The ages. It’s the first thing you notice about the Peters sisters. You can’t help it.
Ariana, 24. Dresden, 22. Dakota, 19.
The women are young, attractive and smart. Kardashian-like.
Only one — Ariana — speaks with the media.
“As three young women running a successful real estate development company, the challenges are usually the misconception that comes with our age,” said Ariana, a managing partner at Peters Development, a company that owns more than 40 properties in Lake Worth. “Often people don’t take us seriously until they meet us and realize we have not only the knowledge, but also the experience and backing to execute.”
The sisters opened a Lake Worth office on Lake Avenue about three years ago and have quickly built what is believed to be the largest commercial property company in the city. The sisters have bought more than 20 properties in the city since their father, Doug, the man who started Peters Development 18 years ago retired — sort of — to let his daughters run the company.
“People underestimate my daughters all the time,” said Doug, 54. “What do these girls know? They come from a fortunate family and don’t know anything, but that’s the furthest from the truth.”
Nonetheless, the sisters are facing a new challenge — backlash from the rising rents in downtown Lake Worth.
Rising rents have some steaming
City Commissioner Andy Amoroso, who owns Studio 205 , the gift and novelty shop off Lake Avenue, is moving after the Peters increased his rent about 60 percent.
Amoroso’s rent is going up from $2,400 a month to $3,850 at his 2,980 square-foot place. The total rent will be $4,200 when sales taxes are added.
“I don’t know when I’m moving, because I’m stuck in my lease until October,” Amoroso told The Palm Beach Post in February. “There’s nothing I can do about it. The landlord owns the building, but I’m not happy.”
Ariana counters that Amoroso hasn’t given much thought to the upgrades to his site.
“We buy it and update it, both aesthetically and structurally,” she said. “Add in all the new electrical, LED lighting, 4K cameras where tenants can view the location from their phone … the list can go on and on.”
Doug Peters called Amoroso a great tenant, but added he was stuck in the past on his old rent after Peters Development paid $675,000 for the site in 2016, according to the Palm Beach County’s Property Appraisers website.
“When we moved in, we honored his rent.” Doug said. “We didn’t want to shock him, but now the girls are renting spaces all around him … and they’re paying the current value. It’s really unfair to us and it’s unfair to everyone for him to be paying a rate you can’t get in Kansas.”
The Palm Beach Post reached out to Amoroso several times, but he declined to comment further.
Marcos Gonzalez, a manager at Freeway Insurance, recently saw his rent jump from $2,500 to $3,765 after Peters Development bought his 900 square-foot office at 932 N. Dixie Highway.
“He was not happy or excited over this,” Ariana said. “But I’m sure after he saw what the building looks like now … he understands the new rent price.”
Ariana said Lake Worth is still way under-priced — Prices are double in neighboring municipalities West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach. “Let’s not even touch Delray Beach, as their rental rates are about four to five times more,” Ariana said.
She added that because Peters Development owns so many properties, determining rents is an easy task.
Doug said the average rent is about $2,500 each month. “But there are rents as high as $7,000 per month near downtown,” he said.
Sisters have ‘legitimate investments in Lake Worth’
Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo, who previously worked with the sisters , has taken notice of the situation.
“It’s their prerogative to charge or do what they want,” Triolo said. “We have no authority over that, but we just hope they’ll keep the local rates and keep the local entrepreneurs in mind when they create their rents.”
Victor Gonzalez, who runs Tacos al Carbon, a popular Mexican restaurant on North Dixie Highway, said he pays $4,280 for his 3,600-square-foot space and is not complaining.
“It’s perfect for me and works for this location,” he said. “The Peters are great because they leave you alone and let you work.”
Gonzalez said his parents, who run a Tacos al Carbon on Lake Worth Road, said they have had issues with other landlords.
“I know how some of them can be a little bit more in your business and checking you out,” he said. “The Peters don’t really bother me.”
Brian Schlitz, who ran Arsty Fartsy , an eccentric gift shop on Lucerne Avenue before closing a few months ago, said the Peters were on top of their business.
“When I moved into Lucerne, they had just bought the building,” he said. “I was their first tenant and the first thing they do is go over the roof, put tiles on the wall. Those girls know their own business.”
Schlitz said Ariana tried donating three electric car charges the company would pay for and put them in three parking spots so people could charge their engines.
“They were always fair with me,” said Schlitz, who paid $1,500 in rent for his 350 square-foot space. “They have legitimate investments in Lake Worth.”
Starting out young
Ariana Peters remembers her and her sisters working with her dad’s company when she was a little girl.
“My father retired many years ago, but we have been in and around his business since we were very young,” she said.
She used to attend city meetings in other towns with her father since she was 5.
“I recall seeing (City Manager) Michael Bornstein at a city meeting in Lantana when he was their city manager at the time,” she said.
The sisters’ mother, Gabriela, died in a car accident about 15 years ago.
Now, Ariana is talking about her vision for Lake Worth.
She’d like to see the Gulfstream Hotel restored. She wants more downtown parking and more housing. The sisters would also love to see the Dixie Highway corridor increase their height restrictions to more than the current two stories.
“We’re doing our best by purchasing what we believe to be some of the best properties in Lake Worth and bringing them up to current standards,” she said.
Four of the company’s sites — 502 Lucerne Avenue; 29 S. Dixie Highway; 928 N. Dixie Highway and 605 Lake Avenue — are vacant.
No one is more noticeable than the South Shores Tavern and Patio Bar site on Lucerne Avenue, which closed in the summer of 2015.
Ariana said the company is very selective with the location. “We could have rented it numerous times, but it wasn’t what we felt was the right fit,” she said. “Many of the large players in the restaurant field have passed on this site and Lake Worth downtown because of the lack of infrastructure, which includes a hotel, enough homes downtown and lack of parking.”
The sisters are also behind Chicks With Kicks , a 6,000 vintage sneaker collection that includes Pumas, Converse All-Stars to rare Nikes and Adidas.
Originally, the plan was to bring the prized collection into an innovative, interactive sneaker store they planned to open this year in a 3,500-square-foot space in downtown Lake Worth on 605 Lake Avenue.
But those plans changed after the sisters got an offer for the site, Ariana said. “My sisters and I would love to build the store in Lake Worth, but we recently had an offer to lease the space from a business we feel may be better suited to downtown,”Ariana said. “We are exploring this before we make a final decision.”
She added they haven’t decided on when or if a sneaker store will be built.
Residents are a little skeptical
While residents are happy with the amount of money Peters Development has invested in the city, they’re still somewhat skeptical.
“My question is, what’s their exit strategy?” said Greg Rice, a Lake Worth resident. “What are your plans for Lake Worth? Are you long-term investors or are you just looking for the opportunity to move on where the grass might be greener?”
Rice said a lot of times when people have money and they’re investing, they buy properties they can develop and then flip. “In downtown, they have some prime locations that are building a return,” he said.
Tammy Pansa said the sisters get a bad rep because of the rents they charge. “The girls are at the beginning of their business careers and they’re quite young,” she said. “They’re new. Everybody hopes they do the right thing. If we don’t see that same potential in Lake Worth with raised rents and better businesses, more income, can we really say we believe in Lake Worth?”
When asked how the sisters handle the backlash, Ariana simply said they live by the motto, “You can not force someone to comprehend a message that they are not ready to receive, but you must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.”
ON LINE: Interactive of where the Peters Development properties are in Lake Worth