Developer Minto Communities of Coconut Creek may break ground within 90 days on the biggest planned development in Palm Beach County since at least 2000, Minto Vice President John Carter told The Real Deal.
“This will be the new downtown of central Palm Beach County,” he said of the Westlake project, which is located north and west of West Palm Beach. Minto bought the 4,000-acre expanse of land in September 2013 for $51 million.
The company now has plans for 4,500 homes, 500,000 square feet of retail space, 1.5 million square feet of employment-center space and 200,000 square feet of civic space, including a fire station, a sheriff’s station and a school. Minto can also add a 3,000-student college and a 150-room hotel on the property. Plans were revised for the project, formerly to be called Minto West, in mid-2014. About 2,000 homes and a spring training baseball stadium were cut from the original proposal and commercial uses were added the master plan.
Having operated in Southeast Florida for 35 years and delivered several thousand homes in central Palm Beach County, “we have seen the county enter a situation of constrained land supply,” Carter said.
So five to six years ago, Minto began looking at the remaining large vacant properties in the county that are amenable to its style of projects. That’s lifestyle, master-planned communities with a high level of amenities. There weren’t very many, he said. “You need a lot of land and units,” Carter said.
He and his colleagues came to focus on the Westlake property, then called Callery Judge Grove. “When we saw a six-square mile holding in a population of 40,000 in central Palm Beach County, we thought it was a great move to make,” Carter said. “And securing 2.2 million square feet of non-residential space along the central core of the property gives us the ability to build this new downtown. It complements our homes, but we will also use it to tie together the surrounding region.” The 18,000 single-family homes that border Westlake have a minimum of non-residential services now. “People said they had nowhere to go for a burger and a beer,” Carter said. “We saw a much broader opportunity than just building homes.”
Carter says Minto just started marketing the retail and commercial space Jan. 1 and already has a strong level of interest, including two letters of intent. He declined to specify names. The retail space is enough for two to three power centers, Carter said. “We aren’t looking to build a major mall.” The area is so light on retail space now that “within a 15-minute drive, there’s $600 million a year of retail leakage to the east,” Carter said. “This is an unheard of opportunity. The metrics are just incredible.”
The employment-center space can include traditional office space, light/clean manufacturing and medical office space, he said. “At this point, the entire population of [this area of] central Palm Beach County goes elsewhere to work,” Carter said. “There’s a built-in, high-skilled labor force just waiting for opportunities to have workplaces nearby.”