Two massive towers are rising in West Palm Beach, reaching 426 feet high to clutch the tile for the city’s tallest high-rises.
They’re just the latest sign of the expansive growth as the downtown lures more businesses and residents.
The 30-story mixed-use complex, titled One West Palm, will contain 326 luxury residential units, 200,000 square feet of Class A office space, a hotel and a long list of amenities, including a fitness club, spa, movie theater and indoor tennis courts.
“These aren’t just the tallest,” One West Palm developer Jeff Greene said. “They’re certainly going to be the iconic landmark buildings in the skyline of West Palm Beach.”
Residing at 550 N. Quadrille Boulevard, the 426-foot behemoths could fit the length of nearly one-and-half American football fields. They may be the buildings closest to the sky in West Palm Beach, but the project is certainly not the only one in the works.
The “Wall Street of the South” has become a magnet for developers, especially as people migrate from the cities south of it and move from states in the Northeastern United States.
‘The Most Exciting Thing ’
Construction on One West Palm began more than four years ago, and delays pushed completion to 2024, Greene said. But his excitement for the project remains, especially as it will now join other newly developed current and future projects.
“We started out with a kind of out-of-the-way location that really was across from a bunch of boarded-up buildings in Palm Beach,” Greene said. “And now we’re sitting kind of dead center in the middle of the most exciting thing happening in all of South Florida. So it’s really an exciting time for our project.”
Greene said his vision was to create something the city did not yet have. While One West Palm will tout the title of highest buildings in the city, the surge of development in the area has produced several projects, some of which were recently completed, some of which are under construction and some of which were recently approved.
Among those projects are:
- 360 Rosemary, a nearly 300,000-square-foot office building at 360 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 1100. This project was completed in 2021.
- AKA Hotel, a luxury hotel at 695 S. Olive Ave., recently opened last year.
- One Flagler, a 25-floor Class A-office building with luxury amenities at 154 Lakeview Ave., is under construction.
- Olara, a luxury waterfront residence at 1919 N. Flagler Drive, is under construction and expected to open in the next few years.
- NORA, a mixed-use district featuring casual to high-end dining, desserts, coffee shops, boutique fitness spots and retail, will open its first phase in 2024. Its first food and fitness tenants were recently announced.
- Transit Village, a mixed-use transit-oriented development with residential units planned for 150 Clearwater Drive and 203 S. Tamarind Ave.
- 515 Fern, a 25-floor mixed-use building expected to become the largest office building in downtown West Palm Beach at 515 Fern St.
Unlocking A Formula
“Those years of great planning and foresight and investment into the city are now bearing fruit by the private sector recognizing that this is a great place,” said Christopher Roog, the executive director for West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency. “The growth is occurring in a managed but high-quality way that is benefiting the residents.”
Roog said the city has unlocked a formula for creating places people want to work and live, leaning into the ever-popular ‘Live, Work, Play’ concept so many other cities, such as Boca Raton, are adopting.
“We’re intentionally building our built environment, like our streets and our sidewalks, to make them so comfortable and so inviting that it makes it very easy for that ‘Live, Work, Play’ concept to happen,” Roog said.
“More than 10,000 people now live in downtown West Palm Beach, and even four years ago, the population didn’t hit anywhere close to that,” said Diane G. Papadakos, the city’s director of communications.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can live in the city of West Palm Beach and thrive here,” Roog said.
Growing As A Destination
The flocks of developers, Northeasterners and companies moving to the area is accelerating West Palm’s trajectory, said Jaime Sturgis, the CEO and founder of Native Realty, the real estate firm behind the AKA Hotel and other West Palm Beach projects.
“When a number of these really large funds or private equity groups or even development companies have moved down here, they want to build things that are in their backyard,” Sturgis said. “With all of that wealth that’s migrated down here, there’s also been a tremendous demand to build projects to support the people that are coming. A company coming from Manhattan, for example, is accustomed to state-of-the-art facilities and rental properties to support the company’s workforce.”
For the past 10 to 15 years, West Palm seemingly stalled behind cities such as Miami in “urban core development,” Sturgis said, meaning a lack of construction, new office buildings, retail and multifamily residences.
“The urbanization of formerly industrial neighborhoods, which we’ve seen take off on a massive scale in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, right through Wynwood and through Flagler Village, has been very successful,” Sturgis said. “And now West Palm is doing that with Nora, which I think is phenomenal. … It really starts to become like a true urban core.”
While not entirely new, the Brightline station in West Palm affords more flexibility for people who live in the city but work elsewhere, Sturgis said. And with more than $70 million in Tri-Rail funds for updated coaches, accessible transportation continues to play an integral role in not only taking people to West Palm Beach to enjoy a night on Clematis Street or a day walking in The Square, but keeping them there and turning them into new residents, too.
Rapid growth, especially when coupled with the arrival of large, successful businesses to an area still coming into its own, could create an environment where standalone spots are swallowed whole by chains. But Sturgis does not feel this threat looms over West Palm Beach or anywhere in South Florida for that matter as he watches communities rally around small businesses.
“We’re still seeing a desire for local and regional tenants,” Sturgis said. “A local coffee shop, or the owner of the local bakery where the husband and wife are working there each day, that sort of thing.”
Clusters of new buildings popping up in a city are not enough to support people’s desire to visit or stay, no matter how nice they may be. Take it from Jordan Rathlev, a senior vice president of Related Southeast, the real estate company behind West Palm’s 360 Rosemary, One Flagler and 515 Fern.
The ability to cultivate a desired lifestyle, whether that revolves around golfing, beach access, walkable downtowns, outdoor restaurants or all of the above, is an important factor in the decision to move, Rathlev said, which is why Related considers those aspects when deciding where and how they want to move forward with particular developments.
“We start to recognize if people want to come and be successful in South Florida, there’s a lot of critical infrastructure pieces that we’re looking to address because they come to these cities, they expect some of the same amenity base and offering that you would have in some of the other world class cities around the country,” Rathlev said.
West Palm’s planning department, which Rathlev said is “very progressive” in encouraging a variety of architectural types, helps achieve that goal. But the city also remains sensible. Developers aren’t constructing buildings 100 stories in the air, he said.
“I don’t think you will ever see West Palm evolve to the scale and density of a Miami and New York, and frankly, I don’t think we personally want it to,” Rathlev said.