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.

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.

 

 

New owner for apartment complex in downtown West Palm Beach

The new Loftin Place apartments in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

A New York landlord is the new owner of the Loftin Place apartments in downtown West Palm Beach.

Castle Lanterra Properties of Suffern, N.Y., paid an undisclosed amount for the 259-unit complex at 805 N. Olive Ave.

The new owner wouldn’t say how much it paid, and no deed has been recorded. But the sale price was rumored to be more than $60 million, a reflection of intense demand for shiny new rental units.

UPDATE: Castle Lanterra says it paid $63.5 million for the property.

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.

 

Bill Cosby prosecutor: The Palm Beach County connection

Kevin Steele is the Pennsylvania District Attorney prosecuting entertainer Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges.

But here in Palm Beach County, Steele is known as someone else: The son of a prominent Palm Beach County lawyer and a former student at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.

Actor Bill Cosby and aide Andrew Wyatt arrive for Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse on June 8 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez-Pool/Getty Images)

Yes, everything has a Palm Beach County link somehow, including this high-profile trial.

» LATEST: More Cosby deposition read into court record

Kevin Steele is the son of Rodman Steele, an intellectual property attorney who practices at the Duane Morris law firm. Rodman Steele lives in West Palm Beach with his wife, Karen.

Steele said his son, Kevin, grew up in the Philadelphia area but went to high school at St. Andrew’s.

District Attorney of Montgomery County Kevin Steele (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Steele declined to discuss his son in greater deal because of the intense publicity surrounding the case.

Cosby is on trial for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a Temple University employee in 2004. Cosby has maintained the sex was consensual.

During his 2015 campaign for district attorney, Steele pledged to reopen a 2005 case in which Temple employee Andrea Constant claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her at his home. At the time, a criminal investigation was commence but the matter was dropped, citing lack of evidence.

In the decade since the alleged incident took place, more than 50 women have come forward with similar allegations against Cosby. But Constand’s claim is the only criminal case to arise from the accusations.

The trial is taking place in Norristown, Penn. So Rodman Steele has been in Pennsylvania giving his son moral support during the start of the trial, which began Monday, June 5.

At day’s end, Rodman Steele had this to say: “Just finishing an incredibly long day.”

 

 

Jeff Greene: Almost-new units at The Whitney will rent cheaper than other downtown apartments

 

Jeff Greene (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene said he paid $24.75 million for 139 units at the Whitney condo in downtown West Palm Beach because they were a good value, “way below replacement costs.”

“The building is only 10 years old, and it was totally rebuilt three years ago because of the Chinese drywall,” Greene said by phone from Los Angeles, where he’s attending the Milken Institute Global Conference.

With the price he paid, Greene said he’ll be able to charge a lower rent than apartments now under construction in several new projects downtown. They include Broadstone City Center, a 315-unit complex; Kolter’s The Alexander, a 205-unit apartment building; and All Aboard Florida’s 275-unit apartment complex.

“You’ve got three giant new luxury residential buildings, and I’m going to be able to offer rent significantly below theirs,” Greene said.

Greene considers this the best part of the Whitney purchase: Some 20 penthouses never were finished.

Greene said they’re decorator-ready, which means there are no kitchen cabinets and no flooring. Greene said he’s going to finish the units and rent those out, too.

In one unusual move for the deep-pocketed investor, Greene borrowed $17 million to finance the deal.

Why a mortgage? “Because that’s how you’re supposed to buy real estate,” Greene said. “Rates are still low.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bristol condo in West Palm Beach lands $200 million construction loan

The Bristol condominium

Now that sales at The Bristol condo in West Palm Beach have topped $300 million, the project’s developer has closed on a $206 million construction loan.

Flagler Investors LLC took the hefty mortgage from BREDS III Loan Holdings Inc., according to public records.

The Bristol is the priciest condo in Palm Beach County history, and it’s proving that wealthy buyers are willing to pay astronomical prices for units on the poor side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Units range from $1,500 to more than $2,500 per square foot. The typical unit The Bristol is 4,500 square feet and costs $10 million.

The property is just south of downtown at 1112 S. Flagler Drive.

 

 

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.