UPDATED, March 14, 7:06 p.m.: NDT Development and Place Projects scored a capital partner for their redevelopment projects in a long-overlooked area in downtown West Palm Beach recently anointed as the Nora District.
Connecticut-based Wheelock Street Capital is partnering on the first phase of the project — a $150 million initiative focused on creating a main street and upgrading infrastructure in part of the district — as well as on future ground-up construction, said Joe Furst, founder and managing principal of Miami-based Place Projects.
Wheelock, Place Projects and West Palm Beach-based NDT will each carry a share of the initial $150 million cost, said Furst, who declined to disclose precisely how the costs will be divided.
Furst, who was among the developers that jump-started the renaissance of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood from a neglected warehouse district to a hub for arts and entertainment, said he is leveraging that experience in the Nora venture, including securing the right capital partner.
“It is of critical importance to not just think about the first phase but the project in the future,” he said. “That is why we were very intentional and deliberate in how we structured our partnership with Wheelock.”
The Nora District stretches roughly 40 acres, north to south from Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to Quadrille Boulevard, and east to west from Dixie Highway to the FEC Railroad tracks.
Place Projects and NDT Development, led by Ned and Sam Grace and Damien Barr, own 75 properties across 13 acres in the district, and approached the city to discuss how to breathe life into the area, which has largely been left behind by a jolt of investment across much of the rest of Downtown West Palm in recent years.
The effort culminated in a proposed change of the area’s comprehensive plan, a blueprint for development, which scored final City Commission approval on Feb. 7. A set of zoning and building regulations have also been approved, according to Furst.
Overall, the developers plan to build more than 2.5 million square feet of new real estate in the district, all with an eye toward preserving its character — much like the redevelopment concepts in Wynwood and Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village.
It is for this reason that the first redevelopment chapter will involve adaptive reuse of Place Projects and NDT’s mostly vacant one-story buildings, as well as some that are two stories and one, along Railroad Avenue, that is three stories, Furst said. This will include the addition of several small buildings totaling about 150,000 square feet, intended to attract office, fitness and retail occupants, including food and beverage.
Construction on the first phase is expected to start in May and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2023, Furst said.
High-rise construction will come in subsequent phases, with the northern section now home to mostly vacant lots poised to get buildings up to 20-stories tall, scaled down to 15 stories in some places. The southern section could get buildings up to 10-stories tall.
The mid-section of Nora, an area roughly between Eighth and 10th streets that is home to single-family houses and duplexes, will be preserved.
Founded in 2008 by Rick Kleeman and Jonathan Paul, Wheelock Street is a private real estate investment firm that has taken a hard look at West Palm Beach in recent months.
In October, the firm paid $106.4 million for The Ben West Palm Beach, a new 208-key hotel near downtown, although the property likely traded for more as the price for furniture and fixtures is not recorded in deeds.
Wheelock Street, in partnership with Brand Atlantic Real Estate Partners, announced in February plans for a 12-story office project at 300 Banyan Boulevard and a renovation of a historic office and retail building at 111 Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach.
This story has been updated with new information on the approximate size of the Nora District.