Place Projects, NDT score $84M construction loan for Nora, amid Bank OZK lending bonanza

Wheelock Street Capital is partner on downtown West Palm Beach project

Place Projects, NDT, Wheelock Land Bank OZK Loan for Nora
Place Projects's Joe Furst, NDT Development's Ned Grace and Wheelock Street Capital’s Merrick Kleeman and Jonathan Paul with a rendering of Nora District (LinkedIn, NDT, Wheelock; rendering via ASD Sky)

The developers of the mixed-use Nora District in downtown West Palm Beach landed $84 million in construction financing, marking Bank OZK’s continued lending spree in South Florida. 

The 40-acre Nora District is a multi–phase project being developed by Miami-based Place Projects, West Palm Beach-based NDT Development and Greenwich, Connecticut-based Wheelock Street Capital. It spans between Palm Beach Lakes and Quadrille boulevards, and between Dixie Highway and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in the north part of downtown West Palm. 

The loan from OZK is for the first phase, a 150,000-square-foot project consisting of the retrofit of aging warehouses and new development along North Railroad Avenue. Phase I will include ground-floor retail, as well as more than 55,000 square feet of showrooms and offices on the second story, according to a news release announcing the financing. 

Signed tenants at phase I include Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ Del Mar, Sana Skin Studio, clothing and accessories store Mint and The Spot Barbershop. Also, Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar, H&H Bagels and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream are on tap. Other tenants that will open at the first phase include Rumble, [solidcore], a sports bar by The Garret Group, Juliana’s Pizza and Celis Juice Bar and Café. 

Construction of the first phase started in June of last year and completion is expected early next year, according to the release. 

Subsequent phases at Nora, which is named after North Railroad Avenue, include new construction of high-rises on the north and south sides of the district, as well as the preservation of single-family homes in the center of the district. The 201-key Nora Hotel will be developed in partnership with BD Hotels and Sean MacPherson.  

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Steven Klein and Brian Gaswirth of JLL represented the borrowers. 

Place Projects is led by Joe Furst, and NDT by Ned Grace. Merrick “Rick” Kleeman and Jonathan Paul are managing partners at Wheelock. 

OZK has been shelling out loans throughout South Florida, making it the most active construction lender in the tri-county region. Its activity comes at a time when many other banks have become more conservative due to fears of exposure to bad debt caused by elevated interest rates. Banks’ pullback also came about after the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and other banks’ collapses early last year. 

This month, the planned Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Residences supertall with 387 condos and 205 hotel keys scored $668 million in construction financing, with OZK providing $425 million as the sole, senior secured lender. Related Fund Management funded the balance for the project at 300 Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. The loan was the biggest ever for condo construction in Florida history. 

In other deals, OZK boosted a $119 million construction loan it had provided in 2020 for the St. Regis Residences in Sunny Isles Beach by $100 million in April, for a total of $219 million. Edgardo Defortuna’s Fortune International Group and Manuel Grosskopf’s Château Group are developing the two-tower, 62-story condo with 350 units. 

In March, the Pérez family’s Related Group and GTIS Partners landed a $328 million construction loan from OZK for the 75-story, 355-unit Baccarat Residences condo tower in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.  

In May, a Citi analyst downgraded OZK from buy to sell, signaling that broader woes impacting commercial real estate nationwide could be trickling to the bank. 

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