Luxury homes define the lifestyle of Palm Beach. But land prices are high and waterfront homes are scarce, with some costing $30 million or more for new construction.
Now comes a developer who proposes an alternative: a new waterfront mansion that’s move-in ready and half the price — on the other side of the bridge.
Developer SteveBendat is putting the finishing touches on a new “spec” home on the Intracoastal Waterway at 2914 Washington Road in West Palm Beach. The asking price is $13.5 million.
The astonishing price tag is about three times what even the toniest homes have sold for in this once-sleepy enclave, south of Okeechobee Boulevard and east of Dixie Highway. The homes in and around the El Cid and Prospect Park neighborhoods feature a number of real estate gems. During the past four years, these neighborhoods have seen an increase in the number of buyers who are paying big money to buy and improve historic homes, or demolish non-historic properties to build something new.
Bendat, of the Aquantis Group, is optimistic his six-bedroom, 9½-bathroom luxury home on Washington Road will stand up to even the most upscale Palm Beach properties.
“We have better quality features and better views” than homes similarly priced on the island, Bendat said. “We can compete on any level with any luxury estate on Palm Beach.”
He’s particularly hoping to attract the attention of hedge fund and private equity executives opening offices in West Palm Beach, an increasingly popular refuge for firms fleeing high-tax states in the Northeast.
The Washington Road mansion buyer “could be a guy from New York or Boston,” Bendat said. “It’s someone who likes a boat and wants to buy a lifestyle.”
Building ultra-luxury residences in West Palm Beach isn’t so far-fetched, some real estate agents say. In fact, it could be the next trend.
The construction of The Bristol, the most expensive condominium ever built in Palm Beach County, has kicked off an increasing interest in the city by people who could afford Palm Beach but, for various reasons, are choosing West Palm Beach instead.
This includes a number of Palm Beach residents, including philanthropist Sydell Miller, who bought an entire floor for a rumored $40 million at the 1112 S. Flagler Drive condominium. Other units in The Bristol average about $10 million each, and brokers say about half of the West Palm Beach tower’s sales are from Palm Beach residents.
“The reality is these two communities are going to merge and blend. You’ll see it more and more. This is the beginning,” said Burt Minkoff, a sales associate with the Corcoran Group on Palm Beach.
It’s certainly what Bendat hoped for when he paid $2.8 million for the 2914 Washington Road property in 2015. He demolished the house on it, then spent two years and $8 million building the mansion.
The idea of building ultra-luxury on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway grew out of an idea by Leslie Holvey, an associate at The Fite Group Luxury Homes on Palm Beach.
Holvey said she noticed this portion of the city was a hidden gem, near but not in the city’s lively downtown. It’s also east of the bustling South Dixie Highway corridor, where investors and developers have poured money into new restaurants, businesses and even a new school.
With increased downtown traffic has come longer wait times to cross the bridges from Palm Beach. For some people, living in West Palm Beach just outside downtown is more convenient, Holvey said.
Holvey convinced Bendat to go on a mini-shopping spree, snapping up five homes that either are on or face the Intracoastal Waterway. The first to be built is this home on Washington Road, located east of Flagler Drive directly on the water.
Bendat crafted the neutral-toned home into a high-tech haven, filled with hidden speakers and the latest in technology for lighting and music. But he was careful to incorporate nature into the home’s design, resulting in water views in every room except the dining room, which has a water feature.
The two-story gated house has a granite driveway set in cement, a 45-foot-by-18-foot infinity pool, fire pits, cabana, grill, summer kitchen and a private boat dock. Inside the home, the main room features a 24-foot tall ceiling, bathrooms with wall-mounted toilets and $65,000 worth of high-end faucets and fixtures. The home, which features limestone floors, has seven fireplaces, an elevator and a wine storage area.
The home also comes with at least five televisions, including a 75-inch TV in the family room that can descend from above a fireplace for ease of viewing from a sofa — or be rotated to face the kitchen, which has five ovens.
There’s 6,700 square feet under air, and 10,000 square feet total, if you include the loggias and balconies. A second-story patio off the master bedroom, plus a guest house, complete the property.
Hedge fund executives seems to like the idea of a tech-savvy home. “High-tech property is the future of Palm Beach County,” said David Goodboy, founder of the Palm Beach Hedge Fund Association, which is holding a private networking event on April 26 at the home.
But not everyone is convinced this part of West Palm Beach can support this kind of house at that kind of price.
“No. Not on the west side of the Intracoastal,” said real estate broker and investor Jonathan Gladstone. “West Palm Beach is West Palm Beach.”
Gladstone knows this part of the city well. He purchased an El Cid home for $550,000, then spent $275,000 improving it. It’s now listed for sale for $899,000. Gladstone said there also are plenty of “amazing” homes for sale along Flagler Drive in the $2 million-$4 million range.
Minkoff acknowledged the Bendat home is “definitely an experiment.” But he noted there’s a limited supply of inventory on Palm Beach, and even fewer available lots in the family-oriented north end of the island. Lots on the water are even harder to find.
After all, “Where else are you going to go if you want to buy something on the water?” asked real estate broker Rebel Cook, who thinks the bet will pay off. “You go where the water is, and that’s the Intracoastal,” said Cook, leader of the Economic Forum, a business group.
Bendat said he’s so optimistic, he’s about to commence construction on his next property, a vacant corner lot at 6717 S. Flagler Drive, where Forest Hill Boulevard meets the water.
That home, which will be ultra-modern, could be priced as high as $15 million, he said.