Editor’s Note: The following story was published in the Palm Beach Post on Jan. 25, 2007.
Donald Trump is upping his stake in Palm Beach County.
The real estate mogul is teaming with The Related Group to build Trump Tower Palm Beach, a luxury condo on North Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.
Trump also disclosed Wednesday that he is interested in another Related project: the billion-dollar redevelopment of Briny Breezes.
This month, residents of the tiny seaside town voted to accept a $510 million buyout offer from a consortium that intends to turn the oceanfront property into high-end condos, townhouses, a resort hotel and marina. The addition of Trump would bring together four of the biggest names in South Florida real estate, joining Related’s Jorge Perez, Jean Francois Roy of Ocean Land Investments and Dan Catalfumo of Catalfumo Construction Inc.
“We may do that together,” Trump said by phone from his New York office. “We’re looking at it now. It’s a great job, a wonderful location.”
Trump said he envisions the property as being another signature Trump project. Why? “Because that’s what the buyer wants,” he said.
Echoing his enthusiasm was Perez, who said Wednesday, “Donald called me up and said he would like to maybe be involved, too.”
Both men said Trump’s involvement would be worked out during the next couple of months. But Perez said one possibility is that Trump would bring his hotel brand, which includes Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, to the project.
In the interim, Trump and Perez are full steam ahead on their West Palm Beach condo, to be called Trump Tower Palm Beach, formerly known as Icon Palm Beach. The deal marks Trump’s first new condo project in Palm Beach County since he bought and turned around the troubled Trump Plaza on South Flagler in 1986.
Trump said he has been looking to do something in the area for some time and began talking to Perez last year. Between Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and his Mar-a-Lago private club on the island, “I have a big stake in Palm Beach,” he said.
Perez and Trump aren’t strangers. They are business partners and friends, building Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, a triple-tower project in northern Miami-Dade County, and Trump Hollywood, a 40-story condo that will start construction in three months.
Trump said he has no worries about South Florida’s troubled real estate market, which has seen sluggish condo sales and several canceled projects. Even so, about 4,000 condo units are set to flood the West Palm Beach market between now and mid-2009, according to real estate expert Jack McCabe of McCabe Research and Consulting in Deerfield Beach.
Trump pointed to the strength of The Related Group, an established success in Palm Beach County. The Miami-based company, one of the developers of CityPlace, has built 1,500 condo units in five projects in West Palm Beach alone.
Related’s latest condo, the 20-story CityPlace South Tower, is being built on Okeechobee Boulevard.
But with the market in the doldrums, it takes more than local name recognition to get things off the ground, and Related’s Perez knows it.
He acknowledged that Trump’s worldwide presence is necessary to attract buyers from around the globe.
“The Trump brand is so strong, it expands your universe of buyers,” Perez said.
Once Trump signed on within the past month, Perez changed the name of the project from Icon to Trump.
Perez said Trump Tower Palm Beach will appeal to customers wanting ultra-luxurious living. The 23-story condo will consist of 150 units priced from $900,000 to more than $2 million. That kind of money buys great water views and a rooftop putting green reportedly modeled after a hole at the Trump International Golf Club.
Perez’s bet could work, real estate experts say.
“It’s the only new waterfront property going up in West Palm Beach,” said Burt Minkoff of The Corcoran Group in Palm Beach. “It’s high-end luxury, which is something the market is desperately lacking.”
Adding to the project’s challenge is the recent controversy surrounding Trump himself. For example, Trump is feuding with Palm Beach town officials over an oversized U.S. flag and flagpole at Mar-a-Lago.
Perez brushed off his own recent press over Related’s controversial interactions with neighborhood groups. Eyebrows have been raised by recent revelations that Related pledged $250,000 to a neighborhood coalition on the eve of a crucial West Palm Beach City Commission vote making the Icon project extra-tall.
“We get along exceedingly well with the neighborhood,” Perez said.
About 50 buyers have “preliminary reservations,” partly because of summertime sales parties, he said. But the real sales push will start Friday, when Trump and his daughter Ivanka formally announce the joint venture at the project’s sales center.
Perez hopes to start construction by year’s end, with a completion date set for 2009.