Related Co.’s 25-story tower project on church land moves forward

The First Church of Christ Scientist at 809 S. Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

WEST PALM BEACH —

In a close vote, a city advisory board signed off on a 25-story version of a proposed office building along Flagler Drive.

The board of West Palm Beach’s Downtown Development Authority voted 3-2 Tuesday to endorse The Related Cos.’ plan for the First Church of Christ Scientist property at 132 Lakeview Ave. The non-binding recommendation will be delivered to the city commission, but the project also must be considered by the Downtown Action Board and the city planning board.

Property east of Olive Avenue is zoned for only five stories, although that height limit has been a matter of debate. The city last year considered allowing a 30-story limit for waterfront buildings.

In its proposal, Related wants permission for a 274,000-square-foot building designed by noted architect David Childs. Critics worry that the new tower would create traffic snarls and block neighbors’ views, but the majority of the DDA board called the latest version of the building a suitable compromise.

“I believe Related has proposed a series of good solutions to the traffic concerns, as well as taken every precaution necessary to preserve the views of the surrounding buildings, so I encourage the mayor and city commission to support this project,” Upendo Shabazz, chairwoman of the DDA board, said in a statement.

However, development watchdogs remain concerned about the size of the proposed project, and how it might affect other downtown projects.

“Traffic is a huge concern,” said West Palm Beach resident Nancy Pullum, head of Citizens for Thoughtful Growth. “Height is a concern. They’re shoehorning more and more into smaller spaces, and there’s a h

The tower will cost $150 million or more to build, Related Cos. said. In an interview last month, Ken Himmel, president of Related Urban, the mixed-use unit of New York-based Related Cos., called the tower the priciest office building ever built in West Palm Beach.

Himmel said the office building would provide space for companies wanting to move to West Palm Beach. The project also would give the church’s aging congregation enough cash to preserve its 90-year-old house of worship, built in 1928 in the Classical Revival style.

Space in the building is expected to lease for $50 to $55 per square foot, plus $15 to $20 per square foot for taxes, insurance and maintenance, Himmel said. The tower would include high-end gyms and a restaurant.

Economic developers have lamented a lack of Class A office space in downtown West Palm Beach, and Related Cos. seeks to meet demand. Billionaire developer Jeff Greene has proposed an office tower of his own at the north end of downtown.

Read the full article here: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/business/related-story-tower-project-church-land-moves-forward/kmWV9JJ0GbjpoA0nt7C73J/

Publication: Palm Beach Post

Author: Jeff Ostrowski