CONFIRM OR DENY
MARK PATEMAN, Esq., SIOR
Q: Is commercial real estate in West Palm Beach as hot as the hype?
A: Yes, but the hype is somewhat misleading, like most things hyped – my apologies to your PR firm. The truth is that there are more private wealth firms, proprietary traders, and banks searching for space in downtown WPB than actual hedge funds, which we keep hearing about in the media. And the square footage they want is relatively small, typically 1,500 to 3,500 sq. ft. More than 50% of companies interested in downtown are financial services-related. Before the tax bill passed last November, we averaged just under 10 property tours a month. The new bill tripled the number to 30, even in summer months. Some like it hot, and this market is hot.
Q: Do they all want front row-center offices with direct water views?
A: Oh, yes. The top floors of the Class A towers, overlooking the island and ocean. But now we’re seeing younger, forward-thinking CEOs leaning toward adaptive re-use downtown – buying a building in the center of all the urban energy and creating their own vision. Sterling Organization is relocating from Palm Beach into a long-vacant building that was set to be demolished. Keith Spina’s team is transforming it into a world-class corporate headquarters with best-in-class workspace technology, a lot of natural light and modern work spaces. Did I mention the rooftop bar?
Q: Why are CEOs looking here instead of the larger cities to our south?
A: We under-appreciate the quality of life in this city. The golden halo over Palm Beach reflects on our economy, and West Palm’s downtown streets and buildings are beautifully human-scale. There are no super-blocks or highway overpasses to navigate. Sure, there are still a few gaps like surface parking lots or a stubborn landlord, but outsiders see walkable, shade-filled streets, plenty of parking within two minutes, plus new bike lanes and train service. We complain more about ‘traffic’ than Miami residents. No great place anywhere in the world is designed for the convenience of single-passenger vehicles.
Q: What’s next for West Palm?
A: Look at The Warehouse District as a model for the continuing transformation of older industrial buildings. The demand from TAMI (tech, media, advertising, information) tenants is growing very fast here. They want open ceilings, exposed brick, natural light and great social spaces, wrapped in a vibrant downtown. Drywall and chair rail days are thankfully behind us. People should be excited about the hospitality sector here, too. The Hilton Canopy is one of only a handful in the world, and The Ben (Marriott Autograph) will create design-forward gathering spots that will define downtown in the next decade
Q: Is it true you once had a prospect walk into an occupied office and start vaping on an e-cigarette?
A: Prefer to answer that with a hand signal.