During the next couple of years, Palm Beach County is expected to build more than 50 new buildings with nearly 4,000 units announced. For those who measure success strictly by the numbers, that would place Palm Beach third in the tri-region that also includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
In terms of sheer excitement, though, Palm Beach can hold its own with anyone. When it comes to development activity, both residential and commercial, all signs are pointing up from Palm Beach Gardens south to Boca Raton and places in between.
Palm Beach County is in a growth spurt.
Even farmland is in play, as the county continues into a new era of growth. Historically, county officials have worked to maintain a balance between farming and development. After all, the western part of the county leads the nation in the production of sugarcane, sweet corn and sweet bell peppers. A loosening of the grip, a least a little, is apparent.
Call it sowing seeds.
In January, the Palm Beach County Commission paved the way for commercial development in the Agricultural Reserve, heretofore untouchable tracts of land totaling roughly 21,000 acres west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. With some disagreement from environmentalists, the commission granted approval for small landowners to sell their property for commercial use. The approvals represented only some 40 acres. However, other landowners are seeking similar approval to sell their tracts.
Waiting in the wings are a proposed community of more than 1,000 homes, a commercial center, a sprawling apartment complex and a project by a national homebuilder. In Delray Beach, for example, there are plans to rezone nearly 32 acres of agricultural land as general commercial, which could lead to more than a quarter-million square feet of mixed-use development space (retail, restaurant and possibly office space) by Delray Fields LLC.
The activity isn’t happening by accident. Palm Beach County gained 14,100 jobs from March 2015 to March 2016, according to data from the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. Additionally, in April negotiations were ongoing with 11 companies that were considering a move to the county. The biggest prize was technology company Project P2P, which was considering a move to Boca Raton that would bring 838 jobs at an average salary of $55,000. (The company would receive $6.1 million in tax incentives, including $5 million from the state and $576,400 each from the city and county.)
“Palm Beach County has become one of the hottest locations for businesses to relocate and expand in the state of Florida,” says Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. “There are many reasons why we have been recognized as a super competitive business environment: access to three international airports, three ports, great public and private schools, 14 hospitals, a growing population of almost 1.4 million, an exorbitant amount of wealthy residents, access to capital, transportation systems, a very diverse and skilled workforce – this is truly paradise. We live year round where people dream of vacationing.
“All of this leads to more commercial, residential and retail growth. Large populations of people with money attract investment and development.”
Condo … Azure
Across the county, new condo projects aren’t necessarily news, but they’re nonetheless impressive. Topping the list is Azure, a 14-acre waterfront project in Palm Beach Gardens. The project had been written about long before first turning dirt in April 2015. Now its Phase I is scheduled for completion this fall. When finished, Azure will include 46 ultra-luxury waterfront condominium residences of up to 3,800 square feet, located on four living areas above a ground-level lobby and enclosed parking garage. Phase I includes a private resort swimming pool, fitness center sundeck with cabanas, paver walkways, and a spectacular fountain along the edge of the deep-water yacht harbor. Air-conditioned square footages range from 2,600 to over 5,000 square feet, with additional covered terraces overlooking the yacht harbor.
As of early May, 43 of the 46 luxury residences have been sold, and developer Tom Frankel reports that 26 of 55 residences in Azure’s second building, which was introduced to the market just months ago, have already been sold. Frankel plans to break ground this summer on the final building, with delivery of these residences scheduled for late 2017. A total of $97 million in sales have been recorded at Azure, since sales began in November 2014. The prices of residences within the two Azure mid-rise condominiums range from the $900,000s to $3 million-plus.
Frankel attributes the success of the project to its unique location on the yacht basin at popular Donald Ross Road by the Intracoastal Waterway and pent-up demand for new construction, especially luxury, contemporary condominiums.
In West Palm Beach, The Bristol, a 25-story condo, will emerge with units priced from $10 million to $22 million — making it the most expensive condo ever built in Palm Beach County. The preconstruction sale of the penthouse went for just under $15 million.
There is money in the county, obviously, along with an increasing orientation toward development. And, as Smallridge points out, there is a steady stream of business newcomers. In turn, people need places to work, live, shop and dine — further revving the economic engine.
So, Palm Beach County is looking very good (and busy) these days – regardless of ranking.
Photo Credit: Top courtesy of Barry Kinsella/BDB Palm Beach County.