WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (May 10, 2019) – A collection of some of Florida’s leading commercial and residential real estate developers, architects, and urban planning experts gathered today to speak to a crowd of almost 300 about real estate trends, opportunities and related issues at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) West Palm Beach Development and Investment Forum at the Hilton West Palm Beach.
Chairman Neil Merin, of NAI/Merin Hunter Codman, kicked off the three-hour program by itemizing the highlights of more than $3 billion worth of new investment in West Palm Beach either underway or planned. This includes 2,336 hotel rooms, 3,520 residential units, 1,310,000 sq. ft. of new Class A office space and Hospital for Special Surgery’s first expansion outside its home base in New York. These investments are “game-changers for the city,” according to Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, a co-sponsor of the event with ULI. “The entire city is flourishing, and downtown development is the most intense it’s been since the days of Henry Flagler. The big difference is that today, our planners are steering the kind of growth that advances the quality of life for all.”
“All of the new Class A office space will help stabilize rates and allow us to fulfill the demand from out-of-market companies looking to locate here,” Merin said. The new residential units and major commercial projects have contributed to a recent increase in the city’s tax base of 13.5 percent, he added, a number that is expected to keep rising. He also cited the extensive recent upgrades to some of the city’s cultural institutions bringing them to world-class levels, especially the Norton Museum of Art and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. “Investment in arts and culture adds real value to the continued viability of the real estate market. There is a direct correlation.”
Rybovich Superyacht Marina President Carlos Vidueira spoke about his company’s community-wide efforts to improve the neighborhoods close to his properties as it prepares plans to further redevelop the marina. “Developers are now realizing the importance of improving the lives of people who live in the neighborhood of new developments. If we can help the surrounding community revitalize on a sustainable platform, then the entire vision works. If we all do the right thing, it will work out well for everyone.”
Keynote speaker Casey Cummings, CEO of Ram Real Estate, cited the slowing growth of rental rates in Downtown West Palm Beach, despite an increased demand. He added that new transit solutions can be part of the solution to increasing rents, commenting that people who live near mass transit quickly realize that they don’t need two cars. They may not even need one! That portion of their income can be used for rent and other living costs.
Other topics included the effects of climate change and sea level rise on our coastal communities and how developers need to adjust their plans. Jeffrey Huber of the Brooks + Scarpa architectural firm said that architects and urban planners have to find different formats for living near water. Adjustments to building design, codes and other planning issues are imminent as we merge nature and architecture.
Sponsors for this year’s forum include, Kast Construction, The City of West Palm Beach, O’Donnell Agency, The Real Deal, Urban Design Kilday Studios, REG Architects, The Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, WGI and Invest: Palm Beach.
About Urban Land Institute
ULI is a nonprofit research and education organization supported by its 40,000 members. The ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean District Council has almost 1,000 members, covering the 7 county area along Florida’s east coast from Vero Beach through the Florida Keys and also includes the Caribbean basin.
About the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority
The DDA is an independent taxing district with a mission to promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown for residents, businesses and visitors through the strategic development of economic, social and cultural opportunities. For more information about Downtown West Palm Beach and its incentive programs, contact the DDA at (561) 833-8873 or visit downtownwpb.com.