Carefree Theatre sale adds spark to WPB’s South Dixie corridor

Plans are to replace the building with commercial space, homes and an art house movie theater

TRD MIAMI /
Oct.October 23, 2015 11:15 AM

New York developer Charles Cohen is purchasing the iconic Carefree Theatre at 2000 South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, which has been dormant after damage from the 2004-2005 hurricanes.

The property’s revival should represent another boost for the rebounding South Dixie corridor, local real estate pros told The Real Deal.

Cohen owns Design Center of the Americas, (DCOTA), an 800,000-square-foot showroom with furniture, fabrics and accessories in Dania Beach. Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. also owns design centers and office towers in New York, Houston and California.

Cohen plans to tear down the damaged Carefree building, and replace it with commercial space, homes and an art house movie theater on the 1.5-acre site. The sales price hasn’t been disclosed. The Carefree showed independent films and hosted top entertainment acts including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon.

Cohen’s plan “stamps the South Dixie corridor with art and culture,” said William Cummings, a commercial real estate broker for Century 21 in West Palm Beach. The new theater will fit in well with world-class Norton Museum, located a few blocks south at 1451 South Olive Avenue, he and Harvey Oyer, a real estate lawyer for Shutts & Bowen in West Palm Beach, told TRD. The 74-year-old Norton is currently undergoing a $60 million renovation.

The theater also complements Helen Persson Recital Hall at nearby Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Antique Row, which contains a series of artsy shops a few blocks to the Carefree’s south, Oyer said.

A popular restaurant, Table 26, sits a few blocks north of the Carefree, at 1700 South Dixie Highway, and the owners of Palm Beach’s hugely popular Buccan restaurant are close to opening an Italian restaurant at 1901 South Dixie Highway. Then there’s EmKo, a multi-disciplinary art gallery, which also serves food, at 2119 South Dixie. “This is a hip, cool, eclectic section of the city — a cultural hub,” Oyer said. It also has an appealing location just two blocks from the Intracoastal Waterway, Cummings noted.

He and Oyer like the idea of adding office and residential space to the Carefree location. “It puts people on the street day and night,” Oyer said.

It’s the classic “live-work-play” scenario, they said. “You can have residence there, shop there, go to films there,” eat out there and work there, Cummings said. “The whole vibe is amazing.”

The South Dixie corridor, he said “makes West Palm Beach one of the top areas” around.


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