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Downtown West Palm Beach pushes west with new courthouse

The west end of downtown West Palm Beach is about to get a boost: The state’s 4th District Court of Appeal will move to a new office building that will be built on state-owned land.

Property along Tamarind Avenue, between Clematis and Datura streets, is slated to be the site of the new courthouse, according to Appellate Court Judge Jonathan Gerber.

Palm Beach County just landed $7.1 million in the state’s budget to begin moving the 4th District Court of Appeal from an outmoded and moldy building on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.

The court’s new home will be on four acres, bordered by Tamarind Avenue on the west and Sapodilla Avenue on the east. Two acres now are a parking lot; the others are occupied by the county health department and a state building.

Gerber said the courthouse will be constructed on the western side, facing Tamarind Avenue. The acre to the east of the building will be the parking garage. While construction takes place, parking will be provided by the county on the south side of Datura Street, Gerber said.

When completed, roughly in early 2018, the building will be 36,000 square feet, the same size as the current Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard courthouse, Gerber said.

The location will give a business boost to the western edge of downtown.

“That’s something we were excited about, having development going on in the west to spark” growth in that portion of the city, Gerber said.

Gerber said the courthouse has 12 judges. He estimated that 70-plus people work at the courthouse.

The courthouse’s presence will bring a lot of activity to the restaurants and amenities in the area — including CityPlace, which is just a few blocks to the southeast of the site. All those lawyers and staffers walking around should bring more business to the shopping and dining destination — as well as create interest in new construction in the area.

Gregory Coleman, president-elect of the Florida Bar and a West Palm Beach lawyer, said the 4th DCA judges “deserve a lot of credit” for making the new courthouse possible.

“I tip my hat to the judges who have spent their own time and paid for their own travel to educate the legislature about this very important project,” Coleman said.

The 4th District Court of Appeal includes Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.

Luxe condo coming

Condo construction is starting to return to northern Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach. It’s returning to southern Palm Beach County, too. West of Boca Raton, a veteran builder is planning a new luxury condominium — in an existing country club community slated for a $50 million clubhouse improvement project.

Akoya is slated to rise in the Boca West Country Club, located west of Boca Raton on Glades Road. The nine-story condo will break ground in the fall of 2014 and open a year later. Prices range from $1.2 million to more than $2 million for the 120 residences.

Already, pre-construction contracts have been signed with real money — 20 percent down, said Richard Siemens, president and chief executive of Siemens Group in Boca Raton.

“We opened our sales office about the first of April and we’ve got, right now, 10 signed and sealed contracts,” Siemens said. “We have another 20 or so that we’re negotiating on.”

Siemens doesn’t expect sales to slow as the summer sets in, thanks to the recent winter, which brought record snow and cold temperatures to parts of the country: “At this point, people don’t want to spend any more winters in the north.”

Siemens, who built other Palm Beach County properties, including Polo Club Boca Raton and Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach, said the project is the first new condo west of downtown Boca Raton.

He’s building now because of pent-up demand, Siemens said.

“We’ve gone through a drought period where there was no new construction for about five years,” he said. “So product is being sold as fast as (builders) can build it.”

Plus, “It’s the first time this kind of condo is being built west of Federal Highway in the Boca market,” said Rob Siemens, director of marketing. “There’s no other opportunity like this.”

Richard Siemens said he’s working to finalize a construction loan for Akoya. The condo’s sell-out value is close to $200 million. Site work on the 6.7-acre property is slated to begin later this month.

Boca West has been around a long time, but upgrades are constant and people are often surprised by the resorts amenities, which Rob Siemens said have transformed the community into a resort-style lifestyle now becoming popular at other country clubs in Palm Beach County. Through the years, some $95 million has been spent on upgrades at Boca West.

Along with Akoya, residents of Boca West can expect to see their main, 140,000-square-foot clubhouse more than double. Plans are to add an addition that will feature more restaurants and a redo of the golf shop, for example.

Boca West’s amenities are helping boost Akoya’s sales success, Siemens said.

In fact, Siemens said he’s been to Boca West homeowners’ meetings and was pleasantly surprised that people living in the community’s 3,400 residences seem pretty content.

“I went to an annual meeting, and nobody had anything to complain about,” Siemens said with a chuckle. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!”

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

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