WEST PALM BEACH — The city-owned tract is known as the Anchor Site, and officials hope the project they solicited will serve that purpose — to anchor the emerging Northwood Village area just north of downtown West Palm Beach with apartments, offices, gathering spots and a much-needed grocery.
The mayor and city commissioners have selected a Miami-Dade County development team, Immocorp Ventures, with whom they’ll negotiate the vacant 3.5 acres’ future. Immocorp won over the officials by stressing its intention to base the project on what area residents, businesses and officials say they want. The firm ranked well ahead of the four other proposers.
“We’ve diligently worked with the different businesses in Northwood, with associations. We wondered what would work, what would the people of the city want in this area,” Immocorp’s Frank Gottsman told them.
What emerged from the firm’s conversations with community members was a desire for the project to contribute a strong sense of identity to Northwood, to draw visitors to the area and its businesses, to have an artistic feel, reasonably priced apartments, a grocery, offices and to serve as a town square, possibly with a train stop for expanded Tri-Rail service in the offing, Gottsman said.
The team already has an art gallery committed to move in, a Carrefour urban grocery, and restaurants, he said.
City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf, who represents the North End, pressed for a swift start to the project, which has been delayed by several months.
“Economic development with a great mix of residential, retail and cultural amenities will bring needed neighborhood resources and additional residents to help continue to strengthen our Northend communities,” Shoaf said. “The keys to success will be creating strong partnerships and engaging locally so this project can move efficiently from a proposal into reality.”
An effort to pick a developer collapsed in April because of concerns the leading proposer at that time, Capital Group P3 Developments LLC, couldn’t make its $75 million, village-like project happen. Capital Group P3 tried again this time but placed third, with 16 points, behind Housing Trust Group, with 14, and Immocorp, at 9 the lowest, or best-ranked.
City Commissioner Christina Lambert recused herself from the vote, saying she and her husband had business ties to one of the teams. Commissioner Keith James said he had a “landlord-tenant relationship” with one of the presenters but said he’d been advised by city and county ethics officials that he could participate in the meeting and vote as long as he disclosed it.
The purpose of Monday’s presentations was not to spell out details of proposed projects but for rival teams to lay out their experience and general approaches toward the site and to convince the city officials, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, of the firms’ ability to finance and complete the projects.
“We’re gonna make this a walk-able, bike-able breathable, livable community and bring people to this community,” one of Immocorp’s presenters, David Scott, said. “We see it as an economic driver.”
Gottsman estimated the firm would build 340-350 apartments, of from 500- to 1,000-square-feet, averaging 750 square feet per unit.
“I don’t really believe in micro units,” he said, referring to apartments below 500 feet, which previously were proposed for the Anchor Site and downtown.
The firm didn’t want to overwhelm the low-rise area with 20-story towers but also felt three- or four-story buildings wouldn’t provide enough density to make the project work, he said. Artists’ renderings provided by the team’s architect, Kobi Karp, show building heights in the middle of that range.
Gottsman and Scott made much of the firm’s having sought input from residents, businesses and community associations. When Mayor Jeri Muoio pointed out that many of the people, companies and groups named didn’t appear to be from the immediate neighborhood, the officials pointed to several that were, and said their outreach process was ongoing.
“We’re talking about building wealth by engaging all local businesses,” Scott said.
“We want to build sustainable wealth within the community so it continues and when the developer goes away it belongs to the community, and there’s a sense of belonging,” Gottsman said. The family-owned firm has completed over $1 billion in projects over the past decade, including in Miami Beach and Pompano Beach, he said.