The $300 million Transit Village development approved by West Palm Beach’s Downtown Action Committee earlier this month should go a long way toward improving the western edge of downtown West Palm Beach, local real estate professionals say.
“This helps to tie the west end to the east end and central downtown,” architect Rick Gonzalez, president of REG Architects, who worked on earlier plans for the project, told The Real Deal.
The project is being developed by Michael Masanoff, a developer who was ordered to shut down his law practice in 2014. He asked the Florida Bar for a disciplinary revocation, rather than contest allegations that he worked both sides of the Transit Village real estate deal. The Supreme Court has given him 30 days to close his practice.
The development is planned for 6.6 acres at Banyan Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue, next to the terminals for Tri-Rail, Amtrak, Greyhound and local buses and trolleys. It encompasses 1.1 million square feet of buildings, including a 300-room hotel, a 21-story office building, a 25-story apartment tower and a building with 12 townhouses. The project also contains 33,000 square feet of retail space.
“This is wonderful,” William Cummings, a real estate broker for Century 21, told TRD. “It defines the western border of our downtown as an important part of the area. It gives people a reason to be on the western perimeter in a fruitful manner, whether they reside there, visit there or are employed there.”
The project will promote the use of Tri-Rail, he said. “People who take Tri-Rail can live there without needing a car. They can use SkyBike [the city’s bike-share program]. This is a wonderful opportunity for young professionals.”
The project is only a few blocks northwest of the planned All Aboard Florida station. “That creates connectivity and should stimulate the area,” Gonzalez said. Village Transit represents an important step to promote public transit, he and others say.
As for its impact on the western edge of downtown, “the project lends credibility and enhances the environment for existing buildings,” Cummings said. That includes several office buildings, a couple of apartment buildings and a Marriott Hotel. “This gives validity to that western border that has been traditionally barren,” he said.
To be sure, not everyone is excited about the project. Some neighboring businesses and residents are worried about excessive growth and traffic. Shutts & Bowen attorney Harvey Oyer, who formerly represented some of those businesses, shares their concern.
“Transit-oriented development is a good idea,” he told TRD. “But it’s hard to imagine there will be that big a demand to support that many square feet in that location when there are so many more desirable geographic locations closer to the water.”
But the others don’t see it that way. “This takes a little intensity off” the eastern portion of downtown, Cummings said. “There’s not so much need to pack density or install overlapping projects, because now Transit Village will have the same opportunities available.”