Did firm that designed WPB office tower steal design on Freedom Tower?

The architecture firm that designed a proposed 25-story office tower on the waterfront in West Palm Beach frequently is lauded as the designer of the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center in New York.

Now Georgia architect Jeehoon Park has sued the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architecture firm, claiming it stole the One World Trade Center design from his master’s thesis.

The lawsuit was filed June 14 in U.S. District Court in New York.

Skidmore Owings is the same firm hired by New York’s The Related Cos. to design One Flagler, an office tower proposed on land next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 20: One World Trade stands at ground zero in Manhattan on March 20, 2017 in New York City. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has been voicing criticism of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that could cut as much as $190 million from New York City efforts to fight terrorism. Following two major terrorist attacks and numerous foiled plots, New York City is considered the nation’s prime target for terrorists. The NYPD has stated that it costs $500,000 a day to pay for the nearly 200 police officers in and around Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The land is zoned for only five stories, but Related wants to build 25 stories on the site, at Flagler Drive and Lake­view Avenue.

Some city residents, many of whom live downtown, don’t like the tower proposal. They say the tower is too tall, will worsen traffic, will block some of their views and will forever ruin the city’s waterfront.

But Related and its team have staged numerous city and community meetings to showcase the project and its benefits to the community. They say the deal will give the church money to preserve its 1928 building, plus create new space for companies seeking to relocate to the city.

During these presentations, the tower’s architect, David Childs, is extolled, his work as the architect for the Freedom Tower figuring prominently into the discussions.

In fact, Childs himself appeared before the Economic Forum business group in February to discuss Related’s office tower. “This is a special project,” Childs said. He stressed that he took care to design a building that would stand beside the church and “waltz together.”

In his lawsuit, Park said Skidmore, Owens violated his copyright on a design developed for his master’s thesis.  An associate partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was one of Park’s thesis advisors, according to the complaint.

Neither Childs nor the associate partner is named in the complaint.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was dismissive of the lawsuit, which it noted was filed 12 years after the design and four years after the building’s construction.  “This lawsuit feels like an attempt to get attention or money, and we are certain this claim will be found to be baseless,” a firm spokeswoman told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

A Park lawyer has said his client only recently became aware of his legal rights.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Delray Beach legal impresario joins forces with Boca Raton law firm

Michael Weiner

Delray Beach legal eagle Michael Weiner is joining forces with a Boca Raton law firm renowned for its prowess in homeowners and condominium law.

Sachs, Sax & Caplan will be the new home for the longtime zoning, land use and administrative law attorney.

Weiner, 68, is a ubiquitous figure at municipal hearings on behalf of real estate developers. Even his website’s name is all about his business: zonelaw.com.

And although he’s best known for his work representing Delray Beach real estate developers, Weiner’s practice extends from Boca Raton to Lake Worth.

But starting April 1, Weiner will become of counsel to Sachs, Sax.

Weiner, who has had his own law firm for more than 30 years, said he decided to join Sachs, Sax because he could not figure out a way to clone himself.

“I can only be in so many places at once,” Weiner said. And cities love to hold meetings on Tuesday nights at the same time, he added.

On a more serious note, Weiner said that Sachs, Sax’s land-use department complimented his own practice.

In addition, he said the heft of a full-service law firm with a wide geographic reach will help him better serve clients, particularly on topics such as climate change and transportation.

For its part, Sachs, Sax said Weiner broadens its expertise.

“The firm’s practice will be further diversified with Weiner’s extensive background in land use and zoning litigation, private property rights, historic property redevelopment, property tax challenges, and code enforcement defense and appeals,” the firm said in a statement.

“We are confident this milestone will benefit our existing clients while opening the firm up to new growth opportunities,” said Peter S. Sachs, a founding partner of Sachs Sax Caplan. “Our firm will undoubtedly be stronger and better positioned for the future with him on board.”

Sachs, Sax handles matters from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter. With Weiner on board, the firm now will be able to handle not only matters throughout Palm Beach and Broward counties, but also from suburbs in the west to cities along the coast, east of Interstate 95.

Helping make the move more palatable is the fact that Weiner’s Delray Beach offices, at10 S.E. 1st Ave., soon could be transformed into a Delray Beach location of Louie Bossi. That’s the sizzling new Italian concept by West Palm Beach’s Big Time Restaurant Group.

In addition to community association and real estate law, Sachs Sax Caplan handles commercial litigation and appeals, estate planning and marital and family law. The firm’s main office is in Boca Raton, with another office located in Tallahassee.

 

 

Related’s Perez to Trump: I’m not interested in building your wall

Ivanka and Donald Trump at a January 2007 event for the proposed Trump Tower Palm Beach condo on North Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.
Ivanka and Donald Trump at a January 2007 event for the proposed Trump Tower Palm Beach condo on North Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. Photo by Allen Eyestone.

President Donald Trump, seeking to find a builder for his proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico, is turning to old real estate friends for help.

Full Donald Trump coverage: Galleries, news, video

Among them: The Related Group’s Jorge Perez, who once partnered with Trump on a proposed West Palm Beach condo dubbed Trump Tower Palm Beach.

In a recent Wall Street Journal story, Perez said he received an email  from Trump with this message: “Any interest in building a 2,000 mile wall—30’ high—between U.S.A. and Mexico? Call me.”

“I told him I thought the wall was immoral and it wouldn’t achieve the goals he wanted to achieve,” Perez told the Journal. “Plus, I have lots of business in Mexico—I’d be finished here.”

During the real estate boom ten years ago, Related partnered with Trump to try to develop a 23-story, 150-unit condominium at 4308 N. Flagler Drive.

Originally called Icon Palm Beach, Perez changed the name to Trump Tower Palm Beach because the Trump name would be a lure for international buyers. “The Trump brand is so strong, it expands your universe of buyers,” Perez said.

... A model of the Trump Tower Palm Beach in the sales center. Real estate mogul Donald Trump unveiled his new condo project in partnership with the Related Group.
A model of the Trump Tower Palm Beach in the sales center. In 2007, Trump unveiled the condo project in partnership with the Related Group. Photo by Allen Eyestone.

Ten years ago, Trump Tower Palm Beach held a glitzy event to show off a model of the proposed luxury condo.

Attendees included real estate brokers, prospective buyers, city bigwigs and the media.

RELATED: A peek inside Donald Trump’s historic Palm Beach palace

As guests dined on sushi, the Trumps held court.

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.

 

Exclusive: Sales top $300 million at Bristol condo in WPB

The Bristol condominium site in West Palm Beach, now under construction
The Bristol condominium site in West Palm Beach, now under construction. Photo by Greg Lovett.

The ultra-luxury The Bristol condominium in West Palm Beach has sold 60 percent of its units, which equals more than $300 million in sales for the most expensive condo ever built in Palm Beach County.

The Bristol condominium
The Bristol condominium

At this rate, developer Al Adelson expects the 25-story, 69-unit property to sell out by season’s end. “We thought it would take three years to sell out, and it looks like it’s going to take less than a half and a half. We’re extraordinarily happy with sales,” said Adelson, a partner with developer Flagler Investors LLC.

This time last year, The Bristol had logged about $125 million in sales.

The sales prices are astronomical, ranging from $1,500 to more than $2,500 per square foot. The average size of a unit at The Bristol is about 4,500 square feet and costs $10 million.

The property is just south of downtown, along the Intracoastal Waterway, at 1112 S. Flagler Drive.

There are six penthouses planned, but all have sold except for one. That last penthouse is priced at under $30 million, Adelson said.

Word of mouth seems to be helping with sales at the 69-unit project, which has about 41 units sold now.

During a December party, several buyers brought along friends. And The Bristol lodged three more sales.

Some buyers are discovering the building because their friends at private clubs such as the Everglades Club on Palm Beach, or Trump International Golf Club, bought units, Adelson said.

Multiple purchases also are taking place.

One buyer bought on a lower floor and then decided to buy a penthouse, Adelson said.

The Bristol condominium site in West Palm Beach, now under construction
The Bristol condominium site in West Palm Beach, now under construction. Photo by Greg Lovett.

Another buyer bought two units on a high floor, totaling $25 to $30 million for both units. One unit is a residence and the other unit next door is for family or investment purposes, Adelson added.

For these prices, buyers enjoy private elevators; concierge services; intense security; 11-foot ceilings or higher; infinity pool; yoga and massage center; and so on. 

Tons of marble have been ordered for the project, and Adelson is excited about the 11-foot, floor-to-ceiling glass doors to the balconies. Not only are the glass doors hurricane resistant, they are easy to slide, he said.

The project’s sales success is welcomed by developers who are building or thinking of building luxury condos in the area. They are encouraged that people are willing to spend millions of dollars on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway, across from Palm Beach.

Indeed, many of The Bristol’s buyers either hail from the island of Palm Beach or from in and around the West Palm Beach area, Adelson said.

The Bristol started fast out of the sales gate. As far back as May 2015, the luxury condo sold 17 percent of its units before it even had a sales center or website up and running.

Last year, the project broke ground and opened up its sales center.

In December, workers began pouring cement for the elevators, after six months of underground work.

Now buyers and would-be buyers will start to see the project rise out of the ground.

A completion is set for late 2018, and Adelson will be one of the condo’s residents.

So he has an added incentive to make sure everything is perfect, otherwise he jokes he’ll be hearing about it from his neighbors.

But he’s confident all will be well:  “It goes to show you how much confidence we have in what we’re doing,” he said.

This timelapse shows how Palm Beach County has grown in past 30 years

Google recently made a major update to its Google Earth Timelapse feature — and now we can see just how much our region has grown over more than three decades.

The internet giant announced earlier this week that it added tons of new data and images to give a sharper, clearer overall picture of how Earth has changed between 1984 and 2016.

Users can navigate the tool by zooming in and out to get as broad a view as the entire U.S., or as close as the neighborhood where you grew up.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

We’ve used it to help show the massive growth Palm Beach County has undergone in the past 32 years. And just imagine how it will look when we check back in two years: more neighborhoods will pop up, and an entire community, Westlake, will bloom west of West Palm Beach.

(Tip: You can adjust the speed of the timelapse by clicking “Fast” under the year; it will toggle to “Medium” and then “Slow.”)

That’s an impressive view — but let’s zoom in to take a look at each community.

West Palm Beach

You can see several neighborhoods appear. Watch work being done at Palm Beach International Airport and along the Florida East Coast Railway line. For those who want to reminisce, you can see the old Palm Beach Mall until just a few years ago, when it was razed and rebuilt as the Palm Beach Outlets.

Jupiter

Want a real “wow” moment? Watch Abacoa in Jupiter come out of the ground in about five seconds with this timelapse.

Palm Beach Gardens

Numerous large neighborhoods appear over the past 30 years in Palm Beach Gardens. Watch Downtown at the Gardens and Legacy Place grow out of the ground in the span of about two seconds.

Lake Worth, Greenacres

Want to show your friends how the pre-Recession housing boom affected Palm Beach County? Show them this timelapse. Hundreds of homes populate the screen from 2000 to 2006 along Lantana Road.

Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, The Acreage, Loxahatchee Groves

Long-time residents of Royal Palm Beach and Wellington will notice a few things: the construction of the Mall at Wellington Green, along with several Wellington schools; several large developments north of Okeechobee Boulevard and west of State Road 7; and several projects to connect major roads in Loxahatchee Groves.

Boynton Beach

Watch as the Boynton Beach Mall and the surrounding area grow. The Renaissance Commons development begins to grow around 2006-2007, stalls, and then sees renewed growth. Areas of suburban Boynton see several large housing developments.

Delray Beach, Boca Raton

The growth of Florida Atlantic University is especially noticeable here, along with areas of suburban Delray Beach near Lyons Road and Atlantic Avenue.