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ISIS condo in West Palm Beach? Not anymore

By Alexandra Clough - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

What’s in a name? A lot, if you’re building ISIS Downtown, the first new condominium set for West Palm Beach since the real estate crash.

Unfortunately for the condo’s developers, the name ISIS emerged this summer as shorthand for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a group that’s been murdering its way through parts of the Middle East. So a couple of weeks ago, ISIS Downtown’s name quietly was changed to a more benign moniker, 3 Thirty Three Downtown.

The name reflects the street address of the project at 333 Fern Street and South Dixie Highway. On the property, there are plans to build a 16-story, 213-unit condominium. The project is a joint venture of developers Kolter Group of West Palm Beach and Ram of Palm Beach Gardens.

According to marketing material, the condo promises contemporary one and two-bedroom residences, starting in the $300,000s. Plans are to build a pool and spa, open-air summer kitchen and a poolside resident Sports Club. A fitness center is planned for the lobby level.

The name ISIS evoked the building’s modern feel and sleek architectural design.

But in a stroke of bad luck, that name has been hijacked by this militant group. “It’s scarily negative,” said Tim Harris, a real estate associate with Douglas Elliman in Palm Beach and the past president of the Realtor Association of the Palm Beaches.

ISIS Downtown’s Facebook page now is directing users to a new Facebook page, 3 Thirty Three Downtown. According to the condo website, reservations are being accepted.

Harris said it’s too bad the name now is tainted because he really liked the word ISIS. “But there are so many unknowns when you’re doing a building, so many things can change….It’s good planning to cut and run with the name change now because it doesn’t sound like (the fight with ISIS) is going to get resolved anytime soon.”

Even so, Harris thinks the condo will be successful, despite this hiccup. The location is excellent, in the heart of downtown, he said.

A Kolter official could not be reached for comment.

Loftin Place launches

Farther north in downtown, the city’s first new apartment complex, with 463 planned units, is starting to get underway.

Loftin Place closed its loan earlier this month and has begun site prep. The property is between North Dixie Highway and North Olive Avenue, with 6th Street on the south and Eucalyptus Street bordering the north side of the property.

The first phase is in progress, with 259 planned studios, one and two-bedroom apartments, said Nader Salour, a principal with Cypress Realty in Jupiter.

Loftin Place’s first phase is expected to take 16 months to complete, but the first apartments should be ready in about 13 months, Salour said. Leasing will start about 90 days before the first apartments are ready.

Salour said the timing is right for the first new apartment project in downtown West Palm Beach.

A number of people are leasing condominiums downtown from owners who bought the units as investments but could not resell them.

Now that the condo market is heating up, “we are finding a lot of their leases are not being renewed,” Salour said.

In addition, the surge of dining and entertainment amenities downtown is drawing people who now can only find rental apartments west of the downtown. Salour thinks they would prefer to live downtown and enjoy its active lifestyle.

Finally, professionals working downtown, particularly near office towers, are another source of new renters, he said.

Once the first phase is complete, Salour said a second phase will commence. That phase may include larger apartments, depending on the demand for phase one. The second phase also will feature commercial space along Dixie Highway.

Building boom

All of this new construction in downtown West Palm Beach is a boost for the area’s construction industry, particularly the company building Loftin Place and 3 Thirty Three Downtown. That company is KAST Construction, an affiliate of Kolter.

The company is so busy with these and other projects that it recently expanded into larger office space. KAST now is located in 11,000 square square feet of space on Northpoint Parkway in West Palm Beach, according to Dave DeMay, KAST vice president. Prior space in downtown West Palm Beach was a fraction of that, at 3,300 square feet.

Employment is up, too. KAST now employs about 97 people, up from 70 during the real estate bust. And new hires are taking place every day, DeMay said: “We just added a couple this week.”

The Loftin Place apartments alone are expected to provide work for between 250 to 300 people, not only with KAST but with various subcontracting companies, DeMay said.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law. Contact her at aclough@pbpost.com.

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