Winter of discontent? Life with Trump as a neighbor

Billionaire Jeff Greene, who plans The Greene School for elementary and middle-school students in West Palm Beach
Billionaire Jeff Greene

President Trump shines the spotlight on Palm Beach when he leaves the White House to travel south to his part-time home, Mar a Lago, as he did last weekend.

But for some Palm Beach residents, including billionaire investor Jeff Greene, last weekend’s visit also brought gridlock and a hit to one of his businesses.

Read the Post’s coverage on President Trump here

Greene said he lost reservations at his Tideline Resort & Spa due to Trump’s visit. Tideline is at 2842 S. Ocean Blvd. on Palm Beach.

In fact, “a big group went to the Seagate Hotel in Delray Beach because they didn’t want to deal” with the traffic and the hassle of Palm Beach, Greene said.

The Secret Service effectively closed off a portion of Palm Beach near Mar a Lago during the weekend while Trump was in town. West Palm Beach wasn’t much better on Saturday: Trump protesters clogged the waterfront along Flagler Drive.

Other Palm Beach businesses, including some restaurants, lost reservations, too, said Greene, a Palm Beach resident who lives at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd., “two doors down” from Mar a Lago, which is at 1100 S. Ocean Blvd.

(In truth, these are very big doors: The property just south of Mar a Lago is the Bath and Tennis Club, followed by Greene’s $24 million oceanfront estate.)

Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, said she’s aware some tourists were having a hard time getting back to their Palm Beach hotels with the security checkpoints and roadblocks.

And shopping on Worth Avenue? Some tourists were afraid to try:  “People don’t want to be inconvenienced. They’ll shop elsewhere,” she said.

Baker said she’s now wondering how life in the future will be affected by Trump’s visits to Palm Beach.

For instance: The Palm Beach Boat Show, set for March 23-26.

Although the actual show only lasts a weekend, the set up takes considerably more time. The week before and the week after, a number of yachts cruise into the Intracoastal and go right by Mar a Lago.

If Trump were to fly down to Palm Beach during this time period, boats would be forbidden from cruising on the eastern side of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs near Trump’s “winter White House.”

Baker said she figured with Mar a Lago booked for 25 events this season, Trump  was going to skip his winter visits because of the tight security that surrounds him.

But that’s evidently not going to be the case, she said.

In fact, Trump now is expected to visit Palm Beach again this coming weekend.

Greene noted that Trump likes spending all holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, at Mar a Lago, as well as his winter visits. “He loves it here,” Greene said.

So being president of the United States won’t change Trump’s routine.

Going forward, Greene said Palm Beach officials and the Secret Service need a better plan: “You can’t shut down a town for four to eight years,” he said.

Indeed, even into Monday morning, before Trump left for MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, getting around still was difficult.

Greene said it took him 45 minutes to cross the bridge Monday to take his son to school in West Palm Beach.

One bright spot to the weekend: Greene said he lives close enough to Mar a Lago to skip the traffic when he attended the Red Cross ball Saturday night.

“I walked,” he said.

 

 

Carefree Theatre’s Cohen expresses support for banned Iranian director

Charles Cohen, chairman of Cohen Media, which is the co-distributor of The Salesman. The film's Iranian director is barred from entering the U.S. under Trump's executive order
Charles Cohen, chairman of Cohen Media Group. Photo by Damon Higgins.

Charles Cohen, the owner of West Palm Beach’s Carefree Theatre site, is the co-distributor of The Salesman, the foreign film whose director now is barred from entering the United States.

On Monday afternoon, Cohen Media Group tweeted a message of support for Asghar Farhadi,  the Iranian director of The Salesman, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. The film opened Friday.

On that same day, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, Farhadi is banned from traveling to the United States for the Feb. 26 award ceremony in Los Angeles.

On Sunday, Farhadi said he wouldn’t attend the ceremony even if he were granted an exception.

In a statement, Farhadi condemned the executive order, and then said the following: “To humiliate one nation with the pretext of guarding the security of another is not a new phenomenon in history and has always laid the groundwork for the creation of future divide and enmity.”

Cohen Media Group co-distributed the film with Amazon Studios in a 50-50 partnership.

On Monday afternoon, Cohen Media tweeted this message: “Asghar Farhadi, @CohenMediaGroup understands and supports your decision not to attend the Oscars.”

In a December interview, Cohen called the film “fabulous….it’s a fascinating film. Really wonderful. I’m keeping my fingers crossed” for an Oscar nomination.

Cohen Media has distributed several award-winning foreign language films, including two Oscar nominees: 2014’s French-Mauritanian Timbuktu and 2015’s Turkish drama, Mustang.

Cohen has a condominium in Palm Beach as well as homes in New York, Los Angeles and Connecticut.

He runs two businesses: New York-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corp., which owns and manages more than 12 million square feet of U.S. office space; and Cohen Media Group, which produces films and also owns an array of American classics, British cinema, foreign classics and a range of avant-garde films.

Cohen wants to rebuild the Carefree Theatre on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach and turn the property into a complex featuring six auditoriums, totaling 750 seats for classic, art house and foreign films. About 97 apartments and space for restaurants and stores also are part of the plan.

If you’re curious about The Saleman, check out the trailer. Or broaden your cultural horizons and consider other top Iranian films.

 

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

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

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

The Bristol condominium
The Bristol condominium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple purchases also are taking place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another price cut for Palm Beach’s priciest mansion

The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.
The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.

The most expensive listing in Palm Beach got a little less expensive on Friday. The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. is now asking $69.9 million.

Originally listed at $84.5 million, the seller cut the price in 2015 to $79.5 million, then reduced the price in 2016 to $74.5 million. The listing agent is Christian Angle.

The oceanfront mansion includes a basement with space for a bowling alley.

It’s the most expensive Palm Beach property in the multiple listing service. Palm Beach County’s most expensive listing when the Ziff estate in Manalapan hit the market for $195 million.

Royal Poinciana Plaza renovation could reshape Palm Beach’s Realtors Row

Hermes has leased space at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach. Photo by Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News
Hermes has leased space at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach. Photo by Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News

Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach is home to a veritable Realtors Row, but real estate brokers someday might move from the center’s retail space into the offices next door at The Slat House.

In addition to TooJay’s and Palm Beach Grill, Royal Poinciana Plaza is home to real estate firms Brown Harris Stevens, Corcoran Group, Douglas Elliman, Sotheby’s International and Valore Group. Luxe retailer Hermes Paris is moving into the center, part of an upgrade by Up Markets, which owns a controlling interest in the plaza.

The landlord said there’s no concerted effort to replace real estate brokers with more traditional retail tenants. But Mike Pappas, president of Valore Group owner Keyes Co., said Up Markets has mentioned a move.

Realtors covet retail space for its visibility and convenience. But office space is less expensive. And, Pappas noted, real estate brokers aren’t typical office users.

“That’s the dilemma,” Pappas said. “They’re thinking of us as office rather than retail.”

Alexandra Patterson, project manager for Royal Poinciana Plaza, said there’s no plan to move out Realtors.

“Each of our conversations is tenant by tenant and there isn’t one set of rules that we follow,” Patterson said in an e-mail. “As our conversations evolve, we are solely focused on finding the right space for each tenant.”

Perhaps tellingly, the “key tenants” list on the landlord’s website names Palm Beach Grill, House of Lavande, Sant Ambroeus and Haute Yoga but none of the brokers.

Pappas said national firm Keller Williams is among the brokers that successfully operates from office buildings rather than shopping centers. For Realtors, bricks and mortar isn’t as important as it used to be. Many brokers have been downsizing their offices as agents increasingly work remotely and market electronically.

But brokers who are fans of retail locations say the high street is the most effective place to operate a real estate office.

“You can’t really put a real estate office on the second floor and be successful,” said Douglas Rill, the owner of Century 21 Americas Choice who for years owned an office building a few blocks east of Royal Poinciana Plaza. “It’s the kiss of death.”

 

Donald Trump and the curious case of contrarian hiring patterns at Mar-a-Lago

President-Elect Donald J. Trump at Mar-A-Lago on Palm Beach
President-Elect Donald J. Trump at Mar-A-Lago on Palm Beach

In recent years, U.S. employers have followed a predictable pattern in hiring foreign workers. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, just as the financial crash began, they hired more than 200,000 workers through the federal H-2B visa program. Those numbers crashed with the economy, then rebounded.

The ever-unpredictable Donald Trump has bucked the trend. From the 2008-09 fiscal year through 2014-15, he never received approval for fewer than 84 H-2B visas at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.

But last year, he got the OK for just 69 foreign workers. And this year, the number falls further to 64. Explore the stats here:

Is Trump’s work force shrinking? Is he making an effort to find American workers for low-wage food servers and cooks? Neither Trump nor Mar-a-Lago are entertaining questions about his hiring, so the answer is unclear.

 

The priciest mansions in Palm Beach County, 2016 edition

The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.
The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.

When I compiled the list of priciest properties in Palm Beach County in late 2015, mansions on the island of Palm Beach swept the top 10 spots. This year, though, Manalapan boasts three of the priciest residential listings, including a mansion that would set a new Florida record if it sells for anything close to its lofty asking price.

Here are the top eight, in reverse order (and with the caveat that these are just list prices, which might not reflect the eventual sale price):

$42.5 million: The newly built estate at 1340 S. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach was listed for sale in November 2016.

$43.9 million: This 25,000-square-foot palace is at 1340 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan.

$48.9 million: This 34,000-square-foot spread is at 1370 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Listing agent: Jack Elkins, Fite Group Luxury Homes.

$59 million: This newly built estate is at 101 Indian Road in Palm Beach. Listing agent: Sotheby’s International Realty.

$67.5 million: This 22,000-square-foot mansion is at 1485 S. Ocean Blvd. Listing agent: Christian Angle.

$74.5 million: The newly built north-end mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. (pictured above) spans nearly 33,000 square feet and boasts an eight-car garage. Originally priced at $84.5 million, the mansion’s seller has dropped the price a couple times. Listing agent: Christian Angle.

$137 million: Internet pioneer Jim Clark listed his house at 1500 S. Ocean Bvld. in August 2016. If the property eclipses the century mark, it will set a new record for Palm Beach mansions. Not marketed in the multiple listing service.

$195 million: The Ziff estate at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan is a massive property with nearly a quarter mile of oceanfront. Listing agent: Joe Liguori, Premier Estate Properties.

BofA building sells for $23 million in WPB

share467A medical office building in downtown West Palm Beach is one step closer to being a reality.

The Bank of America Centre in West Palm Beach sold Oct. 14 for $23 million to a group that plans to bring medical offices to the waterview property, including Jupiter Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital of New York.

The 10-story, 110,000-square-foot office building overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway at 625 N. Flagler Drive.

Bank of America Centre
Bank of America Centre

Developer Michael McCloskey of FRI Investors is the buyer, along with Palm Beach investors Tom and Leslie Quick. They formed an entity called 625 Flagler Acquisition LLC, according to a deed recorded with the Palm Beach County clerk’s office.

The seller is EFN Flagler Property LLC, an entity owned by car dealer Ed Napleton, who bought it in 2014 and flipped it to Flagler Acquisition for about double what he paid.

Another bidder for the building confirmed the property’s note was sold for a price in excess of $11 million to Napleton, although the recorded deed shows a price of only $2.9 million.

McCloskey tried to bring the medical tenants to the city owned “tent site” on Okeechobee Boulevad and South Dixie Highway last year. The deal didn’t go through.

But medical tenants remain interested in catering to wealthy Palm Beach residents across the bridge. The Bank of America building is well-located to the island, next to the Flagler Memorial Bridge.

Even though the property is known as the Bank of America Centre, the bank no longer is in the building. Bank of America moved to the nearby Esperante office center this year.

Signs touting the incoming medical tenants are expected to rebrand the building.

 

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.

Ex-Wall Streeters create own bank, open office on Palm Beach

Bob Matthews, chief executive of Fieldpoint Private Bank

    Bob Matthews, president and chief executive of Fieldpoint Private

Like a fish to water, another bank catering to the rich has found its way to Palm Beach.

Fieldpoint Private  has a twist, however.

This boutique wealth advisory and private banking firm was created by people who once led the nation’s biggest investment banks and companies.

They include Daniel Tully, the former chairman of Merrill Lynch(Tully, a resident of Hobe Sound, died in May at age 84); David Komansky, another former Merrill Lynch chairman; Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone; and former Time chairman Reginald Brack.

After retirement, the founders agreed they weren’t happy about the treatment they received on the other side of the table, as super-rich customers listening to their brokers pitch investments. They even created a video describing the complaints that led them to form Fieldpoint.

Their main beef was that they were tired of being advised to buy products created by the brokerage that was advising them. All felt this was a conflict of interest, and they thought there was a better way.

So in April 2008, as the financial crisis was about to hit, they created Fieldpoint Private in Connecticut. The company offers wealth management and strategy, family office, private banking and business banking services.

The office grew to a New York location in 2011.

Now Fieldpoint Private has opened an office in the Phillips Point office complex, at 777  S. Flagler Drive, in West Palm Beach.

But the company plans to move an office on Palm Beach as soon as it finds space, said Bob Matthews, Fieldpoint president and chief executive.

Joe McCool, formerly of Capital Group Private Client Services, has been tapped to lead the Palm Beach office.

Matthews said Fieldpoint doesn’t have established requirements for clients, but generally, their clients are what he called “deca-millionaires,” or people worth tens of millions of dollars.

For these clients, Fieldpoint has attracted a range of stars to its leadership roster. This includes William  Kennedy, chief investment officer. Kennedy formerly was global director of research for Citi Global Capital Markets, Inc.

During this time of global uncertainty, what’s the word from Fieldpoint on investing?

“We’re in the late innings of this particular game,” Matthews said. “So batten down the hatches.”

Put another way, Fieldpoint Private is advising its customers to hedge against the inevitable coming downturn.