The year in review: A hot one for weather — and real estate deals


Land trades in Jupiter, building sales in West Palm Beach and a Boca Raton building boom marked 2016.

It’s fitting that Palm Beach County’s weather at year end is the same as the real estate climate all year long: Hot, and staying warm.

The county saw a number of top-dollar real estate deals in 2016 as investors, businesses and institutions moved to trade or invest in the county’s sizzling market.

Real estate experts say the hangover from the 2007 recession is over in the commercial market. Properties are trading at or near boom time highs and deals are moving fast. In fact, as the year ended, there seemed to be a rush to wrap up transactions.

Here, in no particular order, were seven of the biggest deals or developments taking place in 2016:

1. Modica buys more Jupiter waterfront land

Jupiter land mogul Charles Modica in November snapped up the Rustic Inn Crabhouse property for $8.3 million, more than doubling his holdings on a section of State Road A1A along the Jupiter Inlet and giving him greater flexibility to build.

The 3.7-acre Rustic Inn site is just west of Modica’s 2-acre parcel on Love Street. There, Modica wants to build an outdoor marketplace featuring restaurants, offices and shops. The $30 million, 50,000-square-foot project has been three years in the making.

Modica’s interest in developing prime waterfront land along the Jupiter Inlet has prompted mixed reactions from residents, some of whom fear the city could lose its Old Florida charm.

Modica also owns the 10-acre Suni Sands mobile home park at 961 A1A, east of both Love Street and The Rustic Inn. Modica wants to build a “historic” inn and marketplace there.

2. Esperante office tower sells for big money

The Esperante Corporate Center in West Palm Beach traded hands for the second time in three years, selling in July to a New York firm for $125.75 million. The 2013 sales price was just $71 million.

RedSky Capital of Brooklyn, N.Y., is the new owner of the 256,100-square-foot trophy building at 222 Lakeview Ave.

The sale reflected the strong demand and thin supply of Class A office buildings downtown.

3. New apartments and hotel open in Boca Raton’s downtown

The recession slowed Boca Raton’s downtown plans — but they’ve come back to life now. “There’s a city coming out of the ground,” said Todd Herbst, partner in the Big Time Restaurant Group in West Palm Beach.

Big Time, whose restaurants include Rocco’s Tacos and City Cellar, is nearly done building a Louie Bossi restaurant in the Hyatt Place hotel, which just opened. The 14-story, 200-room hotel is in the center of Boca’s downtown, at Federal Highway and Palmetto Park Road.

Meanwhile, Palmetto Promenade, a nine-story, 373-unit apartment complex on east Palmetto Park Road, has started leasing units. The three-block complex is so massive that if it were turned on one end, it would rise 95 stories.

4. Dealing in Dixie Highway continues

Since 2012, investors and business owners have been pouring money into buying up sites along Dixie Highway, south of Okeechobee Boulevard.

In 2016, several South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach sold for more than $1 million each, adding to the boom.

They include two purchases by interior decorator Sara McCann, owner of Hive Home Gift & Garden at 424 Palm St.

McCann paid $1.7 million for the Zeluck Windows and Doors building and parking lot at 1600 S. Dixie Highway. She also paid a whopping $1.5 million for the former Ambrosia restaurant at 1603 S. Dixie Highway in January. The property’s previous sale price: $195,000 in 1984, according to Palm Beach County records.

Meanwhile, a triple-play deal took place at year’s end:

  • The Gulfstream Bistro at 3815 S. Dixie Highway sold for $1.2 million to GCP Realty LLC, owned by Michael and Debra Lakow (The Lakows own the Field of Greens eatery). Investor Jonathan Gladstone bought the Gulfstream Bistro for $800,000 in January.
  • The Nearly New Thrift Center (part of MorseLife Health System) at 2218 S. Dixie Highway sold for $1.4 million to Fenglad Realty LLC, an entity owned by Gladstone, his sister, Edythe, and his husband, Robert Fensterman.
  • 3611 S. Dixie Highway sold for $1.65 million to Morse Geriatric for its new thrift store location.

5. West Palm office trades hands, nabs health care tenants

Jupiter Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital of New York are expanding their alliance with an aggressive plan to bring a range of health care services to downtown West Palm Beach.

The partnership, the most extensive between a New York-based hospital and a Palm Beach County hospital, reflects how eager hospital companies are to attract new patients.

The Jupiter Medical Center Mount Sinai New York Plaza will be the new name for an office building at 625 N. Flagler Drive, formerly the Bank of America Centre. The 110,000-square-foot building changed hands Oct. 14 for $23 million. Partners Michael McCloskey and Leslie and Tom Quick bought the building from car dealer Ed Napleton.

6. Jack Nicklaus to redesign two county golf courses

Revitalization is the name of the game for tired old golf courses.

Golf great Jack Nicklaus, a North Palm Beach resident, signed on to redo two country club golf courses: Via Mizner in Boca Raton and Banyan Cay in West Palm Beach.

Via Mizner, a downtown Boca Raton hotel, condo and apartment complex, hired Nicklaus to redesign its golf course into a championship course as part of the project’s private club, the Via Mizner Golf & City Club. The Golf Club will be at the soon-to-be redesigned golf course five miles west of Via Mizner, off Palmetto Park Road and west of Military Trail.

The City Club will be inside the new Mandarin Oriental hotel, part of the 830,000-square-foot complex now under construction at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Camino Real in downtown Boca Raton. (Apartments already are built and being leased).

Meanwhile, Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club in West Palm Beach secured Nicklaus to redevelop its golf course. Noble House Hotels & Resorts is building a hotel and country club.

Formerly known as the President Country Club, Banyan Cay is east of Interstate 95, off Congress Avenue north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, near the Palm Beach Outlets. A groundbreaking was held last month.

Banyan Cay is the largest redevelopment in the city of West Palm Beach since CityPlace.

7. The Bristol condo moved closer to reality, while another waterfront property traded hands

The Bristol, the most expensive condominium ever built in Palm Beach County, started construction this year as buyers continued to pay millions for units in this waterfront West Palm Beach property at 1100 S. Flagler Drive. The average size of a unit at The Bristol is about 4,500 square feet and costs $10 million.

Meanwhile, vacant land formerly home to the 1515 Tower at 1515 S. Flagler Drive was sold to Great Gulf of Canada. The company plans a slim, 27-story tower featuring 84 condominium units.

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

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