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Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene buys Opera Place site in West Palm

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene closed on the purchase of the former Opera Place land on Thursday, making Greene the owner of the most high-profile commercial site in West Palm Beach’s downtown.

Greene paid $24 million for the 3.2-acre city block, located at 419 Lakeview Avenue and now known as Lakeview Centre, on the city’s main downtown thoroughfare and roadway from Palm Beach.

With this purchase, Greene now controls many key parcels in the city, including vacant land in and around Currie Park along North Flagler Drive, property downtown on and near Clematis Street, and a key site on South Dixie Highway, to name a few.

Greene’s plans for the former Opera Place site?

Sit on it — for now.

Greene said he’s focused on building the mixed-use One West Palm, tall twin towers on the city’s north end, at 550 Quadrille Boulevard. He said it has superior, unobstructed views of the water and is away from the downtown’s traffic.

Nonetheless, Greene said he bought the Opera Place site “because it’s the best remaining site left in downtown, by far. There’s no other site like it.”

The property is zoned for 1.1 million square feet and could feature two towers rising 26 and 30 stories. The site is approved for 350 residential units, 250 hotel rooms, 317,179 square feet of office and 57,710 square feet of retail, such as shops or restaurants.

The deal was brokered by Brad Capas of CapasGroup Realty Advisors and Cushman & Wakefield’s Mark Pateman and Rosendo Caveiro. Capas called the sale “the most significant land transaction to occur in downtown West Palm Beach in many years” and said the site had strong appeal for a company wanting a high-profile office presence — and residents seeking to live in a condo a block away from CityPlace, with an easy walk to shops and restaurants.

Greene acknowledged his purchase of the Lakeview Avenue location could be viewed as a defensive measure to hold off competition while he builds One West Palm.

One West Palm will feature a Class A office tower, a 200-suite hotel, and luxury apartments. The complex will have lots of amenities, including indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a swimming pool, gym and a daycare.

New office space is in great demand downtown, real estate experts agree.

But Greene said West Palm Beach can only handle so much development at one time: “If somebody was building 400,000 square feet of office and a hotel (on the Opera Place site), do you think I would be considering another one at the the other end?”

Never say never, however.

Greene said once he builds One West Palm, which might start construction as early as the spring, then he’ll consider whether more office/hotel/residences is called for on the Lakeview Avenue piece. If he builds something there, he’s thinking very high-end hotel, plus condominiums.

Greene also cited another reason for buying the Opera Place site: It sits directly south of the City Palm condominium, where he owns 165 units and rents them out as apartments.

By owning the Opera Place site, “I control what gets built there,” Greene said, so someone else doesn’t build something that blocks every view.

Original owner BAP Development once planned to build the twin-tower luxury Opera Place condos, 536 lavish residences priced from $400,000 to $4.5 million. But the recession dashed plans for the towers’ construction. The property’s lender, Cyma Finance, took control of the land in 2014 and renamed it Lakeview Centre.

Lakeview Centre first hit the market in November 2014 and was rumored to be under contract for about $33 million. But that deal fell through. The property then was priced for sale at $31.9 million.

Recently, an unnamed buyer put the property under contract — but did not move forward. Greene then snapped up the land.

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