said it will provide less congested traffic flows with easy access to the property, compared to other office towers clustered around the middle bridge at Okeechobee Boulevard.

“Follow the compass rose north, the direction West Palm Beach is moving,” Reed quipped.

From a price perspective, Northbridge’s rental rates are a better bet, too, Reed said.

Rents at Northbridge go for around $30 per foot not including taxes, maintenance and insurance. That’s about $20 per square foot less than buildings such as Phillips Point or CityPlace Tower, where rents start around $50 per square foot, Reed said.

Not surprisingly, Northbridge’s’ brokers are going after the same tenants everyone else in town wants: Mid-sized tenants needing 3,000 to 7,000 square feet of space.

The building upgrades are expected to be completed by May 2018.