Developer Jeff Greene to city: One West Palm is gonna happen.
The last hurdle has been cleared for West Palm Beach’s first luxury office tower in years and its accompanying hotel and apartment tower, with a determination Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration that the two 30-story downtown buildings would not interfere with Palm Beach International flights.
The finding for the One West Palm project at 550 Quadrille Blvd. is a big deal for downtown West Palm Beach, which is starved for Class A office space but which recently rejected plans for a 25-story tower Related Cos. proposed in a 5-story waterfront zone.
Palm Beach billionaire Greene, one of the city’s biggest land holders, won city approvals for One West Palm several months ago and said the FAA OK was the only thing standing in the way of putting shovels to ground. The site is several blocks off the waterfront, in a section of downtown the city zoned in hopes that office towers would be built.
Greene threatened to kill the $250 million project if the city undid the waterfront restrictions and allowed the Related project, known as One Flagler. But with One Flagler defeated by a 3-2 vote of the city commission and with a foundation permit already in hand, Greene said the FAA finding was all he needed.
He disagreed with city officials and others who suggested he was less interested in developing land than in banking it, as he has acquired acres of land near Currie Park, Clear Lake, on Clematis Street and Banyan Boulevard without building.
Greene said Monday night he hopes to start the foundation in the first quarter of 2018, with construction to be completed in two to three years.
“Am I convinced it’s going to be a home run? No. But a successful project, yes.”
One West Palm, designed by Miami’s Arquitectonica firm, would have 200,000 square feet of Class A office space, and 200 hotel rooms of about 500 square feet, about 180-190 of them configured as extended-stay suites, with kitchens and washer-dryers. The hotel tower also will include about 325 apartments, of 800 to 850 square feet.
The complex will feature a day-care center, a 34,000-square-foot fitness center with putting green and indoor and outdoor tennis courts. There’ll be a top-flight restaurant on the top floor of the hotel/condo building, Greene said previously.
He does not need a traditional construction loan, nor will he need to have all the construction trades lined up in advance to start on the foundation, he said.
“I’m eager to get it going.”
FAA regulations require sponsors of any project to notify the agency prior to proposed construction that meets certain criteria and the FAA then studies whether the building would present a hazard. In this case, the buildings’ proximity to the airport, 3.45 miles, was one factor that triggered the study.
In cases where a building is found to present a hazard to aviation, the agency works with developers on modifying plans to address the problem. In this case, though, the buildings, at 381 and 426 feet high, did not create a hazard, the FAA found.
“That is great news and we look forward to him putting a shovel in the ground, so we can show his building to prospective clients that are looking for a West Palm Beach location,” said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. “We’ve been waiting on a new Class A building for quite some time.”
Despite the city commission’s rejection this year of a height change near the waterfront, the site at Flagler Drive and Okeechobee Boulevard where Related Cos. planned to build still could be developed also, in one configuration of another, she said. With March city commission elections in the offing, the board’s complexion could change enough to put Related’s project or one similar to it back in play.
“It’s a timely conversation, in that we are looking at a tax plan that has components that could weigh in favor of a state like Florida and we have our finger on pulse of type of activity that could be generated if that tax component does go through,” she added. “CEOs are starting again to ask if their state in the Northeast is a place they want to stay long-term.”
West Palm’s dearth of top-tier space available has made it hard for the Business Development Board to lure hedge funds or other high-paying firms to downtown.
“It’s hard for us to show a piece of property that has nothing on it and give a client a perspective on when they could be in it, right? The first question they ask is, ‘when can I be operational?’ because you have to time your strategy, ” she said. “It’s hard to give that answer unless there is a shovel in the ground.”
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