West Palm Beach attracts another new business to downtown


Clear Choice Dental’s expansion allays concerns that the loss of a new office tower would hurt city’s growth

Another company has picked West Palm Beach for an expansion, boosting the city’s growing popularity with businesses seeking a toehold in this mid-size city.

Clear Choice Dental Implant Centers will lease 7,900 square feet in the Reflections office building at 400 Australian Ave.

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The nationwide company provides dental implants to patients in a one-stop-shopping environment, featuring a lab and technicians to make the implants, as well as oral surgeons on site to place the implants in patients.

Peter Reed, managing principal with Commercial Florida Realty Services, said Clear Choice looked for a location for six to eight months, even considering Palm Beach Gardens.

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But Clear Choice finally settled on the West Palm Beach office, which is close to Interstate 95 and convenient for customers coming from the south. The space is expected to be ready by spring.

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‘It’s a natural expansion from the Fort Lauderdale office, where we have a lot of great patients down in the area,” said Kevin Beck, Clear Choice Dental’s vice president of real estate.

Beck said Clear Choice Dental’s patients “typically travel at least 40 miles for this specialized care,” which can be a one-day procedure instead of a series of appointments to various doctors and technicians.

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“We do it all under one roof,” Beck said.

The office will employ between 12 and 20 people, Beck said.

Beck said the West Palm Beach location will bridge the gap between the company’s offices in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. The Colorado-based company has 38 other locations nationwide and is growing rapidly.

The Clear Choice Dental deal, inked just after Hurricane Irma, provides a bit of salve to business concerns that the city would lose out on new tenants, and jobs, now that Related Cos.’s proposed 25-story tower on Flagler Drive has been shot down.

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On Sept. 25, West Palm Beach city commissioners voted 3-2 against the creation of the Okeechobee Business District, which would have allowed for construction of a soaring tower on land zoned for five stories next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Proponents of the tower said new Class A office buildings are needed to attract more businesses to the city. But opponents and three city commissioners were troubled by the project, which they considered an example of spot zoning on land that residents voted twice to limit to low-rise buildings along the waterfront.

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Hedge funds, private equity firms and family offices were the ideal tenants for this building, which would have commanded high rents and provided upgraded services, said Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. “This was a very attractive location to bring a specific corporate headquarters or financial services firm,” Smallridge said.

“But by no means is West Palm Beach dead,” Smallridge added. “It’s very alive.” She cited the urban environment, the mass transit choices, the arts and culture as draws for companies coming to the city.

In fact, of the 21 relocations and expansion projects during the last fiscal year, “most of them ended up in West Palm Beach,” Smallridge said. That’s a change from previous years, when Boca Raton used to snare the lion’s share of new or expanding businesses to the Palm Beach County market.

“So it doesn’t surprise me Clear Choice is coming to West Palm Beach,” Smallridge said. “It’s not far from the bridges to the island, it’s in the center of the county and in one of the fastest-growing cities.”

Smallridge noted that West Palm Beach’s economy is diversifying away from one concentrated mostly on professional service firms, such as financial, law and banking services.

Software companies, such as Hotelplanner.com, the world’s largest provider of online group hotel bookings, have created corporate headquarters downtown.

Other tech-related companies also are growing. At Reflections, for instance, Granite Telecommunications, which provides telephone and data services, plus equipment, to business customers has expanded twice and now occupies three floors totaling 30,000 square feet, Reed said.

Health care also is a growing source of jobs. Cleveland Clinic has a large presence at the CityPlace Tower office building; and the Jupiter Medical/Mount Sinai affiliation is now the centerpiece of the former Bank of America building at 625 N. Flagler.

In fact, on Thursday, Jupiter Medical will hold a ribbon-cutting for its new urgent care center in the building.

In addition, NYU Langone has leased 7,200 square feet of ground floor space at the 101 North Clematis office building.

Complementing these growing medical services is the expanding array of hotels now available downtown for patients who need to stay a day or two in the city for care, Smallridge said.

Although the Class A tower promised by Related won’t be built at the church site, there still is room for new tenants at existing buildings, even buildings along the water.

For instance, Northbridge Centre, at 515 N. Flagler Drive, is undergoing a $12 million renovation that’s already attracting attention, said Reed, who is helping handle leasing at the site. In fact, Reed said he’s in talks with potential tenants that could lead to 50,000 square feet in new leases.

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

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