Renovations bringing a fresh look, new tenants at Crystal Tree Plaza

There’s a big renovation taking place at Crystal Tree Plaza in North Palm Beach, and it’s not hard to miss.

Orange cones dot the parking lot. Plywood covers some store windows.

But the work should be done within three months. Upon completion, a new era will begin for the longtime center, renamed Crystal Cove Commons.

The change already has started. New tenant Cucina Cabana restaurant already is luring diners and revelers from all over the county. BioMetrix, a health, wellness and fitness center, also opened a couple of months ago.

The project’s upgrade is intended to lure an influx of residents from new condominiums nearby.

But the upgrade has had some downside for some of the long-standing tenants of Crystal Tree, at 1201 U.S. 1.

True Treasures, a Consigned Furniture & Home Decor Shop, has decided to leave the center after 18 years. The store will move two miles south to a center at 1111 U.S 1.

Also gone is the Patio Shoppe, at the center for 14 years. It left about nine months ago after the center’s new owner wanted the store to move to a location in the back of the complex, store owner Gary Dickerson said.

Change came to this 35-year-old shopping and office center in 2016, when Black Lion Investment Group of California purchased the 120,000-square-foot property for $14 million.

Black Lion President Robert Rivani said his firm is spending between $6 and 7 million upgrading the property. As part of the redo, rents have been reset to market rates and tenants are being sought that will appeal to the center’s high-end neighbors, he said.

Affluent North Palm Beach received a shot in the arm with the construction of the Water Club condominiums at 1280 U.S. Highway 1. The Kolter project features luxury condominiums in three towers. The third, newest tower features 30 units priced between $1.4 million and $2.6 million.

The luxury residences attracted Black Lion to Crystal Tree. There is little retail competition in the area, but a lot of wealthy residents. And Black Lion specializes in repositioning retail and mixed-use centers, according to its website.

A renovation was the first order of business once Black Lion acquired the aged Crystal Tree shopping and office center.

True Treasure’s Paul Shine said he understands that Black Lion wants to revitalize the place. But, he said he wished the company had handled it a different way.

Construction started in January, during the height of the winter season. “It certainly has created obstacles,” Shine said. “We are using our wits to display our merchandise as best we can.”

That’s not easy when the windows are boarded up, all the natural light is gone and part of the space was reclaimed by Black Lion for their redo, Shine said.

Shine also said Black Lion was very aggressive with him, suing him for eviction in a complaint that alleged, among other things, that furniture was unloaded in the plaza’s common areas. Shine fought back in court, but has decided to leave when his lease is up in April.

Rivani said his firm offered True Treasures another space in the center at market rents, but True Treasures did not want the deal.

As for the timing of the construction during high season, Rivani said the timing was unfortunate but was caused by Hurricane Irma and last-minute approvals needed by city hall. Delaying the project until after season wasn’t a good option, either, because then rainy season starts and construction could get delayed again, Rivani said.

Despite the plaza’s construction zone, Rivani said his plans to re-tenant the property have started out strong.

Cucina Cabana, is slammed with business, Rivani said. The restaurant occupies the space formerly home to Barolo. Cucina is owned by Aldo Conigliaro, a restaurant designer and builder.

The restaurant’s interior now is modern and chic, with an expanded bar. Ray Chang, a popular piano player and entertainer, serenades the crowds Thurday through Saturday.

Entertainment is important in retail these days, Rivani said. The center “needs to be a destination, something you want to get out of the car and come to,” he said.

Rivani said other restaurants suddenly are interested in taking space at Crystal Tree Commons, too.

Although he’s had numerous inquiries from local restaurateurs, he said he’s holding open the True Treasures spot for a major player, along the lines of a Seasons 52 or other big brand to draw more foot traffic.

In the meantime, life goes on for longtime tenants who have left the plaza. Sometimes life is better, too.

The Patio Shoppe, which had 9,000 square feet at Crystal Tree, took 12,000 square feet at Legacy Place, a shopping center on PGA Boulevard across from The GardensMall.

Business is booming at the Patio Shoppe’s new store: “January was the best month I’ve ever had anywhere,” Dickerson said.

High-profile firm’s new home

A law firm handling one of Palm Beach’s most high-profile divorces recently tied the knot with another firm — then moved into new digs.

Fisher, Bendeck & Potter and The Law Office of Benjamin T. Hodas have merged to create Fisher Potter Hodas. The firm just moved into custom space at Northbridge Centre, at 515 N. Flagler Dr. The firm took 5,823 square feet of space in the black glass building, affectionately known as the Darth Vader building.

Name partner Jeffrey Fisher is representing the adult children of Burt and Lucille Handelsman in their epic divorce litigation taking place in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The Handelsman own prime property throughout South Florida, including along Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Both Fisher and Hodas have a history of representing wealthy South Florida residents in big-money family cases. Hodas is currently representing baseball player Miguel Cabrera.

Fisher said the merger creates a five-attorney firm, the largest family law firm in West Palm Beach.

The specialty firm will continue to represent clients throughout the state, the country and even outside the U.S., and having more lawyers helps the firm with its demanding workload, Fisher said.

“We’re growing. We needed space to grow and lawyers to grow with,” partner Zac Potter said.

Fisher said his firm prevoiusly was in the Flagler Center but chose the Northbridge Centre because Hodas is an existing tenant. Also, the new, waterview space was vacant, allowing the firm the chance to create something custom and cool. The space is done up in a contemporary style, akin to the New York law firms that are familiar to many of the firm’s chief executive clients, Potter said.

Also, and maybe this is the best part, the firm’s lawyers can walk to the courthouse, Fisher said.

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

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