Several of the area’s biggest names in real estate development convened at the new Hilton West Palm Beach in April to discuss why they are making such significant investments in the city and its Downtown. The West Palm Beach Development and Investment Forum was co-hosted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and presented by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.
Following ULI’s Chair Dr. Chuck Bohl’s welcome remarks, Related Companies Senior Vice-President Gopal Rajegowda kicked off the prestigious roster of speakers with an overview of the brand new convention center hotel. Rajegowda said that since its opening, the “unconventional convention center hotel” has already booked more than 70,000 room nights over the next five years.
Following Rajegowda the speakers included Carol Coletta, Senior Fellow, Kresege Foundation, American Cities Practice; Matthew Lister, Associate, Head of Team, Gehl Architects; Jeff Greene, Investor and the largest property owner in the Downtown; Jeffrey I. Sussman, Principal, Property Group Partners; Peter Cummings, founder, Ram Realty Services; Rob Singer, Director of Development, Time Equities; and Keith Spina, Senior Partner, Glidden Spina + Partners in West Palm Beach. Moderators included Neil Merin, Chairman, Merin Hunter Codman, Inc; Harvey Oyer, Partner, Shutts & Bowen LLP; and Raphael Clemente, Executive Director, West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority.
“The foundation for a great city has been built, and now we need to fill in the gaps,” said Greene. “We all need to believe in West Palm Beach because we are on the runway and about to take off.”
Many spoke of what they feel is on the horizon for West Palm Beach, and what size and scale of commercial and residential buildings are right for this market, and where the hottest locations are. Projects discussed include Class-A office towers within two mixed-use developments that incorporate a hotel, micro-condominiums that bring affordable living to downtown, and a new elementary school.
“The continued growth in Downtown West Palm Beach adds new dimensions of appeal, and we’re building an unmatched, vibrant urban lifestyle that attracts Millennials to retirees,” said Clemente. “Our challenge now is to keep making decisions that take into account how we’ll live in the coming decades, and how to maintain the type of high quality of life that is the signature of this great city.”
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