Downtown West Palm Beach: On the way to a mini-hub for biotech/medical businesses?

Bank of America Centre at 625 North Flagler Drive
Bank of America Centre at 625 North Flagler Drive

Three medical companies recently decided to rent office space in downtown West Palm Beach, and local pros say it’s the start of a trend, though not a monumental one.

“This isn’t going to be a Silicon Valley or Research Triangle, but there’s a potential for a few more to locate in the area,” Peter Applefield, founding principal of Aurum Property Partners in West Palm Beach, told The Real Deal.

The three recent deals include:

  • Integra Connect, a cloud-based medical software company, took 14,000 square feet of space in the Flagler Center at 501 South Flagler Drive. The company will pay rent of $30 per square foot, according to CoStar Group. The move in date is Oct. 3.
  • Jupiter Medical Center, a hospital, will take 8,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of the Bank of America Centre at 625 North Flagler Drive, brokers say. Rental rates are $20 per square foot to $25 per square foot, according to CoStar.
  • F1 Bioventures, a biotech venture capital firm, will occupy 7,000 square feet, also at the BofA Centre, brokers say.

West Palm Beach developer Michael McCloskey, who is close to purchasing the Bank of America building, wants to increase the medical presence there, according to published reports. He declined to comment for this story. There’s plenty of space available as Bank of America itself is leaving the building for the Esperante building. The BofA Centre is currently 65 percent leased, according to the Palm Beach Post.

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“The 625 North Flagler Building will probably become a true medical office building, with doctors treating patients,” Anthony Librizzi, first vice president of CBRE in West Palm Beach, told TRD. “Jupiter Medical Center is a key driver toward that.”

Local officials had hoped over the past 10 years that the presence of biotech stalwarts Scripps Research Institute and Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter would create many spinoffs, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

Now perhaps that is changing. “It’s great news that companies are seeing value in downtown West Palm Beach,” Applefield said. “Biotech has the potential to create synergy, because brains like being around each other. They can learn and cooperate.”

Palm Beach County officials have been working on attracting life sciences companies for the last 10 years, since Scripps located in Jupiter, Kelly Smallridge, president of the county’s Business Development Board, told TRD. West Palm Beach offers an attractive environment for these companies, she believes.

“There’s tremendous wealth on the other side of the bridge,” she said referring to the town of Palm Beach. Palm Beachers will be eager to receive medical care and invest in medical start-ups, she said. The $2 billion dollars of real estate development in the permitting pipeline also will draw companies, Smallridge said. “A lot of companies want to be where the growth is.”

The Business Development Board is working to attract medical equipment companies as well, she said. One problem: the shortage of Class A office space in downtown West Palm, Smallridge said. While the plans of Jeff Greene and the Related Cos. to build office buildings are great, “it’s hard for me to promote now,” she said. “It will be easier when there are shovels in the ground.”