Will West Palm’s ‘tent site’ finally happen? City makes another move


West Palm Beach issues request for developers for prominent Okeechobee Blvd ‘Tent Site’

After years of puzzling over skyline heights, road congestion and downtown vitality, West Palm Beach made formal Friday its quest for “a highly experienced qualified master developer” to transform a vacant lot at the city’s Okeechobee Boulevard gateway into a signature work of architecture and urban design.

The Community Redevelopment Agency, which controls the 2.4-acre Tent Site, released the request for qualifications at 9 a.m., calling for a developer with experience with urban transportation, “well-articulated and inspirational architecture” and office and hotel development. The applicant must demonstrate an ability to pay or finance a project of more than $100 million.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 28. Once the agency determines which applicants it considers qualified, it will issue a request for specific proposals for the site.

Developer Charles Cohen, who has completed projects with famed architect Cesar Pelli, has indicated an interest in a Tent Site project. Developer Frank Navarro, about to start redevelopment of the old city hall site, said Friday he plans to look over the request and consider a project. East Coast developer Hamister Group, based in Buffalo, N.Y., also is mulling a proposal.

Because of the prominent location and project’s potential size, city officials frequently have spoken of the major impact it would have, not just on downtown aesthetics but livability. The project also likely will feature in upcoming commission and mayoral races, as an electorate deeply divided into development proponents and skeptics seeks to position candidates who reflect its conflicting views.

What tipped the vote against 25-story waterfront office tower

The request was delayed for several months while consultants completed a transportation study focused on improving ease and safety of walking, biking and driving downtown. Preliminary results found that a bus hub, trolley terminal, public parking and bike facility could be a good fit for the project’s ground level.

As a result, the city has asked applicants to highlight experience they have with projects that have transportation features blended in.

The city also faces a dire shortage of top-tier office space, which has been preventing companies from moving into the downtown. “A significant component of the eventual project should be Class A office space and experience in developing, operating and marketing upscale office products is required,” the request stated.

Future of West Palm transit — to many cars?

Hospitality experience, especially with hotels built above Class A offices, also is a key qualification, particularly because the site is two blocks from the Palm Beach County Convention Center, it said.

Twice the city entertained unsolicited proposals for the site and twice the result proved an embarrassment. In one high-profile debacle, the city gave Digital Domain Media Group approval to build a splashy building on the site to house a film school and digital animation studio and promised $35 million in subsidies. But Port St. Lucie-based Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy court protection in 2012. The city got the land back through the court.

Two years ago, amid political opposition, the city commission rejected a plan by developer Michael McCloskey to buy the site from the city for $13.5 million and build a medical campus. That plan’s rejection came after two years of development negotiations.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

25,000 expected: Lake Worth has big plans for LGBTQ Pride parade
25,000 expected: Lake Worth has big plans for LGBTQ Pride parade

For years, Lake Worth’s popular, two-day event that supports the gay, lesbian and LGBTQ communities was called PrideFest. But organizers recently changed the name to Palm Beach Pride. “We re-branded it,” said Julia Murphy, chief development officer for Compass Community Center, the nonprofit that produces the event. “We...
Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm
Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us. "Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's...
NEW: Woman shot in Boynton Beach, police search for shooters
NEW: Woman shot in Boynton Beach, police search for shooters

A woman is in critical condition after she was shot inside of her Boynton Beach townhome, according to city police.  At 9:40 p.m., police got a call that a woman was shot inside the Preserve at Boynton Beach, just south of Gateway Boulevard and  west of U.S. 1. Police said the woman was just getting home when she saw two men inside of her...
Mississippi boy, 9, accused of shooting sister over argument about video game 
Mississippi boy, 9, accused of shooting sister over argument about video game 

A 9-year-old Mississippi boy is accused of shooting his 13-year-old sister in the head after they had an argument over a video game, WTVA reported Sunday.  Moore County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said deputies responded to the scene around 1 p.m. Saturday.  Deputies said the boy allegedly had grabbed a gun when his sister would not...
Exit poll: Putin wins re-election in landslide
Exit poll: Putin wins re-election in landslide

Vladimir Putin earned a convincing victory in Sunday’s presidential election in Russia, winning 73.9 percent of the vote as he was re-elected to his fourth term, CNN reported. A state-run exit poll revealed the results, which was not a surprise, CNN reported. Pavel Grudinin was second with 11.2 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll...
More Stories