Sleepy Northwood? Not anymore. The West Palm Beach neighborhood that always seems on the verge of a renaissance finally is about to flourish. And if it does, it may be due to one building:312 Northwood.
312 Northwood is the new apartment complex that just opened its doors at the corner of Dixie Highway and 23rd Street. In just a few weeks of summertime leasing, the 100-unit building with the playful brick lobby, tricked-out gym and covered parking already is 25 percent full, with residents paying between $1,400 to $1,850 for one and two-bedroom apartments, although some apartments rent for $2,300 a month.
Developer Neil Kozokoff expects the property’s 100 units — 75 of which have views of the Intracoastal Waterway — to be fully leased by year-end. At that point, he’ll consider building another 102 apartments on land he owns nearby.
One apartment complex doesn’t sound like a lot of change, but it represents a significant step: Someone blinked and acted first.
The new apartment building has led other businesses and investors to jump into Northwood, buy property and get in early on the expected rise of this neighborhood.
Take Celis Produce, the organic grocer that’s on an explosive growth tear. Three years ago, brothers Alex and Felipe Celis looked for space in Northwood but couldn’t lock anything down. Instead, they opened a store at 2814 S. Dixie Highway, where they peddle cold-pressed juices, coffees and lattes, acai bowls, and assorted fresh fruits and vegetables. When they heard about the 312 building, they decided they finally had found their Northwood spot. By November, Celis Produce will be up and running in the ground floor retail space at 312 Northwood, where it will sell coffee, juice, produce and pantry items.
“There’s something about Northwood that attracts us to it. It’s the culture behind it, very focused on small business. It’s going to take more small businesses like ourselves to commit to keeping it (moving) up,” Alex Celis said. When he and his brother were considering 312 Northwood, “we looked at the location and the water views and the easy access parking, and it felt right. It took three years, but we made it happen.”
Across Dixie Highway on Northwood Road, Hutton Seafood & Raw Bar is set to open Aug. 22. The seafood restaurant and raw bar is the brainchild of Tim Klinefelter, who for 10 years was a manager and then a partner at the buzzy Pearlz Oyster Bar of Charleston, S.C. Two years ago, Klinefelter came to Florida hoping to start his own gig, fell in love with the artsy charm of Northwood and set about pouring money into the former Dos Amigos space. You can’t beat the location, either, across the street from 312 Northwood: “This restaurant is walking distance,” Klinefelter said.
Big money likes Northwood, too. Oliver Grace Jr., the Palm Beach investor who for three years quietly has been amassing Northwood property, in May plunked down $5.2 million for vacant land and the buildings housing both Hutton and Relish restaurant. These purchases add to the already significant real estate holdings Grace has on 24th Street and 25th Street, purchased in 2014.
Meanwhile, the new Flagler Memorial Bridge just opened, making it simple for Palm Beachers to drive north on Flagler Drive to Northwood, instead of the circuitous route the roads used to take before the bridge redo.
All of this activity comes at a time when the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is working closely with a development group to develop a 3.5-acre tract dubbed the “anchor site.” It’s on the west side of Northwood Village, from 23rd Street to the south to 25th Street on the north, mostly west of Broadway.
The group, TBCG Capital Group, wants to build five buildings, with uses that will include micro-apartments — small apartments popular with millennials who are unmarried, want to be downtown but don’t want to pay hefty rents — offices, retail space, townhouses and apartments, including workforce housing.
And then there’s Jeff Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who bought up most of the land around Currie Park, the city park along the Intracoastal Waterway east of Northwood Road. Greene plans an ambitious, long-term development of apartments condos and shops.
“Between Grace and Greene, those guys have a major stake there. And Kozokoff is just kicking butt with his apartment,” said William Reis of Palm Beach’sCorcoran Group Real Estate.
It took only 10 years for Kozokoff’s apartment to become an overnight success.
That’s how long ago Kozokoff, owner of The Parkland Companies, began assembling land in Northwood. He even owned the Relish building at 401 Northwood Road for a time, before selling it to Palm Beach investor Alex Griswold, who just flipped it to Grace.
During the past decade, Kozokoff said, West Palm Beach has started to remind him of Chicago. When downtown hits a certain level of traffic and crowding, neighborhoods just outside the downtown rise as people seek to live and do business near, but not in, the downtown, he said.
In Northwood, there’s an added bonus: “It’s a real neighborhood,” Kozokoff said, with green space, water and amenities nearby. Across the street is the Joel T. Daves Park; to the east, the Intracoastal Waterway; and across Dixie Highway, the restaurants.
Kozokoff said he’s leasing apartments to millennials, but he’s also leasing to professionals, such as doctors, nurses and attorneys. “I had one nurse say to me, ‘I can get to work five minutes faster and not have to get through downtown,’ ” Kozokoff said.
The neighborhood feel also appealed to Hutton’s Klinefelter, who said he considered Palm Beach and South Dixie Highway before he settled on Northwood.
“In Charleston, I lived in an arts-and-crafty neighborhood, and Northwood reminded me of it,” Klinefelter said. “I didn’t want to go into a well-established area. I wanted to go in an up-and-coming one.”
Klinefelter is upbeat on the promise of new development around Currie Park by Greene and the ease of travel to the area, especially from Palm Beach, where he spent considerable time before settling on Northwood. Klinefelter also likes that Northwood is away from the traffic and parking issues of downtown.
In keeping with the forward-thinking of the area, Klinefelter said he’s tailored the menu to the new style in dining, offering small plates meant for sharing instead of a main entree that limits the ability of diners to taste different dishes.
Detailed attention to the space’s decorative elements, including stained concrete floors and grasscloth wallpaper, plus sea-inspired murals by Klinefelter’s domestic partner, artist Robert Shelton, are intended to draw diners who appreciate art and design with their food and drink.
Jon Ward, executive director of West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency, said he’s gratified to see Northwood start to move. The action prompted the CRA to finally market its vacant 3.5-acre anchor site to developers. “The interest by Jeff Greene, all the sales in Northwood Village, told us the time was right,” Ward said.
Ward said sometimes it takes just one action to trigger a cascade of events. “I think that’s what’s about to happen here,” Ward said.
It’s not yet clear what Grace plans to do with his holdings. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
But Kozokoff already is eyeing his next move: Developing another 100 apartments on land he owns at the southwest corner of Picadilly Street and Broward Avenue, about a block away from 312 Northwood. Kozokoff said once he leases up 312 Northwood, if the rental market remains strong, “I’ll get going on the other one.”
Alexandra Clough writes about real estate, law and the economy.