NEW: Developer kills plan for 5 tall towers at Prospect Place in WPB


Highlights

Time Equities has canceled five, 15-story towers at Prospect Place after neighbors protested height

“When push came to shove, this was not what the community wanted,” a Time Equities official said.

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A plan to build million-dollar condominiums on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach is a no-go, thanks to neighborhood opposition to the project.

The owner of the aged Prospect Place office center acknowledged it has scrapped plans to turn the property into a 15-story, five-tower complex. The project, dubbed 3111 S. Dixie Highway, would have featured 300 condos, with views of the Intracoastal Waterway from the top floors.

Even though zoning rules allowed for the tall steel-and-glass towers, neighborhood resistance led to the project’s kibosh, said Robert Singer, director of development for New York-based Time Equities, which owns the site.

“The height was it,” Singer said. “The park was OK, the retail was OK, the residential was OK. But the height of the buildings was an issue. When push came to shove, this was not what the community wanted. And we’re not in the business of jamming communities.”

Singer said Time Equities has taken the current design off the table and “into a holding pattern, and we’ll take everything we’ve learned from the community.”

Time Equities still thinks the area has great potential, and Singer said most neighbors still want something different on the property. Prospect Place, just south of Belvedere Road, used to be home to Sears and Winn-Dixie stores. It was turned into offices, but over time, occupancy has fallen. Now the 9.4-acre site looks mostly like a large, empty parking lot.

With the tall tower plan pitched, Time Equities is going back to the drawing board.

A new design could include features of the old one, which included a park and space for stores and restaurants along Dixie Highway. But the new design could feature shorter condo towers, which would be less likely to upset residents in nearby single-family homes who said tall towers didn’t fit the scale of the low-rise area.

Shorter condo buildings will not have water views, of course. Therefore condo units won’t fetch the same high prices. But they also will be less expensive to build, Singer said.

The decision to pause Prospect Place comes at a pivotal time. Citizens and city leaders are having lively discussions over whether West Palm Beach should allow tall buildings in areas that don’t already have them.

For example, The Related Cos. of New York is seeking city approval to build a 25-story luxury office tower on land currently zoned for five stories along Flagler Drive, on land next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Petitions, and prominent voices, are outspoken about whether a tall building should be built on land that residents voted to keep at only five stories.

Ray Titus, of United Franchise Group in West Palm Beach, said the city needs the tower Related has proposed. “This is the type of project that will bring Class A tenants!” Titus wrote to Mayor Jeri Muoio on May 2.

On the flip slide, former West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham has written Facebook posts bashing the idea of lifting the five-story height limit, which she said was developed with input from the best planners in the country, along with residents and businesses.

Graham said caustically: “If land is going to be up-zoned for developers for which they have no legal right, at least get a hell of a lot more for the city than just tax base.”

With the appetite for tall towers iffy in West Palm Beach, Time Equities’ decision could be smart for another reason: Condo sales are slowing nationwide, including in South Florida.

By taking the current plan off the table, “This gives us a chance to re-imagine what we’re doing and then pick our spot in the market,” Singer said.

Rising construction costs were cited by a city official as the reason why a six-building, 1,000-condo and apartment complex hasn’t come out of the ground at Marina Village at 4400 N. Flagler Drive.

But real estate sources say the developers, which include the The Related Group of Miami, might be having cold feet about the condo market. Last month, Related canceled a 60-story, 290-unit luxury condominium in downtown Miami.

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



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