West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio’s rejection last week of a plan to allow 30-story office towers on the city’s waterfront made billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene very happy.
Greene, like many others, was concerned that building skyscrapers along the Intracoastal Waterway would kill the city’s small-town charm and generate a traffic nightmare. “You don’t want to close off the water, and there’s already a tremendous amount of traffic,” he told The Real Deal.
If the city had adopted the plan, Greene said he would have questioned going forward with all his various projects in West Palm Beach, where he estimates that he owns about $300 million of real estate.
But now it’s full-steam ahead. “I’m ready to go now” on several projects, Greene said. It’s just a matter of getting approvals from the city. While he recognizes West Palm Beach officials’ need to thoroughly vet proposals, “I wish the city could have a faster track,” Greene said.
He offered TRD an update on the status of projects that he’s already announced.
One West Palm: This mixed-use development at 550 Quadrille Boulevard represents Greene’s top priority. He submitted foundation plans Thursday and hopes to begin construction in the first quarter.
The office component of the project has been reduced to 200,000 square feet from the original plan for 400,000 square feet, and the number of apartments has been increased to about 345 from 85.
The decrease in office space came after Greene spoke to real estate agents who said that 400,000 square feet is too much for the city to absorb. “It’s not like companies are lined up for this one,” Greene said. “It’s been publicized in the national media, but no one has called me for space.” Still, he’s confident he’ll be able to fill the Class A space with 30-40 quality tenants.
As for increasing the residential component, “downtown West Palm Beach keeps getting better,” Greene said. “If you have apartments in a viable city, there will be people to rent them.” Given the raft of residential building downtown now, rents may fall. But ultimately, they will rebound, he said.
Northwood: Greene also seeks approval for a mixed-use project on 5 acres of property in Northwood. But this development is still in an early phase. “We have some amazing ideas, but they’re just ideas at this point.” Redesigning the area’s park, moving roads and swapping land with the city are major issues, Greene said. “We’re coming along. It’s a slow process.” Ideally construction would start 18 months from now, he said.
Micro apartments and Clematis Place: Greene plans a 12-story building at 550 Banyan Boulevard with 400 micro apartments at reduced rents and another 12-story residential building just a block away at 530 Clematis Street with 162 apartments or condos at market prices.
The plans are basically in the hands of the city now, and Greene said he’s working with officials to get an easement to build over and under the alley next to Clematis Place. He said he hopes to begin construction on both projects within 12 months.