New plan for South Dixie Highway parcel in West Palm Beach

2:25 p.m Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 Business
Rendering of proposed low-rise apartments and shops for 3111 South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. This new plan replaces a proposal for five high-rise condominiums.

Owners of the aged Prospect Place office center in West Palm Beach are going low, instead of high, for a planned redevelopment.

Time Equities, which owns the 3111 S. Dixie Highway site, this month filed plans with the city to build 300 luxury apartments in six low-rise buildings.

Three buildings rising three stories would be built along Dixie Highway, with 17,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and two floors of apartments above. In addition, three five-story apartment buildings would be constructed in the back of the property. The apartments would include one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

Time Equities’ latest plan is a far cry from a 2015 proposal to build five glass-and-steel condominium towers rising 15 stories. Penthouse units in the modern towers would have had water views and cost more than $1 million.

Neighborhood reaction to the project was mixed. Supporters said the bold design would improve the Dixie corridor. But others opposed the plan and the condominiums that would tower over the area. These residents said the project was out of scale with the neighborhood and its nearby historic homes.

Francis Greenburger, chairman of New York-based Time Equities, said on Wednesday that the new design incorporates feedback from the community. The project, designed by MSA Architecture of Miami, is done in a “Spanish eclectic” style in keeping with the Mediterranean-style homes that surround the site.

“What we heard is people wanted low rise and something more traditional,” Greenburger said. “We’re trying to be community-minded and respond to all the different stakeholders.”

That said, a lot of people liked the other, modern design, Greenburger noted. “While we recognize people have different points of view, and we’re hoping most everybody likes this, as sure as I’m sitting here there will be some dissenters,” he said.

Prospect Place, just south of Belvedere Road, used to be home to Sears and Winn-Dixie stores. The property was turned into offices, but over time, occupancy has fallen. Now the 9.4-acre site looks like a large, empty parking lot with a couple of low-rise buildings.

Since 2014, this stretch of South Dixie Highway has been on an upswing, with investors and business owners pouring millions of dollars into properties stretching from Okeechobee Boulevard to south of Belvedere Road. New restaurants, shops and businesses have opened.

But the Prospect Place property has been mostly unused. In November 2015, Time Equities proposed the tall condos, hiring renowned modernist architect Helmut Jahn for the design. Time Equities later mildly altered the design to make the towers less boxy.

But then area residents voiced mixed opinions on the plan, crowding city meetings to express concerns even as the city commission gave initial approval to the plan in December 2016.

Last May, Time Equities pulled the tall tower plan before it went before the city commission for final approval, noting the opposition. However, Time Equities still won approval to rezone the property to general commercial use. This led to some concern the project could become the site of big-box retailers or car dealerships.

But Greenburger said that’s not going to happen with this site: “It’s not big box by any stretch. It’s the opposite.” Store spaces will be small, averaging about 1,800 square feet, and be geared toward such uses as boutiques or antique stores. Restaurants aren’t a part of the project’s retail space because eateries require a lot of parking.

Time Equities doesn’t yet have rental prices for the proposed project, but Greenburger predicted rents would be a little lower than apartments downtown. The community would have the amenities typical of some upscale apartments, including a pool, clubhouse, dog park, garden, playground and gated security.

Here’s what it won’t have: Downtown traffic.

Greenburger said some people like to live in the middle of the action, “and being downtown is its own experience.. … But lots of people don’t want to be downtown,” he said. “They want to live close but not in the thick of it.”

Greenburger added that Time Equities tends to be a long-term owner of its properties, not a flipper. So the company plans to hold to the project if it is built, especially with the market conditions in the area, Greenburger said.

“We have confidence that West Palm Beach is a good place to live, and we see growing demand (for housing),” he said.

If the project wins city approval, construction could begin by the end of 2018, with completion set for late 2020.