Stranded at Flagler Shore? Readers react

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach

 

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach is a neat idea — for the fairgrounds, said retired businessman Robert Garvy. “At least they have public restrooms there,” Garvy said.

Garvey is one of a number of business leaders and residents who were sympathetic to the frustration expressed by Dennis Hammond of Sandpointe Asset Management, with offices in the Phillips Point office complex on Flagler Drive.

Recently, Hammond told the Palm Beach Post and city leaders he was dismayed by the city’s Flagler Shore project, which involve shutting down a portion of the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive to make way for chairs, bicyclists, street jugglers and graffiti-laden shipping containers.

City officials say they’re trying to broaden the waterfront’s appeal by making it a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly place. The partial road shutdown runs through March 1.

Hammond says the effort is “goofy” and anti-business.

Flagler Drive is an important north-south thoroughfare, Hammond said. He noted the area already has plenty of places to enjoy the waterfront, without necessitating the transformation of a four-lane road into a two-lane one so that people can partake in “pavement lunches on Flagler.”

Garvy, the retired chairman of money management firm, Intech, agreed wholeheartedly.

And bluntly.

“How low can our city leaders take this town? The Flagler waterfront is beautiful as it is,” Garvy wrote Hammond in an email, copied to the Palm Beach Post. ” It’s amazing what lack of vision these people have.”

Garvy is an influential business leader who kicked off the leasing of the CityPlace Tower office building when he moved Intech to the tower’s penthouse, from a location in Palm Beach Gardens.

Robert Garvy, formerly chairman of Intech in West Palm Beach

In an interview, Garvy said he’s making another investment in the city. He bought a unit in The Bristol, the West Palm Beach luxury condominium under construction at 1100 S. Flagler Dr. Garvey plans to move there from a single-family home on Palm Beach.

Now he’s wondering what will happen if the city’s vision of street merchants, roller-bladers and street artists remains a permanent fixture along the waterfront, an area he had contemplated strolling at night.

“The people I’ve talked to recently are appalled, just appalled, not only by the action but by the process that was followed here,” Garvy said, citing the minimal notice to the community.

He’s not alone in being bewildered by the whole venture.

“I can’t help but wonder who would create such an unsightly mess,” Michael Andersen, who works at Phillips Point, wrote in an email to city officials. “The experiment turned this stretch of road into an obstacle course of confused drivers and no new pedestrians.”

In a recent interview, West Palm Beach economic development director Christopher Roog said Flagler Shore isn’t anti-business. In fact, the business community benefits from the public space and recreational features there, Roog said.

“The waterfront is a very important place for (our residents),” Roog said, “so what can we do to make it better for everyone?”

A number of people have expressed their support for the experiment, on a Facebook page called Engage West Palm Beach.

“We drive on Flagler all the time and think it’s great!!” wrote Chris Costello Haerting.

“Flagler Shore is all about trying to better the city of West Palm Beach,” wrote Joseph Russo. “Once (in) awhile, our elected officials take a stand in defense of the new. But before many of these groundbreaking new ideas can take root and flourish, they are often knocked down for fear of change, detriment, or blight…..(While) we might not all agree on the means, we should unite behind the vision at least.”

Garvy hopes any further consideration to extending Flagler Shore will involve the residents and businesses.

The city’s website said it encourages public feedback on the new design and new activities via email at  flaglershore@wpb.org.

Votes on adult living, day care west of Boca Raton delayed

Residents west of Boca Raton will have to wait a little longer to find out if a senior living center and a day care will be built near their homes.

A proposal by St. Louis-based Allegro Senior Living and property owner Alan D. Simon to build on Clint Moore Road has been delayed.

The project’s planners requested a postponement of a planning hearing and a vote by the Palm Beach County commission. The meetings were set to take place this month, but now a planning meeting won’t be held until Dec. 8 and a county commission meeting won’t take place until Jan. 31.

Planners said the delay “will allow the applicant to continue to work with the neighbors.”

The projects are proposed for a 13-acre parcel in the Agriculture Reserve, on the north side of Clint Moore Road just west of Florida’s Turnpike.

The Ag Reserve is  a 22,000-acre farming and conservation zone west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. Building in the reserve has been limited by strict county rules, but the reserve has been under increasing development pressure.

Allegro wants to build a 151-unit, 223-bed rental adult living facility that will feature independent and assisted living, plus memory care. Allegro operates facilities in Boynton Beach and Jupiter.

Adjacent to the 175,000-square-foot development, a daycare for 240 children also is proposed. Simon is chief executive of Alternative Educational Systems, which owns the Randazzo School in Coconut Creek.

Some residents who live near the property fear the projects will add to traffic and noise in the area. They’ve organized a group, www.clintmoorewest.com, to oppose the project.

Tall, waterview office tower in WPB will get some love

One Clearlake Centre

A West Palm Beach office building has traded hands, and its new owners vow to pour money into making the property more attractive to tenants.

One Clearlake Centre just sold to Velocis, a private equity real estate manager, in partnerhip with CREC, a Miami-based real estate company.

The 18-story, 218,461-square-foot  tower is at 250 S. Australian Ave., just east of Interstate 95. A sales price could not immediately be obtained.

At a time when business and city leaders say they need more high-quality downtown office space to lure employers, One Clearlake Centre provides an opportunity to provide more choices, said Andrew Remick, CREC vice president.

Millions of dollars in improvements will be made to the building, including upgrades to the lobby, corridors, bathrooms plus a new conference center. The upgrades should be completed within the next 12 to 18 months.

“We’re trying to meet the market demand for Class A space, but at more competitive leasing rates,” Remick said.

There’s plenty of vacant space to work with at Clearlake. The property is only 47 percent occupied, meaning about 100,000 square feet is available for lease. This includes entire floors.

Some of that vacancy is being created by  Shoes for Crews, which has 37,657 square feet of space in the building on three floors but is moving to Boca Raton early next year.

CREC plans to break up some of the Clearlake’s floors into small, ready-to-occupy offices. This will allow it to meet demand from what Remick says is the main business tenant in West Palm Beach: Small users needing between 2,500 to 5,000 square feet of space.

Gross rents, which include rent plus all maintenance expenses, now are at about $34, far less than buildings along the Intracoastal Waterway. The rents are expected to inch up after the redo, but still will be far less than other office towers, Remick said.

One Clearlake offers water views, both of Clear Lake to the east and also, at higher levels, of the Intracoastal to the east.

Even better, Remick said, is that the property is away from the traffic crowding downtown streets.

From I-95, it’s a quick turn onto Australian Avenue to arrive at the office tower.

“And there’s no traffic lights, either” he added.

 

 

The American is coming! Why a West Palm Beach lawyer is handling a major UK case

Brad Kaufman

What’s an American lawyer doing representing a banker in the biggest U.K. banking scandal in recent years?

Doing his job, that’s what.

West Palm Beach lawyer Brad Kaufman, vice president of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, represents one of four U.K. men charged with various offenses in connection with a long-running investigation into one of the world’s largest banks, Barclays.

The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office in June said former Barclays Chief Executive Officer John Varley, former chairman of investment banking for the Middle East Roger Jenkins, ex-wealth chief Thomas Kalaris, and Richard Boath, the former European head of the bank’s financial institutions group, face charges, along with the bank itself.

Kaufman, co-chair of Greenberg’s global securities litigation group, represents Jenkins.

Kaufman met him years ago when Jenkins and his wife were vacationing in Palm Beach. Since then, Kaufman said he’s represented Jenkins, who now lives in Malibu, in various bank matters.

But past work is nothing like what Jenkins is facing now.

The men, and the bank, are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to fundraising in 2008. Barclays raised billions from Qatar in a move that allowed the bank to avoid taking a taxpayer bailout.

Jenkins’ work to find Middle East investors willing to pour money into the bank now is coming back to haunt him. But Kaufman defended Jenkins, saying he “wouldn’t have taken part in any capitalization program without legal advice, both internal and external, to cover every issue raised by the SFO.”

Kaufman said Jenkins “intends to vigorously fight these charges.”

The British press has been agog over the charges, particularly since they come nearly a decade after the global banking crisis. In fact, this is the first time criminal action has been taken against any senior U.K. bankers for events dating to the 2008 financial crisis.

Kaufman said his represenation of Jenkins reflects the globalization of law, and the fact that lawyers can and do handle matters around the globe — and not just lawyers from New York or London but West Palm Beach, too. “This is a real life example of that,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman said technology allows clients to work with professionals of their choice, without relying exclusively on geographic location.

But Kaufman acknowledges he’s been a bit of a curiosity to British barristers, who at first wondered why a Yankee is involved in the case. “But then they accepted me into the fold,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Canopy hotel update: We’re starting construction soon after all

Rendering of Canopy Hotel planned for West Palm Beach

A Canopy Hotel set for West Palm Beach will start construction this fall and not in early 2018, despite what an executive for the hotel’s developer told the Palm Beach Post last week.

This is according to Carlos Rodriguez Jr, chief operating officer of Driftwood Acquisition and Development, an affiliate of Driftwood Hospitality of North Palm Beach.

In an interview Monday, Rodriguez said Driftwood has the $50 million necessary to build the Canopy hotel, a Hilton brand. Construction is slated to start in late September or early October on the 14-story, 150-room hotel.

The sexy, millennial-oriented Canopy is set to rise on the southeast corner of South Dixie Highway and Trinity Place.

In an interview last week, Driftwood executive Andrew Stevens said the hotel needed to raise more money from the EB5 foreign investor program in order to commence construction, which he said wouldn’t begin until the first quarter of 2018.

The hotel originally was slated to be completed by December, then it was supposed to start construction this summer.

But Rodriguez said delays in the project’s construction are due to technical and redesign changes, not financial ones. “We don’t have any issues with capital,” Rodriguez said.

Right now, the building permits have been going through the normal tweaking process by the city of West Palm Beach, Rodriguez said.  But just last week, the latest comments came back from staffers, which means Driftwood is even closer to its construction start, he added.

In addition, Rodriguez said the company is close to signing Verdex Construction of West Palm Beach as the project’s general contractor.

The hotel is slated to take 18 months to build, with completion expected by March 2019.

Driftwood is an experienced hotel operator and builder, with properties across the country. But unlike other Driftwood projects, this planned Canopy hotel has been anything but a day at the beach.

The deal first started back in 2014, when a Driftwood investor group first signed a 200-year lease with the property’s land owner, real estate baron Burt Handelsman.

When details of the plan were unveiled to the community, residents of the Two City Plaza condominium objected because they said the hotel would block their western views. The hotel would be less than 75 feet from the 21-story, 467-unit condominium at  at 701 S. Olive Ave.

Rodriguez said the hotel project went through a time-consuming redesign so that it would not need any variances. The project received site plan approval from the city late last year.

The only neighborhood issue outstanding is an October 2016 lawsuit filed by 17 condo owners at Two City Plaza. The group is suing the city of West Palm Beach and the property owner Handelsman’s Love 718 Dixie LLC.

The Palm Beach County Circuit Court lawsuit claims the city failed to follow its comprehensive plan when it approved the hotel. The lawsuit seeks to stop the hotel’s construction.

Rodriguez said Driftwood is confident the lawsuit has no merit. It has intervened in the case to join with Love 718 Dixie in asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

When the hotel is completed, “everyone is going to be really happy. It’s going to be a great neighborhood hotel,” Rodriguez said.

 

Landlord at Rennova’s West Palm Beach headquarters files eviction notice

Gov. Rick Scott visits the headquarters of Rennova Health. The company was known as Medytox at the time.

Troubled drug-testing firm Rennova Health (Nasdaq: RNVA) faces another financial woe: The landlord at its West Palm Beach headquarters is seeking eviction.

Building owner Southern Management and Development on May 18 sent Rennova a “three-day notice to pay rent or give possession,” according to court filings. The company said Rennova owes nearly $85,000 for its 5,800-square-foot space at 400 S. Australian Ave, the landlord said. When Rennova didn’t pay, Southern Management and Development this week filed an eviction notice.

Medytox’s landlord last year sued for unpaid rent. Previously known as Medytox Solutions, Rennova has seen revenue plummet amid a regulatory crackdown on drug-treatment centers that order tests.

“We provide an excellent service in the sector, but the facilities themselves, our customers, have undergone a lot of scrutiny as has the medical necessity of a lot of tests that they use to treat their patients,” Rennova Chief Executive Seamus Lagan said earlier this year.

The company missed payroll at least once and has clung to its Nasdaq listing only after a 1-for-30 reverse split of shares. In a dramatic change of strategy, the company in December paid $1 million for a twice-shuttered hospital in a poor part of rural Tennessee.

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.

 

 

 

 

Tall tower plan prompts dueling petitions, snipes from builders

Related Cos.’ proposed 25-story tower on the waterfront in West Palm Beach

Sensing blood in the water, New York developer Charles Cohen has sent West Palm Beach city officials another letter urging them to act quickly on his proposal to build an office tower on the city-owned “tent site” land.

The move comes as city officials held two meetings this month, where impassioned city residents voiced opposition to The Related Cos.’s plan to build a 25-story office tower along the city’s waterfront.

The One Flagler tower would be on Flagler Drive, next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist. The land now is zoned for only five stories.

Related’s bid to build One Flagler has mobilized some city residents who don’t like the plan. They say the tower is too tall, will worsen traffic, will block some of their views and will forever ruin the city’s waterfront.

They’ve circulated a petition and now claim nearly 1,000 names on it from nine condos, including the powerful One Watermark condo. They’ve flooded city officials with emails, formed teams and organized a Facebook page, dubbed Preserve West Palm Beach Citizens Coalition. Now they’re working on slogans.

Their effort has become so aggressive that Related has started pushing its own petition, this one with the names of tower supporters collected during neighborhood meetings. The petition has about 700 names.

Related’s petition drive made a public showing this past weekend at CityPlace, which Related built.

At the shopping and dining center, bewildered Easter tourists encountered a table in front of retailer Anthropologie, seeking petition signers.

The table was meant to provide people with tower information and drum up support, said Rick Asnani, a principal with Cornerstone Solutions, the group hired by Related for community outreach.

In meetings with neighborhood groups, “once we explain what we’re trying to do the opposition melts away and we find people are neutral or gravitate to it,” Asnani said. “It’s amazing how quickly people are supporting this project.”

Unfortunately for Related, a lot of tourists were hanging around CityPlace this past holiday weekend, so Cornerstone officials couldn’t reach as many residents as they hoped.

Nonetheless, “it was a good experiment. We were happy to bring awareness,” Asnani said.

Related officials say there is demand for a new Class A office building that will bring more jobs to the city. Money from the sale of the land will preserve the 1928 Christian Science church, they add.

But residents in nearby condos aren’t buying it. Their growing opposition has prompted Cohen and another billionaire real estate developer, Jeff Greene, to openly criticize Related’s efforts to try to rezone the low-rise waterfront site.

This is especially the case since business and city leaders have been crying for some time about the need for new, Class A office space downtown.

“The site in play and the development planned does not comply with current zoning and has received community opposition that will delay any forward movement,” Cohen said of the Related site in his letter to city officials, including Mayor Jeri Muoio.

In a statement to this reporter, Cohen said the tent site “provokes much less consternation than any site that would compete with it.”

The letter comes one month after Cohen, the Oscar-winning owner of the Carefree Theater property, sent a letter to city officials notifying them of his interest in building a 300,000-400,000-square foot office building on the tent site. That land is at Okeechobee Boulevard and South Dixie Highway.

Meanwhile, Greene poked holes at Related’s efforts to create the Okeechobee Business District to justify One Flagler. A previous effort to create a waterfront historic district that would have allowed this tower failed.

“What’s next? The One Block From The Water District?” Greene asked. “We should just call it what it is: Spot zoning. And everybody knows it.”

Greene said the city’s citizen referendums are the reason the land is zoned for only five stories. If that cap is to change, “the city can have another referendum,” he said.

Greene is planning to build a 30-story, twin-tower complex featuring office space at 550 Quadrille Blvd. He said he plans to start building soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump, China and Twitter: 9 tweets that likely irked PRC leaders

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.

President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport on Air Force One Friday, February 10, 2016 accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Abe, and the Prime Minister’s wife Akie Abe. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Why? Well, Twitter may have something to do with it.

RELATED: Will Palm Beach County benefit when Trump brings  a global leader?

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.

Full Donald Trump coverage: Galleries, news, video

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.”

RELATED: Night at Mar-a-Lago: Inside charity event with Trump, Sessions nearby

Here are Mr. Trump’s China tweets since his Nov. 8 election.