While Jeff Greene has amassed a huge property empire in West Palm Beach — to the tune of 75 to 100 acres worth up to $500 million — other developers are putting together smaller fiefdoms of real estate in the up-and-coming city.
One of them is Tarek Kirschen of Miami, who originally hails from Germany. In his most recent West Palm investment, Kirschen shelled out $3 million late last year for the Rosemary Project, a collection of 53 homes in a gritty part of West Palm’s northwest neighborhood. “I’m working with the city to turn renters into homeowners,” he told The Real Deal.
The first step is to renovate the dilapidated homes, and Kirschen said he is working with city officials and independent consulting firms to reduce crime. He sees installation of cameras as an important step. “With cameras, tenants and residents may report more crime,” Kirschen said. “If you hassle criminals, they will go someplace else.”
Kirschen said he intends to fix up the houses to a level you’d see in a nice Delray Beach neighborhood. “I want my units to be of a quality where I would stay there,” he said. “It’s good for tenants, and it’s good for us.”
The developer has a hands-on approach and visits his properties every day. “When you have tenants who like what you do, they protect your house and the whole neighborhood better,” he said. “It’s a matter of one house at a time and one block at a time.”
Kirschen first entered the West Palm Beach real estate market three to four years ago. “I got a call from a bank that a single-family home was for sale. It was a good deal.” He bought 12 houses in Pleasant City and Northwood up to 45th Street.
He generated quite a buzz when he announced a plan last year to sell $2 million condos in a building he owns at Olive Avenue and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. The offer included a free Tesla car for each purchase of a unit. But Kirschen quickly realized this less-than-elegant location wouldn’t support $2 million condos. Now he is considering turning it into 40 to 45 rental units, perhaps with office space on the first floor.
While Kirschen is happy to do business in West Palm Beach, he says the citizenry and government could be a bit more welcoming. “There are some people who are very anti-development and anti-height,” he said. “It’s difficult for developers to get increased density. Little by little it’s coming, but a push is needed for the city to grow up.”
To be sure, that’s not stopping Kirschen from scouting for more investment opportunities in West Palm, particularly in the Northwood neighborhood. He already owns a one-story retail building at Northwood Road and Spruce Avenue that he’d like to turn into a three-four story building with 80 apartments on top of the retail. “I’m always looking at properties,” Kirschen said. “It’s a never-ending story.”