- Alexandra Clough Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Alexa Ferris is an apartment leasing agent’s dream: She’s a millennial, a professional — and she wants to live in a building filled with perks and nearby activities.
After looking at numerous downtown West Palm Beach apartments, Ferris decided on the new kid in town: The Alexander apartments at 333 Fern St.
When Ferris moves in later this year, she’ll be enjoying a resort-style pool, 24-hour fitness center and free downstairs coffee bar, plus the water view from her 17th floor apartment. She’ll also be paying $2,100 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, which she will share with her boyfriend, Dale Jones.
The price, Ferris said, is worth it. “I looked at a few buildings, but they didn’t have as many amenities that would appeal to me,” said Ferris, 25.
Ferris won’t be alone. After less than three months of leasing, the 205-unit apartment building is 35 percent leased, a milestone that stuns the folks at Ram Realty Services, which handles the building’s leasing.
“I knew there would be high demand, but it’s exceeded our expectations,” said Jennifer Stull, managing director for Ram Asset Management.
Welcome to the next wave of downtown West Palm Beach living. The Alexander is the first of three new luxury apartments opening, attracting people who want to live in a new rental building and are willing to pay for the latest amenities.
The Alexander’s rents range from $1,825 to $4,000 for units sized from 648 square feet to 1,700 square feet. Ram hasn’t yet started leasing the top 19th and 20th floors, which feature 12 units on each floor and the best water views. When they become available to rent, they’ll likely go for even higher prices, especially with some features now being added, such as upgraded flooring and lighting packages, Stull said.
While there are plenty of condominiums being leased to renters downtown, Ferris said they don’t have the same appeal. Renters, particularly young adults, don’t feel as welcomed by owners of condominiums in the building, she said.
But at The Alexander, no one needs to feel shy about renting because everyone there is a renter, too.
It’s a point Stull said she’s heard as well. “I’ve heard other people say they don’t want to feel like an outsider among condo owners,” she said. “These apartment buildings are designed to be rentals versus fractured (condominium) buildings.”
If The Alexander is any indication, it’s not only millennials who want new apartments heavy on amenities and an easygoing rental lifestyle. Stull said people have been selling their downtown condominiums and moving over to The Alexander, too. She’s also seeing people moving to The Alexander from suburban homes in western communities, as well as people moving south from the Northeast and north from Miami.
Particularly impressive to renters is the building’s use of technology.
For Ferris, it was the video entry system. Instead of guests having to go into the main lobby to notify security if their arrival, guests can park in the garage, use an iPad at the garage entrance to the apartment building and then Facetime with the tenant to gain access. “It’s a way easier check-in process and a better security measure,” Ferris said.
Stull said the technology is fairly new and is the first time it has been used by Ram.
The appeal of the Brightline high-speed train is another factor driving tenants. “I’ve had people say they are going to work in Fort Lauderdale but live in West Palm Beach,” Stull said.
Observers may marvel that renters are willing to pay per month what homeowners pay on a mortgage, but Ferris isn’t fazed. The rent at The Alexander pales in comparison to the $3,500 a month she now pays in New York, where she works for a major shopping center owner.
When she moves in to The Alexander at the end of November, she’ll have friends to help her make the transition. Ferris said she was alerted to the new property by a friend, who is moving to the building from Atlanta.
The appeal of new apartments opening downtown is not lost on billionaire investor Jeff Greene, who owns a number of key parcels downtown and who has promised to build various projects, including several apartment complexes.
Earlier this month, he said he was canceling plans to build a 12-story, 348-unit “micro-apartment” building at Banyan Boulevard and Rosemary Avenue. The 340 to 560 square-foot units would have been priced at under $1,000 a month.
Greene started voicing uncertainty about the demand for his apartments back in February, as he saw the The Alexander nearing completion and two other downtown apartment complexes underway: The 315-unit Broadstone City Center, at 410 Datura St. and the 290-unit Park-Line, between Datura and Evernia streets west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. Park-Line is being built by Florida East Coast Industries, the parent company of the Brightline train. Both apartment complexes are set to open in 2018.
Greene told The Post that he wasn’t aware how costly amenities were until after he went through the development process and started pricing out the micro-apartment project.
Rental rates are a question, too. Greene has bemoaned the fact that he’s unable to raise rents on condominiums he bought in bulk at City Palm, where he leases out the units as apartments. And he’s questioned how many more apartments the downtown can handle.
But if The Alexander is any indication, a new building with the right amenities and vibe will draw people in.
Stull, for one, thinks Park-Line and Broadstone City Center will do just fine: “I think there’s sufficient demand in West Palm Beach for a variety of units,” she said.
Staff writer Tony Doris contributed to this column.