A research park may be coming to northern Palm Beach County, and if it does, the local real estate market could receive a boost, assuming the park doesn’t focus on biotechnology, real estate professionals in the area told The Real Deal.
The U.S. Commerce Department last month approved a $290,600 grant to the Palm Beach County Commission and the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University to study the research park idea.
With the Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida bioscience labs already in Jupiter, and a swath of land in the area set aside for more bioscience use, speculation immediately arose about the possibility of a bioscience research park.
“If a research park tilts that way, it probably won’t work,” and will do little to help the real estate market, Neil Merin, chairman of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman brokerage firm in West Palm Beach, told TRD. “There has been no real estate development product related to Scripps or life sciences. The 800 acres that have been set aside are sitting fallow.”
The state gave about $750 million to Scripps and Max Planck, hoping that the non-profit institutes would create spin-offs with high-paying jobs, but little of that has transpired.
A research park would do better to focus on aerospace and engineering — sectors that already have a strong hold in Northern Palm Beach County, Merin said. He noted the presence of jet engine marker Pratt & Whitney in unincorporated West Palm Beach, helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft in Jupiter, engineering firm Belcan Corp. in Palm Beach Gardens and Florida Turbine Technologies in Jupiter.
Gov. Rick Scott announced this week that United Technologies, the parent of Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky, will build a flagship showroom in Palm Beach Gardens.
These companies are growing strongly and provide high wages, Merin noted. “If a research park can take advantage of what’s already embedded, it should do that,” Merin said. The result could be a significant boost to real estate, he said.
Rebel Cook, president of Rebel Cook Real Estate brokerage in Palm Beach Gardens, agrees with Merin that a biosciences research park isn’t a wise idea. She thinks money might be better spent bringing talented professors to Florida Atlantic.
“To bring more employees and high-powered companies to the area, you need a strong university system,” Cook told TRD. “I would rather see the $290,000 go to a specific use like that.”
Bringing more companies and workers to the area would help the real estate market, she said. “The more high paying jobs you bring in, the more positive impact you have on increasing real estate values.”