Mini but marvelous: Could WPB see micro-apartments?

Palm Beach investor Jeff Greene could turn vacant West Palm Beach land into the hottest trend sweeping urban cities: micro apartments.

Ranging from 400 square feet to about 550 square feet, this cozy apartment style is a concept he’s considering for downtown property purchased for $3.47 million this summer, at 550 Banyan Blvd., just west of City Hall. While the apartments will be small, “every inch of space is usable,” Greene said.

The land purchase is among the latest by Greene, a billionaire real estate investor who has been buying properties throughout West Palm Beach. Some of his land buys are along the waterfront, such as a major purchase last month on North Flagler Drive, while others are in the midst of downtown.

This Banyan Boulevard property is one of those in-fill locations.

Diagrams have been sketched for the proposed Banyan Lofts, said Greene’s architect, Rick Gonzalez of REG Architects in West Palm Beach. The tiny apartments would need the OK of city hall because typical city standards are about twice that size.

Greene envisions a complex filled with amenities, but with living space small enough to make renting affordable. With many downtown rental properties now going for $2,000 a month, Greene thinks there’s room for small apartments costing about $1,000 for Millenials who are unmarried, want to be downtown but don’t want to pay hefty rents.

The 1.2-acre site, once planned as the Place Via Clematis, was supposed to be a 296-unit condo. Sales started strong when the project hit the market in 2004 — ten years ago. But then the city needed a sliver of the property for a parking garage to the property’s east, forcing the developer to do a redesign.

By the time new plans were mailed to pre-construction buyers, building prices had soared and buyer interest had waned. The project was canceled.

Meanwhile, farther north of the city, Greene last month added to his North Flagler Drive holdings.

In October, he paid $3 million for prime Intracoastal Waterway land at 5818 North Flagler Drive. The property is the site formerly known as the Flagler Beach Club.

(The land sits just north of a property purchased last year by Greene, the 5750 North Flagler Drive site once planned as the Eighty Points West condo, rising 20 stories and featuring 173 luxury units. Greene paid $7.65 million for the land.)

Greene said townhouses were built on the Flagler Beach Club land but a condo tower never was. And that’s why the property has great potential.

“It has a sandy beach,” Greene said. “It’s a great site, right where the boats go through the inlet.”

Greene also likes that the land sits just south of the planned manatee viewing center at Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion natural-gas fired power plant on the Intracoastal Waterway. The viewing center is set to open by the end of 2015.

Greene is a significant land owner on North Flagler Drive, in the Currie Park corridor to the south. The area likely will be rezoned to allow taller buildings.

So Greene is iffy on which North Flagler Drive project to commence, since there are other developers with land near his properties.

“I don’t know who’s going to go first,” Greene said. “Maybe we will go first.”

Havana eatery redo to spice up WPB

West Palm Beach residents soon could sneak a peek at old Havana when they visit the Cuban eatery of the same name.

Havana Restaurant, a stalwart on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, hopes to undergo a major exterior renovation in the spirit of old Havana, Cuba. Havana is located at 6801 S. Dixie Hwy.

Vanessa Reyes, Havana’s marketing director and granddaughter of the co-founder, said the restaurant is seeking a city grant to help pay the estimated $300,000 cost of the redo, which will include wrought-iron detailing and decorative lighting.

The facade was designed by REG Architects of West Palm Beach.

“We want to bring this area of Forest Hill and Dixie back to 1950s Cuba, and bring Havana to life,” Reyes said.

The family restaurant was founded in 1993 by Roberto Reyes, his daughter Martha, and her husband Rafael Perez. They moved to West Palm Beach from Miami after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. (Roberto Reyes died this year.)

Reyes said the facade will liven the Dixie area and move the redevelopment of Dixie Highway farther south, toward Lake Worth.

As previously reported, a number of properties have traded hands, are being redeveloped or are planned for improvement in the Dixie Highway corridor between Okeechobee Boulevard to the north, and Belvedere Road to the south.

Now the renovation action is moving south, and Reyes said her family is excited to be a part of that effort. Havana is perhaps the most popular of Cuban restaurants in central Palm Beach County.

The casual eatery seats about 90, offering traditional Cuban fare such as Ropa Vieja and Palomilla steak. But there’s a 24-hour walk up window, where diners can enjoy Cafe con Leche, Cuban sandwiches and pastries or entrees from the dining room menu.

Business is busy year-round, Reyes said: “We’ve always been very blessed.”

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

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