CityPlace’s developer on Tuesday sketched a new vision for the West Palm Beach mixed-use center, which will grow with the addition of new apartments, offices and stores. In addition, a major upgrade to the longtime movie theater is planned.
Speaking before more than 500 people at a Palm Beach Chamber breakfast at The Breakers Resort, Ken Himmel outlined his company’s vision for the next stage of CityPlace, which helped kick off West Palm Beach’s revitalization when the shopping and dining center opened 17 years ago.
Himmel, president of Related Urban, the mixed-use unit of New York-based Related Cos., described plans to recast parts of CityPlace into a younger, hipper gathering place, one that features innovative businesses plus new restaurants and shops.
Among the changes proposed:
- Some 350 luxury apartments will be built on the now-shuttered Macy’s department store space;
- Lower floors will feature new retailers, including one company that may bring four different stores to the site;
- A WeWorks coworking space will be added to the property;
- A 250,000-square-foot office building, designed in an industrial style, could rise 15-18 stories across from CityPlace on Rosemary Avenue;
- The AMC CityPlace 20 movie theater will be upgraded into a luxury cinema, featuring such upscale touches as recliner seats but fewer auditoriums;
- Vacant space will become home to online retailers who want to experiment with brick-and-mortar stores. Related is looking at between 30 to 40 online retailers.
The plans sketched by Himmel were the first time he has spoken publicly of the next stage of the dining, shopping and residential center, which opened to great fanfare in October 2000 on Okeechobee Boulevard, just east of Interstate 95.
Since that time, CityPlace has weathered 9/11 and two recessions, forcing Related to reinvent the project four times, Himmel said. The property twice has defaulted on its loan, but CityPlace recently reworked the property’s debt, allowing Related to move forward with new investment in the project.
The changes continue in a shifting retail landscape that Himmel said will likely mean the closure of between 30 percent to 40 percent of shopping centers, as consumers continue to migrate to online shopping.
To stem that tide, Himmel said it is incumbent on shopping center developers to create experiences “to get people off these damn devices,” he said, referring to cell phones and other mobile devices.
Part of that effort already has been kicked off with last month’s opening of RH, a furniture gallery and rooftop restaurant in the median of Okeechobee Boulevard, next to CityPlace. The gallery has garnered nationwide interest, prompting attention from retailers who suddenly find West Palm Beach a desirable place to set up shop.
The Macy’s building, for the moment, is home to a mural and a creative space dubbed the Culture Lab.
Those changes are temporary as Related seeks to rework the center’s tenant mix.
The company is in talks with more than 20 restaurants that would be new to the center, Himmel said in an interview after the breakfast. Some will be additions to the center and others will replace existing ones in a bid to upgrade the food offerings, he said. He declined to name the restaurants.
New retailers planned for CityPlace include stores that used to be at the center but left in the downturn, including those in the home furnishings arena. Himmel said talks are underway to bring those retailers back as well as stores new to the market. Himmel said Related is particularly keen on stores for the home, as well as tech-oriented retailers.
Also in the works: An artsy, tech office building that could rise east of the Publix Super Market. Himmel told The Post that corporate tenants lured to Related’s new Hudson Yards mixed-use project in New York have a number of affiliated companies in the Southeast that are interested in the space.
Himmel said it is possible Publix might move into the ground floor of the planned office tower, allowing Related to build another residential tower and maybe another office building on the Publix site. If Publix doesn’t move, then the store will be remodeled, Himmel said.
The upgrades and expansion will be rolled out during the next couple of years, with the intention to submit plans to the city for the new office building set for the first quarter of 2018, Himmel said.