Palm Beach County’s commercial real estate market continues to bounce back from the Great Recession. First-quarter vacancy rates fell to 3.8 percent for industrial properties and 4.4 percent for retail space, both 10-year-lows, Colliers International said.
Rents have been rising. For warehouses, the average rent climbed to $8.66 per square foot in the first quarter, up from $7.38 two years ago. For retail space, average rents rose to $19.68, up from $17.76 two years ago.
Palm Beach County’s office market also is seeing less vacancy and rising rents. The first-quarter vacancy rate was 12.2 percent, unchanged from the fourth quarter but down from 15.1 percent two years ago. The average rent was $28.16 per square foot, up from $26.24 two years ago.
President Donald Trump hosts his Chinese counterpart at Mar-a-Lago next week. It’s the second global — and Asian — leader the president brings to the Southern White House.
But this meeting may not be as amicable as the golf diplomacy with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. In fact, People’s Republic President Xi Jinping will not stay at Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach club but instead will spend the night in Manalapan.
Why? Well, Twitter may have something to do with it.
On the campaign trail, Candidate Trump frequently blasted the trade deficit with China, saying the People’s Republic was “ripping off” Americans via unfair trade and monetary practices. Those complaints worked their way into Mr. Trump’s Twitter missives.
Since his election as president on Nov. 8, Mr. Trump has not taken China to task on Twitter very often. He’s just fired off nine times.
But they’ve stung — in particular his defense of accepting a congratulatory call from the leader of China’s rival, Taiwan. Mr. Trump has also sharply criticized the PRC for inaction in dealing with provocative moves by North Korea.
In early January, China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, lambasted President Trump’s “Twitter diplomacy” likening it to a “child’s game.”
Landlord American Tower Corp. plans to lay off 58 workers at its Boca Raton office on May 1, the Boston-based company tells state officials.
In a letter to the state’s labor department, American Tower blames “changing business needs” and said it expects more layoffs in Boca later this year.
American Tower (NYSE: AMT), an owner of communications towers, operates a 22,000-square-foot office at Arvida Park of Commerce. Rival SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC) runs a headquarters less than two miles north.
The script this time: Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are battling over Enterprise Florida. Scott campaigned as the jobs governor and wants more money for tax breaks for employers. Corcoran considers jobs incentives a form of corporate welfare.
As he rallies Republicans in the Legislature to pull the plug on Enterprise Florida, Corcoran points to the cautionary tale of Digital Domain, the biggest flop in the history of Florida’s economic development subsidies.
The night before Corcoran introduced a bill to kill funding for jobs incentives, he summoned top GOP lawmakers to a gathering in Tallahassee. The “meeting featured a three-minute video on failed Enterprise Florida projects,” the Fort Myers News-Press reports. “It includes John Textor, the former CEO of Digital Domain, explaining why $20 million in taxpayers’ money and $50 million in local incentives could not prevent his company’s bankruptcy and the evaporation of 300 Port St. Lucie jobs.”
Technically, Enterprise Florida didn’t issue incentives to Digital Domain. Its $20 million state subsidy came directly from state lawmakers and then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
After Digital Domain failed in 2012, Enterprise Florida’s scrutiny of Digital Domain became a point of contention. Enterprise Florida insisted that it never approved incentives and said Digital Domain “circumvented the due diligence process,” a position echoed by Scott.
But Textor insisted Enterprise Florida approved, and in an interview in 2012, Charlie Crist said he recalled that Enterprise Florida had signed off.
Enterprise Florida indeed negotiated incentives with Textor but ultimately declined to approve them. Either way, Textor didn’t receive incentives through Enterprise Florida.
Undeterred, Textor turned to Plan B — a direct appeal to state lawmakers and the governor.
Present at the glamfest were Trump, his wife, Melania, and The Donald’s daughter, Ivanka.
Ivanka and Trump sat for television interviews and chatted with print reporters about the Intracoastal Waterway project.
Despite the hype (and the sushi), the project’s timing wasn’t great: The recession’s cold winds already were starting to blow as the demand for condominiums slowly sank, then cratered.
By October 2007, Trump acknowledged to this reporter that the real estate market was looking iffy. “The market in West Palm Beach is not exactly great-looking,” Trump said. “We won’t go forward unless we see a robust market.”
When pressed for details about Trump Tower Palm Beach sales, Trump was vague: ” “We’ve done very well with pre-sales. We’ve had substantial sales,” he said. “There’s no reason to be specific.”
But a Related executive gave some hints in June 2007. At that point, less than half the project’s 150 units had sold (prices ranged from $900,000 to $2.4 million). Developers were shooting for at least 60 percent, or about 90 units, before starting construction. But that didn’t happen and the condo wasn’t built.
Now it’s a decade later and there’s a new real estate boom.
And Related Group still is building condos on Flagler Drive, but a little farther south, at the Rybovich Marina.
The company also built a number of apartments and condominiums in West Palm Beach’s downtown, including CityPlace South Tower, The Slade, The Prado and the Tower Condominium at CityPlace. The Related Group’s most recent Palm Beach County project is an apartment complex in Delray Beach.
Big backers. OneWeb’s investors include British billionaire Richard Branson and Japanese firm SoftBank.
Hefty hiring plans. OneWeb itself expects peak employment of 1,200 employees, many of them at its new factory in Merritt Island. Add in employment from suppliers of solar panels and other equipment, and total employment related to the satellite system could reach 3,000, Wyler said.
The business plan predates Trump. OneWeb committed to build an $85 million factory in Brevard County in 2015, well before Trump’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8 election. But in an interview on CNBC, Wyler said the “invigoration and excitement” created by Trump’s win emboldened SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son to place an even bigger bet on OneWeb
An altruistic pitch. Wyler says billions of people in the developing world have no Internet access – nor do millions of people in rural America. In a world where schooling, banking and economic opportunity increasingly exist online, people on the wrong side of the digital divide risk being left behind.
A fleet of satellites. OneWeb aims to launch 900 satellites that will circle the earth, providing steady Internet access that allows people in remote areas to log on.
In fact, Florida ranks as the nation’s sixth least-affordable market, behind only Hawaii, California, the District of Columbia, Montana and Oregon. By this reckoning — which attempts to correlate incomes with the supply of homes affordable to buyers in that income range — Florida is less affordable than New York, Massachusetts or Colorado.
Blame fierce competition for entry-level homes, which are in particularly short supply in regions such as Palm Beach County.
“Consistently strong job gains and a growing share of millennials entering their prime buying years is laying the foundation for robust buyer demand in 2017,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said in a statement. “However, buyers with a lower maximum affordable price are seeing heavy competition for the fewer listings they can afford. At a time of higher borrowing costs, this situation could affect affordability even more as buyers battle for a smaller pool of homes and bid prices upward.”
Florida long has ranked high on affordability measures, thanks to home prices that are a fraction of those in San Francisco and Manhattan. But Florida incomes also skew low.
Texas, another state with seemingly cheap housing, also ranks as unaffordable in the new metric. It comes in as 13th least-affordable market.
The measure uses a not-especially-easy-to-understand scoring system. Scores range from Hawaii’s 0.52 to Indiana’s 1.23. Florida’s score is 0.71. The lower the score, the less affordable the state’s housing market. The national average was 0.92.
How would Florida’s economy fare in that scenario? Comparatively well, according to an analysis by WalletHub. Its state-by-state ranking puts Florida at 36th among regional effects of trade disruptions, just behind Hawaii and just ahead of North Dakota.
Intriguingly, three states that helped sweep Trump into the White House stand to lose the most: Texas, Arizona and Michigan could see the biggest consequences from a shift in trade policy, WalletHub says.