Jeff Greene, the billionaire real estate investor who has spent $300 million buying properties in West Palm Beach, remains quite bullish on the city’s real estate prospects, just as you’d expect.
“We’re on the runway about to take off,” he said at an Urban Land Institute conference in West Palm Beach on Thursday.
Of the many plans he has in the works, Greene says his One West Palm project at 550 North Quadrille Boulevard represents the top priority. The planned $250 million development, designed by Arquitectonica of Miami, would take up an entire block and include two 30-floor towers that look like stacked blocks.
The ground floors will contain shops, restaurants and corner parks, as well as a daycare center and a fitness center with indoor and outdoor tennis courts. One tower will include 340,000 square feet of Class A office space, and the other will include a five-star hotel with 209 guest suites and 84 luxury condo or rental units above that.
The city approved the plan in January and Greene hopes to break ground in summer or fall. He said he will finance the development with his own equity and a bank loan and that he’s not taking on any partners in the deal. “I’m in a lucky position that I don’t need to pre-lease,” Greene said. “I’m not subject to the credit markets’ volatility.”
Greene’s second priority is a grocery store that he sees as the lynchpin of more than 5 acres of property he owns in the Northwood neighborhood, which is north of downtown, close to the Intracoastal Waterway. Greene said he can’t reveal the name of the company he’s negotiating with, but in the past he reportedly spoke to Publix about it.
“Hopefully the grocery store will lead to the integration of the neighborhood,” Greene said. “We could have a couple thousand apartments and condos, retailers. Someone even suggested an independent/assisted living facility. There are all kinds of possibilities.” Coordination will be important in the area, he said. “Maybe we’ll want to have one fantastic gym instead of seven separate ones.”
Greene said he’s not worried about his projects creating a bubble in West Palm’s property market. “I’m going one step at a time,” he said. “I’m not competing with myself. I’m not putting up five high-end condo buildings at once.” In fact, he has submitted to city officials a plan for a 12-story, 400-unit micro-apartment building at 550 Banyan Boulevard.
As for West Palm’s biggest challenges, Greene noted the city doesn’t have a traditional economy. “It’s driven by tourism and retirees,” he said. “It’s all about people. How do you get job creators?” He said projects such as the renovation of the Norton Museum of Art and the construction of a new spring training baseball stadium for the Astros and Nationals have the ball rolling. “Make the city better, and more people will come.”