Plans for Prospect Place in WPB draw mixed reactions

Helmut Jahn will help design the modernist style project

Dec.December 11, 2015 05:15 PM

Developer Time Equities of New York has created a $200 million mixed-use redevelopment plan for Prospect Place office center in West Palm Beach that includes five 15-story condominium towers, 18,500 square feet of retail space in six buildings and a one-acre park.

Yet, local real estate professionals have mixed views on the ambitious proposed transformation of the 9.4-acre site at 3111 South Dixie Highway that sits in the heart of West Palm Beach‘s rapidly developing South Dixie Highway corridor.

Peter Applefield, founding principal at Aurum Property Partners, a real estate management/investment company based in West Palm Beach, said he is in favor of the plan. “This is the last big piece of land in that South Dixie corridor, and it’s ripe for redevelopment. The whole corridor is just coming along,” he told The Real Deal.

However, Time Equities envisions prices as high as $1 million for some of the 300 condos — those located on top floors — and that’s a stretch, Applefield and others say.

“Who will pay $1 million to live between the railroad tracks and Dixie Highway?” West Palm Beach architect Rick Gonzalez, president of REG Architects, told TRD. “I don’t understand the economics of the project.”

Neil Merin, chairman of NAI Merin Hunter Codman, a commercial real estate services firm in West Palm Beach, is also confounded by the proposed condo prices. Three- to five-story rental apartment buildings would make more sense than the condo towers, he said. “Who’s going to buy condos at that location: retirees, hedge fund officials?” he said. “There are plenty of choices beyond that which are closer to the water or on a golf course, the kind of amenities people seek when paying that much for housing.”

Rental apartments at Prospect Place would be attractive to the growing number of millennials that are settling in West Palm Beach, Merin said. “If they feel the location has to be converted to residential, the hot product out there is rental,” he said.

Gonzalez said the massive project with its modernist architecture designed with the help from star architect Helmut Jahn is out of character with the neighborhood, particularly the historical residential district of El Cid that lies to the east of Project Place. “Traditional architecture would be more fitting,” Gonzalez said.

Single-family homes dominate El Cid and Flamingo Park, which stands west of Prospect Place. Residents of those neighborhoods are politically active, and they may not take kindly to the plan, Merin says. “There may be political interference.”

Gonzalez has questions on that issue too. “Will this receive support from the public and neighbors? I’m a little bit skeptical,” he said.

Real estate professionals say the South Dixie corridor can use more retail space, but Gonzalez questions whether a big modernist project at Prospect Place is the right location. “Retail and a park are nice ideas,” he said, but a design that better matches the neighborhood to the east would be preferable.

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