West Palm Beach’s Financial District’s Biggest Need: Good Office Space

Written by on January 28, 2014 in News - No comments

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio (pictured above) stepped from the podium last Tuesday morning at Palm Beach County Convention Center and dropped a drape to expose a fancy street sign bearing the proposed logo of the “Flagler Financial District.”

The city plans to mark off a piece of downtown already hosting brokerages, banks and investment houses, in hopes of luring more to set up satellites or even move their headquarters wholesale.

“We already have a portion of our city where banking and finance is heavily concentrated. Now we need to let the world know about it,” the mayor told about 900 attendees at her third annual “State of the City” breakfast gathering.

The district would run from Sixth Street in the north to Okeechobee Boulevard and from Rosemary Avenue east to Flagler Drive and the waterfront.

“We’re really trying to sell our city,” Muoio told reporters after her talk. “We really want to see new businesses in our downtown.”

But she said in her speech, “We all know putting up signage alone will not make it happen.”

That usually means tax breaks and other incentives.

Not necessarily, said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, which has helped lead the “Flagler Financial District” initiative.

“The mayor’s move this morning really solidifies our effort to recruit (white collar) firms to this area,” Smallridge said Tuesday. “They’re already coming. Probably two dozen that came throughout the county in two years.”

But she said that while financial breaks often are the carrot needed to lure down the really large firms, for not-so-huge operations, “they’re not asking for it, and we’re not offering it.”

She said most of those coming down — and she sells all of Palm Beach County, not just West Palm Beach — are looking for good weather, of course. Cheaper commercial and residential real estate. A lower cost of living. And the big one: no state income tax.

“If you make a million dollars in Manhattan and a million dollars in West Palm Beach, there’s $127,000 you’re paying in a (New York) state income tax,” Smallridge said.

The biggest hurdle, she said, is that while residential real estate is exploding downtown, there’s a dearth of quality office space. And what’s there, she said, is running out.

“What they consider Class A is Phillips Point; Esperante,” Smallridge said. “They want ocean and Intracoastal (Waterway) views. They want buildings with amenities such as restaurants.”

Smallridge said she’s encouraging the city to expedite permitting.

Chris Roog, the city’s economic development director, said the city’s been pounding the drums for a while about the lack of good office space.

“That’s a great problem to have,” he said. “Now we need to fill the demand.”

He said the city already is speeding up permitting. He also said that, as in your freshman Economics class, supply usually reacts organically to demand. But he said the city’s also been reminding the real estate community of the need.


Source:  Palm Beach Post

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