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.

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.”

 

 

For 10 years, this local city spends a day turning parking spots into parks

(Contributed by Joe Russo)
(Contributed by Joe Russo)

Park benches instead of oil stains. Potted plants instead of tire tracks.

For one day each year for the past 10 years, West Palm Beach has celebrated Park(ing) Day, where the city and its Downtown Development Authority work with downtown businesses to turn parking spots into mini-parks.

This year’s Park(ing) Day was held last Friday and hosted by Palm Beach Tech Association.

The first Park(ing) Day was in San Francisco in 2005. The idea quickly caught on as artists, urban planners and activists saw the opportunity to demonstrate how cities can rethink their public spaces.

In 2006, West Palm’s first Park(ing) Day featured sod-lined parking spots where residents and downtown workers could meet to have coffee and talk about their city.

Since, the city’s event has evolved to include art demonstrations — this year, artist Anthony Hernandez’s skills were on display.

A parklet in downtown West Palm Beach in 2014. (File)
A parklet in downtown West Palm Beach in 2014. (File)

In 2013, an idea born from Park(ing) Day was tested for six months in three spots around downtown: the parklet, a deck extending out from the sidewalk to cover a parking space and add seating area and walking space.

“Downtown is innovating itself into a modern city led by its advocates,” said Joe Russo, Palm Beach Tech executive director. “We need people to be part of this positive change in our community.”

Skybike’s Juan Orellana helped organizeand promote this year’s Park(ing) Day.

“I’m glad we can reclaim space usually taken by a parked car to enjoy our downtown with friends,” he said.

 

Restoration Hardware ‘mansion’ now being built on Okeechobee in downtown West Palm

Progress is being made on the new Restoration Hardware in downtown West Palm Beach.

A man walks past the Restoration Hardware in CityPlace on March 12, 2015, in West Palm Beach. The store could move to a prime spot once planned to become a signature office building. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
A man walks past the Restoration Hardware in CityPlace on March 12, 2015, in West Palm Beach. The store could move to a prime spot once planned to become a signature office building. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The store, in a key location between the east- and westbound lanes of Okeechobee Boulevard near the entrance to the city’s downtown area, is being built as a designer showcase.

» RELATED: CityPlace plans 400 apartments, new shops, eateries

The land under the building is owned by Related Cos., the CityPlace developer.

Artist's rendering of proposed Restoration Hardware Gallery. (Provided)
Artist’s rendering of proposed Restoration Hardware Gallery. (Provided)

Related top executive Ken Himmel has told The Palm Beach Post that the 50,000-square-foot Restoration Hardware gallery will be “a Mizner-inspired mansion.”

The four-story showroom will feature outdoor courtyards, a fountain and a rooftop park.

The new Restoration Hardware "mansion" in West Palm Beach is under construction on March 21, 2016. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)
The new Restoration Hardware “mansion” in West Palm Beach is under construction on March 21, 2016. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)

Mike Tyson talks with Jeff Greene on day 2 of Closing the Gap seminar

Mike Tyson is interviewed by Jeff Greene during the "Closing the Gap" conference hosted by billionaire Palm Beacher Greene Dec. 8, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Mike Tyson is interviewed by Jeff Greene during the “Closing the Gap” conference hosted by billionaire Palm Beacher Greene Dec. 8, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Former boxing champ Mike Tyson took the stage in Palm Beach on Tuesday to discuss his career with Palm Beach billionaire businessman Jeff Greene.

Greene is playing host to dozens of businesspeople and celebrities this week for his three-day Closing the Gap seminar.

The topic of the seminar: Is the American middle class disappearing? And what can be done if it is?

In discussions yesterday, noted historians, authors and politicians tackled everything from tech-related job displacement to unemployment insurance.

Read more about yesterday’s discussions here.

New bookstore coming to Clematis Street?

Lily Connor, 8, looks over a copy of Dr. Seuss' "What Pet Should I Get?" on July 28 at the Books and Books in in Coral Gables. (Getty Images)
Lily Connor, 8, looks over a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “What Pet Should I Get?” on July 28 at the Books and Books in in Coral Gables. (Getty Images)

Book lovers will want to keep an eye on this.

In a recent interview with The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach’s Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Raphael Clemente said the DDA is trying to lure Books & Books to the 200 block of Clematis Street.

The independent bookstore in Miami-Dade County is a popular spot to browse and linger over the written word. Locations are in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour Shops.

“We’ve met with them and we’d love to have them in West Palm Beach,” Clemente said.

Clemente said the owner is weighing the idea, which first was broached about three months ago, but no decision has yet been reached.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

Top 5 things happening in West Palm Beach real estate right now

The West Palm Beach real estate market is hot right now, and there are some big things happening in the city.

We’ve pulled together the top five things you need to know about.

1. We have an opening date for the new convention center hotel.

(Brianna Soukup / The Palm Beach Post)
(Brianna Soukup / The Palm Beach Post)

It took decades to get a Palm Beach County Convention Center hotel off the ground. But now that construction of the Hilton hotel in West Palm Beach is underway, the process is going faster than anyone expected. In fact, the hotel now is set to open mid-January — weeks ahead of schedule, hotel developer Ken Himmel told The Palm Beach Post.

Read more here.

2. One developer has a plan for two massive towers downtown.

(Provided)
(Provided)

Billionaire Jeff Greene plans to build twin, 30-story towers on land he owns in downtown West Palm Beach. The property, at 550 Quadrille Blvd., is slated to be an office/hotel/condo complex that would total 829,000 square feet. Architectural plans for the project were submitted to the city on Wednesday.

Read more here.

3. That Darth Vader building? It’s on the market.

(File)
(File)

The Northbridge Centre, aka the Darth Vader building, is on the market for sale. Real estate sources expect the Force to be with the brokers who are peddling this property, which for years has been associated with the Dark Lord of the Sith, owing to its imposing black glass.

Read more here.

4. What’s happening with the 1515 Flagler property?

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

With the real estate market so hot, you’d think there would be some development happening on the prime piece of land at 1515 Flagler, which housed the now-just-a-memory 1515 Tower condo. But real estate brokers and developers say the parcel and another prominent piece of land, Opera Place, are having trouble overcoming several factors: Price, timing and a concern the market may have become overheated, both in land and construction costs.

Read more here.

5. CityPlace is set to get two new restaurants

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

Two new restaurants are coming to CityPlace in the new year. The deals give new life to the 15-year-old center, which is now undergoing a revival as a shopping, dining and entertainment destination in West Palm Beach. The Regional Kitchen and Public House, a creation of local restaurateur Thierry Beaud, will take the former Pampas Grille space along Okeechobee Boulevard. And City Tap House, a craft beer bar and restaurant, will take over the long-shuttered, 11,500-square Brewzzi restaurant and outdoor bar on the second floor of CityPlace, overlooking the fountain.

Read more here.