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.

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.”

 

 

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.

 

 

Landlord of hhgregg space in west Boca could face mortgage woes

Michael Ares/The Palm Beach Post

For a landlord, it’s never good news when your one and only tenant announces it’s going out of business. After electronics retailer hhgregg said it was closing all of its stores, Morningstar Credit Ratings said Thursday that the loan on a west Boca property is in danger of default.

The property in question is the hhgregg store at 20841 S. State Road 7. After it closes, the 41,000-square-foot property will go from full to empty.

Landlord Pan York Glades of Miami paid $10.07 million for the property in 2013 and took a $7.07 million mortgage, according to property records.

Morningstar issued a report looking at commercial mortgage-backed securities likely to be hurt by hhgregg’s bankruptcy. The west Boca property is one of 10 loans at higher risk of default.

hhgregg follows a long list of retailers closing stores. Sports Authority, Circuit City and Linens N Things are long gone. Macy’s, JCPenney and Sears are shrinking. And, counterintuitively, it’s a great time to be a landlord in Palm Beach County. The retail vacancy rate is just 4.4 percent.

Boca Raton tech firm to cut 59 workers in December and January

Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT's facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT’s facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)

Tech firm NTT America plans to lay off 59 workers at its operations in Boca Raton, the company has told state labor officials.

NTT America says it will lay off 16 people on Jan. 15, many of them engineers. In a bit of good news for workers, NTT America scaled back a previously announced layoff, saying just 43 people will lose their jobs Dec. 15, down from the 51 originally reported.

NTT America operates from a facility at 5050 Conference Way in Boca. It’s a division of NTT Communications Corp. of Japan.

Seven things to know about Palm Beach County’s real estate market

From left to right: Joel Altman, the Altman Companies; Mike Belmont, Minto Communities; Jeff Greene; Bob Vail, Kolter Urban; Michael Wohl, Pinnacle Housing
From left to right: Joel Altman, the Altman Companies; Mike Belmont, Minto Communities; Jeff Greene; Bob Vail, Kolter Urban; Michael Wohl, Pinnacle Housing. Photo courtesy Green Advertising.

Banks are turning off their money spigots.  Apartment rental rates aren’t likely to go up.

But people still need to live somewhere, and five prominent housing developers told a crowd of about 70 on Thursday they remain mostly bullish about the Palm Beach County housing market.

The speakers were Jeff Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire and West Palm Beach land investor;  Mike Belmont, president of Minto Communities Florida; Bob Vail, president of Kolter Urban; Joel Altman, chairman of The Altman Companies; and Michael Wohl, president of Pinnacle Housing.

They addressed a crowd assembled at Morton’s Steak House for the aptly-named Real Estate Developer Power Lunch. The lunch was hosted by Green Advertising and chairman Phyllis Green, in celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary representing a range of businesses, especially developers.

Although the real estate developers were enthusiastic about their own projects, they candidly voiced concerns about housing affordability, demand for rental apartments and the future of new projects proposed in the county.

And, in a one-on-one interview with a reporter, one developer  dropped a bombshell.

Here are seven takeaways:

  • Minto is not promising to build parks and recreational facilities at Westlake, a city created after the county gave Minto approval to develop 4,500 homes in a portion of the Acreage. “That’s up to the city (of Westlake),” Minto’s Mike Belmont told this reporter. Minto is the primary landowner in the Seminole Improvement District, whose boundaries now roughly equate those of Westlake. The project calls for 200 acres of parks and 15 miles of trails for horses, bikes and walkers. After Westlake was created, county officials worried Minto would not keep its promises and instead, punt to Westlake.
  • Boca Raton is about to become a hot market for apartment rentals.  Altman’s soon-to-open 396-unit apartment complex, Altis Boca Raton, is expected to attract professionals working in the nearby Park at Broken Sound. Altis is under construction on Military Trail and is expected to open in March. Rents will range from $1,800 to the high $2,000s for one, two and three bedroom apartments.
  • West Palm Beach remains an iffy market for more new apartments. Greene said there’s a limited pool of people who can afford pricey rents. At the Strand apartment building and City Palm condos, where Greene owns bulk units and rents them out, he consistently has a 10 percent vacancy rate. “We don’t have robust demand,” Greene said.
  • Housing affordability is a problem. Belmont said Westlake will provide for-sale homes for working families, but other developers who build apartments acknowledged rents are starting to become too pricey. In Boca Raton, Altman said rental rate increases will soon start moderating because the supply of apartments is increasing. In West Palm Beach, Greene said rental rates increases are “constrained” because there isn’t a huge pool of renters. This means rental rates are less likely to rise in the future, he said.
  •  Fewer condominium and apartment projects will be built, thanks to tightened lending practices. Making matters worse: Bank regulators are clamping down on banks that already have broad exposure to the housing market. Minto’s Belmont said one major bank dropped out of its lending group, but the company was able to replace it with another bank. “The (lending) pool is shrinking, and the banks participating in the pool are getting tougher,” agreed Kolter’s Vail. Kolter is building The Alexander apartments in West Palm Beach and the Water Club condominium in North Palm Beach.
  • West Palm Beach has a lot of proposed projects, but “of eight or 10 proposed projects, maybe one or two will get built,” Greene said. Greene said obtaining bank financing will be a problem for some developers, but not for him: He plans to self-finance construction of One West Palm, a twin-tower complex featuring office space, hotel rooms and apartments. “I’m taking a shot here, but it won’t ruin me if it doesn’t work out,” said the billionaire. Greene expects to break ground on the 30-story towers at Quadrille Boulevard within about four months.
  • Everybody wants the West Palm Beach condominium, The Bristol, to succeed. The ultra-luxury condo, now under construction on Flagler Drive, could provide a “viral” boost to the local real estate market, once the 25-story building is completed and word gets out, said Kolter’s Vail.

Law firm markets client battling sex, tax fraud claims

simone

The law firm defending Boca Raton real estate mogul James Batmasian in several lawsuits filed by his ex-employees just emailed a letter to clients and friends, endorsing Batmasian’s business and urging clients to lease Batmasian’s commercial and residential properties.

Simon & Sigalos LLP of Boca Raton is defending Batmasian in lawsuits alleging tax and bank fraud, unpaid wages and sexual harassment.

The firm’s letter raised eyebrows among lawyers who are experts in legal ethics.

“Wholly inappropriate,” said Gerald Richman, a West Palm Beach lawyer who previously served as president of the Florida Bar and chair of the Bar’s professional ethics committee.

“Slimy and stupid,” added D. Culver “Skip” Smith, a West Palm Beach lawyer, former Florida Bar board member and expert in representing attorneys in ethical matters. “I’m pretty sure the Florida Bar and the (state) Supreme Court could find one or more rules to hang a violation on.”

Both lawyers say they’ve never heard of a law firm endorsing and marketing a client to others.

Read the Simon & Sigalos letter to clients

In the Aug. 25 emailed letter, partner George Sigalos urged his clients to lease from Batmasian’s “huge inventory” of commercial and residential properties in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

“I have personally known the owners, Jim and Marta Batmasian, for many years. I would highly recommend them and their company to all clients and friends,” Sigalos wrote.

The Batmasians own Investments Limited in Boca Raton. They are the largest private owners of downtown commercial property in Boca and own the Royal Palm Place shopping center.

James Batmasian is a felon who pleaded guilty and went to federal prison in 2008 for failing to pay $253,513 in withholding income tax for employees.

Simon & Sigalos represents the Batmasians in several pending cases filed by former employees. Sigalos is the main lawyer handing the cases.

One case is a whistleblower case by a former comptroller who  alleges the Batmasian real estate empire is a “financial crimes enterprise,” replete with bank, mortgage and tax fraud, and inflated tenant charges for common area maintenance, or CAM.

Another lawsuit is by a former agent alleging sexual harassment by Batmasian, whom she claims indicated he was romantically interested in her and also directed her to lease commercial space to people involved in the sex trade, so Batmasian could demand sexual favors from the tenants for him and his friends.

The third is a federal court case alleging unpaid overtime by an ex-employee who claims he received gift cards to Batmasian’s tenants instead of overtime pay.

The Batmasians have denied all the allegations. They say these ex-employees are trying to shake them down for money because they are rich.

The Sigalos letter prompted a blunt response from Sigalos’ longtime partner, Michael Simon, who said he was not consulted about the letter prior to it being sent.

“It’s not good. He shouldn’t have done it,” Simon said. “We’re not a marketing firm. Jim is a client.”

Simon added: “We’re defending Jim in all these lawsuits and this letter endorses the client and (seems to) take a personal interest in his business practices…” Simon said, his voice trailing off.

In fact, Simon & Sigalos represents lots of other property owners, not just Batmasian, Simon said.

Understandably, other clients were pretty steamed about seeing their law firm advocating for one particular client, Simon said. “It makes the clients look at us and think, ‘Whose side are you on?’ ”

Richman said the letter was a violation of the privacy of other Simon & Sigalos clients, whom he doubt gave their consent to be marketed to in this way.

Smith said the letter also lacks disclosure of Batmasian’s litigation history and felony conviction. He cited Florida Bar 4-8.4 (c), which prohibits a lawyer from “engag(ing) in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Silence that misleads can fall within this category, Smith said.

“If someone relies on the recommendation and is harmed as a result of that reliance, a civil action for damages probably would be sustainable,” Smith said.

Making matters worse, the letter includes what sounds like a referral arrangement.

Sigalos wrote that anyone interested in commercial or leasing property can call Jim directly and “tell them that you were referred by George L. Sigalos, Esq. of Simon & Sigalos, LLP.”

Lawyers are allowed to receive real estate commissions, but Simon said he doesn’t permit the practice to take place at his firm.

So he’s not sure what Sigalos had in mind.

“I’ve got to ask George about that, if he’s getting a commission. On my letterhead,” Simon said unhappily.

Sigalos did not return a phone call and emails seeking comment.

 

 

 

Luxe Boca condo gets big money loan

327 Royal Palm, a luxury condo under construction in downtown Boca Raton
327 Royal Palm, a luxury condo under construction in downtown Boca Raton

Downtown Boca Raton’s newest luxury condo just landed a $19.7 million construction loan, putting 327 Royal Palm one step closer to completion.

The lender is Banesco USA, said condo developer Ignacio Diaz, of Group P6.

Even though Group P6 just wrapped up financing, construction already is underway on the nine-story condo, at 327 E. Royal Palm Road just west of the Intracoastal Waterway off of Palmetto Park Road.

Diaz said foundation work is nearing completion, including construction of a two-level underground garage.

Diaz expects construction of the building above ground to start in about six weeks, with completion set for late 2017.

So far the condo is about 50 percent sold. The project features 24 units, ranging in price from $1.6 million to $2.9 million.

Units average 3,200 square feet and can go up to three bedrooms. One buyer combined units to create a 7,000 square foot residence, a trend noted by developers of the Azure condo under construction now in Palm Beach Gardens.

Diaz expects this coming winter season to be a strong one for sales. The presidential election, which always creates some uncertainty, will be over.

And thus far, 327 Royal Palm is the only Boca Raton condo planned for downtown that’s actually under construction, Diaz said.

Diaz said buyers are more motivated when they “see a tower” and a building rising from the ground.

But Diaz isn’t writing off the summer. During what is typically a sluggish sales time, Diaz said the project recently snared two reservations, which Diaz hopes will be converted to contracts soon.

 

 

 

 

Modern, cool townhouses coming soon to Boca Raton

Moderne Boca, a townhouse community under construction now in Boca Raton
Moderne Boca, a townhouse community under construction now in Boca Raton
Rendering of interior of Moderne Boca townhouse community under construction in Boca Raton
Rendering of interior of Moderne Boca townhouse community under construction in Boca Raton

It’s sleek, mod and urban. It’s Moderne Boca, and it’s a luxury townhouse community opening soon in Boca Raton.

Does Boca Raton need another luxury housing option? Maybe.

Last week, the project’s developer held an open house at Lynn University for interested buyers. More than 100 people attended the presentation by West Palm Beach-based Kolter.

The 75 residences, priced from the $600,000s, feature a modern, multi-level design and even some private interior elevators.

Inside, the units are filled with natural light, which allows some units full views of the Pondhawk Natural Preserve next door.

The property is at the northeast corner of Military Trail and Spanish River Boulevard.

Kolter has tried for years to build the project, which previously was going to be a retail center. Before that, Kolter planned a different townhouse concept, which did not get off the ground due to the recession.

But it’s full steam ahead for Moderne Boca, now nearing partial completion.

Phase I, consisting of 30 units, will be available within weeks. Phase II, featuring the remaining 45 units, will be ready in 2017.

Boca Raton is known for its pervasive Mediterranean architecture. But perhaps the market is ready for something new.

But Bob Vail, president of Kolter Urban, said The Moderne has garnered interest because there’s been little contemporary design in the area.

 

Sinai Residences offers seniors luxury living

JFSPBC | Sinai Residences Boca Raton | © JEFFREY THOLL P h o t o g r a p h y
JFSPBC | Sinai Residences Boca Raton | © JEFFREY THOLL P h o t o g r a p h y

A $265 million premier senior living facility in Boca Raton held its grand opening Tuesday, heralding a new level of luxury for seniors.

But even before the ribbon was cut at Sinai Residences, the property had already sold all its independent residences — and more than 78 percent of residents have moved in. The property now has a waiting list.

Sinai Residences features more than 350 residences offering a range of services to residents who want a place where they can live and avail themselves of medical and other services as they age.

Some 234 independent living apartments are on-site, along with 48 assisted-living apartments, 60 skilled nursing suites and 24 private memory care suites.

Sinai Residences is on the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County campus, at 21036 95th Avenue.

The Continuing Care Retirement Community is an increasingly popular move for seniors, who buy in to a facility and then progress to different levels as they “age in place.”

Some are more fancy than others, but Sinai is akin to a luxury cruise ship: It features dining, cultural, entertainment and recreational facilities, plus fitness programs. Kosher dining is available and Sinai also offers front-row access to many of the Federation’s cultural and social events.

“Here on the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s Boca Raton campus, we have built nothing short of the premier life care destination for seniors in South Florida,” said Mel Lowell, chief operating officer of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and a member of the Board of Managers for the CCRC.

Lowell added: “I can be objective because I have seen at least 10 CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) in and outside the state of Florida. I believe we are the newest, the most modern and the most luxurious and user friendly CCRC in the country.”

The residences require an upfront payment ranging from $400,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1.3 million for a 2,800 square foot unit.

Who buys into this type of community? People who want to make a plan for their future but are used to living the good life.

They include residents from nearby upscale country club communities, including Boca West or Boca Pointe. They also come from condos, including from Highland Beach, where four couples from one building all bought and moved in, officials said.

Once a senior buys at Sinai, their children and grandchildren can feel at ease, Lowell said.  “Any emergency is taken care of; their health is taken care of…and it is one less significant thing for kids to worry about for their parents and grandparents.”