WEST PALM BEACH, Florida. August 27, 2020 (CBS12) — Construction on the what were billed as the “tallest towers” in Palm Beach County has halted, as the billionaire developer claims demand has been zapped, due in part to coronavirus. The One West Palm project currently has no interested tenants for available office space, according to developer Jeff Greene, who adds construction won’t pick back up until a revised zoning deal is reached with the city or demand improves for office space. Greene warns it could take years for demand to get to where it once was.
Work began on the 30-story One West Palm in April 2019. The massive building planned to tower over its neighbors. To build at that height, Greene struck an initial deal with the City of West Palm Beach, which allowed one building to be used for residential development and the other for office space and a hotel. “The deal we made, made sense at the time. Now it doesn’t,” said Greene in an interview with CBS 12 News.
Greene says, since that deal, numerous office space and hotel projects have sprung up around West Palm Beach. Additionally, with a national shift to working from home, Greene says he can not get the necessary financing to complete the project. “I want to build what is viable for this site. There is no financing whatsoever today, anywhere in the world, for speck office building with no tenants,” said Greene.
In May, Greene warned that he would have to stop work on the project, unless the city agreed to amend their deal and allow him to build two residential towers. As of late August, no deal is in place and work has stopped on the project. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James has argued in the past that Greene does not deserve preferential treatment and amending the deal would set a bad precedent for future city business.
“A significant concern that I have is the precedent,” James said, in a April 25th city meeting. “It’s not the city’s responsibility now to bail out the developer and you talk about the change of circumstances. I’m sorry, but that’s not the risk we took.” “There’s nothing I would rather do than finish this property,” said Greene, who added he expects to take a financial loss on the project.
“Unfortunately, now the world has changed. So, when the world changes, I’d like the city to let me build whatever I can get financed there and lets get a building that throws off billions of dollars in tax revenue for the city.” Greene, a onetime gubernatorial candidate, believes converting both buildings to residential properties will inject life in the downtown economy and help business owners.
He also conducted a study, at the city’s request, that Greene claims shows there is enough office space in West Palm Beach to meet demand for 10 years, without his building. A representative for the City of West Palm Beach told CBS 12 News they are reviewing a copy of Greene’s study but added, “at this time, the City’s position remains the same.”