Sean Conlon, a merchant bank founder with a soft spot for old buildings, scooped up a historic apartment property in downtown West Palm Beach for $18 million.
He bought the six-story, 38-unit Harris Music Lofts at 206 Clematis Street, which includes about 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, according to Zachary Baraf of the Stanwich Group, who was the sole adviser on the deal.
Seller Clematis Fund I is managed by Tahiti Beach Management and Debra Desiderio, according to property and state corporate records.
The apartments are fully leased, and the retail space is occupied by apparel and souvenirs shop Clematis Street NewsStand, Conlon said.
The units are all one-bedroom apartments with high ceilings, with some spanning two stories, and each with its unique floor plan.
“I was amazed. I thought they would be cookie-cutter,” Conlon said.
He plans landscaping improvements, including planting bougainvilleas; revamping the hallways; and renovations of unit interiors to give them a more beachy feel, partly through the addition of shiplap to the walls.
Monthly rents, averaging $1,300 to $1,400, will be quickly brought to the market rate of $2,500 to $3,000, Conlon said. The store’s rent also is 25 percent below market, he added.
The property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, originally was developed as the Palm Beach Mercantile Company Building with one story and two rooms in 1900. A second floor was added in 1902 and three more stories were built in 1916, according to a registration form on the National Register’s website. The partial sixth floor, also described as a penthouse, was built in 1923.
The deal was part of a 1031 exchange Conlon completed with the recent sale of the 23-unit apartment building at 184 Sunset Avenue in Palm Beach for $17 million, according to Baraf, the sole adviser in that deal as well.
Conlon, who describes himself as the quintessential American success story, moved from his native Ireland, with little to his name, to Chicago, where he skyrocketed as a broker. He has founded several companies, including Chicago-based boutique luxury brokerage Conlon Real Estate, which he sold to Compass in 2018.
In his other ventures, he co-hosted “The Deed” TV show about real estate for two seasons, but opted out of a third, he said.
His main company is merchant banking firm Conlon & Co., with offices in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, London and Palm Beach. He also owns property in Chicago, near Dallas and in North Carolina, and has other real estate near downtown West Palm under contract, but declined to disclose details.
Downtown West Palm is experiencing growth, with several projects in the pipeline. In May, a joint venture among Starwood Capital Group, Hyperion Group and Winter Properties scored a $96.4 million construction loan for a 22-story building at 201 Clearwater Drive. The project will have 457 apartments; 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail; a 628-space garage; and more than 34,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities.
A partnership of Brand Atlantic Real Estate Partners and Wheelock Street Capital plans a 12-story Class A office building on the site of a surface parking lot at 300 Banyan Boulevard in West Palm, and the renovation of a historic office-retail building at 111 Olive Avenue.