Billionaire investor Jeff Greene has big ideas for an office tower complex in West Palm Beach. Very big.
In the works are plans to build twin, 30-story towers on land he purchased this year at 550 Quadrille Blvd., just north of the Palm Beach County courthouse. The towers combined would be between 800,000 to 900,000 square feet.
In a recent interview, Greene dished details on his vision for the 3.3-acre site, which he bought in March for $15 million.
(During the real estate heyday, the property was slated to be the 550Q condominium.)
Greene, of Palm Beach, said he has hired respected New York architecture firm Cook Fox to handle the project. Cook Fox designed the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, a 2.2 million square foot, 55-story skyscraper in Manhattan.
For Greene, height is important for his West Palm Beach project: “At that height, you still get some (water) views.”
Plus, Greene thinks building a taller but skinner building will be less objectionable than a shorter complex that blocks the vistas.
Greene acknowledged the West Palm Beach complex is a a huge project, but he said he’s already working to obtain financing. He knows he has to have a certain amount of office space pre-leased to tenants to obtain a construction loan and start building.
But he’s excited about the amenities he plans for the complex. Not only will the office tower be a “state of the art architectural office building,” Greene said, but the second tower will consist of a five-story hotel downstairs, condos upstairs, a health club, a restaurant, and outdoor and indoor tennis courts.
“It will be a destination that will invigorate” the area, Greene said.
Despite the recent postponement of a new office building by Related Cos. due to lack of pre-leasing tenants, Greene believes West Palm Beach would snare more big corporate tenants if it had new Class A office space built and ready for them.
“It’s not a demand problem. It’s a supply problem….I think there is enough wealth, and enough businesses, that want to come to Florida,” Greene said.
Since 2009, Greene has spent more than $240 million investing in the county, property records show. Greene is particularly aggressive in West Palm Beach, where he owns land, commercial buildings, condo units and industrial warehouses. But he’s not just an investor; he’s also a developer, too, and already is building apartments in West Palm Beach.
Sale at PB Outlets: The mall itself?
The Palm Beach Outlets, which opened to great fanfare in February, is in play for a possible sale of the entire site or a large ownership piece, according to retail and real estate sources.
The West Palm Beach center, which opened on the site of the former Palm Beach Mall on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, is about 95 percent leased. The interior outlet portion of the project is open, and construction continues on several big box stores ringing the site, including Whole Foods Market, Pier 1 Imports, Sports Authority and Nordstrom Rack. Those stores are expected to open in the fall.
Last week, Stephen Karp of New England Development, who owns the center with partners, said “nothing imminent is going on.”
But Karp didn’t quash the idea of a possible sale. “We’re always talking to people….We’re listening to everybody who’s out trying to shop for a good property.”
He acknowledged that recent talks may be why the sales chatter has grown in recent weeks.
“We have talked to a couple of people,” he said, “but we don’t have any offer and we’re not negotiating a deal,” Karp said. “We’re listening to everything, but nothing is imminent.”
Karp, a billionaire mall magnate, is chairman of New England Development, a Massachusetts-based real estate firm. New England partnered with Eastern Real Estate and Lubert-Adler to buy the 80-acre mall in October 2011 for $35.5 million.
Karp said he’d prefer to hold onto the property, but he acknowledged there are other partners in the deal. He declined to elaborate on ownership interests.
It’s also unclear whether the entire mall could be sold or just a large equity piece of it.
Neil Merin, chairman of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman in West Palm Beach, said it’s no surprise the Outlets is garnering buyer interest.
“He did a great job,” Merin said of Karp. “Why not exit out when you can and sell for an aggressive price?… A sale would be a home run.”
Others say selling now would be a wise move, for a different reason.
“You’re seeing it at its best state right now, and my hats off to them. They put together a heck of a project,” said Al Ferris, leasing manager of The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens.
But, speaking generally, Ferris said outlet malls are never as good as when they first open. An exception, he said, is the Sawgrass Mills mall, which has a wing devoted to high-end clearance stores.
The Palm Beach Outlets has some high-end outlets, too, such as Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, and will be adding more later in the year.
Another change already has taken place at the mall: Mall manager Jim Roberts, who sweated the details of the successful opening, left this month to take a position with an unidentified company.
“It was a good opportunity for him,” said Karp, confirming word that Roberts’ high-profile success at the Outlets landed him a top job elsewhere.
I scream for doughnuts
Rhino Doughnuts & Coffee is about to come charging into South Florida. The new enterprise, by Boca Raton-based Tom Prakas and businessman Davin Tran, is slated to open its first location at the end of the month in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, at 107 East Commercial Blvd. Then, look for a location to open at 126 N.E. 2nd St. in Boca Raton after July 4, along with a location on the Las Olas Riverfront in Fort Lauderdale. Then a location on 123 East Atlantic Ave. in downtown Delray Beach will open in September.
Rhino Doughnuts will feature gourmet doughnuts and craft-brewed coffee, private label and fair trade. The stores are designed by ID & Design International, a Fort Lauderdale firm which has designed and developed some of the world’s best known eateries and stores, including Whole Foods, Harrods department stores and IPic theaters.
Prakas said he’s not only busy with Rhino and his regular restaurant listings. He’s also been named the exclusive broker for Miami Grill, an evolution of the old Miami Subs brand, which now is calling itself the New Miami Subs Grill. (There are three Miami Subs in Palm Beach County, according to the company website.) Helping boost attention in the new brand: equity owner and rap/hip-hop artist Pitbull, aka Armando Christian Perez.
In addition to finding sites, Prakas also will handle Florida franchise sales for the company, a first for him. Look for Miami Grills to start popping up throughout the area. They’ll feature familiar items, such as gyros, chicken wings and of course, sub sandwiches, plus new menu items. Also planned: breakfast, beer, wine and Dom Perignon champagne.