New Hotel Proposals: You See What We See!

There are currently three hotel proposals under consideration for the old city hall site located along Flagler Drive between Banyan Boulevard and 2nd Street. We invite the public to take a look at each proposal. You can also download complete versions of each submission.

Which one do you think is best?

WPB Puts Old City Hall Site On Hold

Project Details:

Change in land value & new state law prompts decision.

(West Palm Beach, FL) - Citing a new land appraisal as well as a desire to hit the reset button on the process, city leaders decided today to pull the Old City Hall site off the market. Last year the city asked developers to submit ideas for what could be built on the site located along Banyan Boulevard between Flagler Drive and Olive Avenue. The guidelines given to developers were general and allowed them to submit proposals that exceeded a current five story height limit for the property. Earlier this year, the city picked two developers to continue in the process.  The most recent proposals from both developers exceed that five story limit. As discussions between the city and the two developers progressed, the city commissioned a newer, up-to-date appraisal of the property. The new appraisal valued the land at $12 million dollars.  That is $5 million dollars more than one developer is offering, and $2 million dollars more than the other is offering. "The most significant difference for me now is we have a new appraisal," said West Palm Beach Commissioner Keith James. "It's a value significantly higher than what we've been offered by the proposers. This is money that comes back to the city coffers....I do not want to rush into a fire sale of a jewel of a property. I can't see accepting either one of these proposals." West Palm Beach Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell also cited the appraisal. "The value of the property has grown, and it will continue to grow. And because this site is so special, I don't think going forwards is in the collective best interest of the city," said Mitchell. One of the developers, Frank Navarro urged the city to continue the process. "I am urging you, after $100,000 or more invested and my time that you do not close the [process] and penalize us because, in your mind, things have changed," said Navarro. Another factor affecting the city's decision was a recent change in state law prohibiting the public from voting on a possible height limit change for the property. In June, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed off on a change to state law which prohibits cities from holding voter referendums on building heights. City leaders had agreed to allow voters to decide by referendum whether they wanted to waive the height limit.  But now the change in state law makes that vote impossible.

Change in State Law Prompts City To Reconsider Old City Hall Site

Project Details:

  July 25, 2013 (West Palm Beach, FL) - A new change to state law that now prohibits voter referendums on building heights is prompting city leaders to rethink plans for the Old City Hall site. At the next meeting of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the Board will consider pulling the property off the market, citing several factors that have recently changed. Last year the city asked developers to submit ideas for what could be built on the site located along Banyan Boulevard between Flagler Drive and Olive Avenue. The guidelines given to developers were general and allowed them to submit proposals that exceeded the current five story height limit for the property. Earlier this year, the Board picked two developers to continue in the process. The current proposals from both developers both exceed the five story limit. The CRA Board (which is made of members of the City Commission) agreed to allow voters to decide by referendum whether they wanted to waive the height limit. But now a change in state law makes that vote impossible. In June, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed off on a change to state law which prohibits cities from holding voter referendums on building heights. "The rules have changed. We need to talk about what is best for the city while ensuring we find a new way to include the public in the discussion," said West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio. "If the new law doesn't allow the public to tell us at the ballot box what they want, we need to talk about whether we should continue the process." Another factor leading to renewed discussion is the recent appraisal of the land, now estimated to be worth approximately $12 million dollars.  That is $5 million dollars more than one developer is offering, and $2 million dollars more than the other is offering. "For me, it's all about the economics. The appraisal and the offers are not even close," said West Palm Beach Commissioner Ike Robinson. "The gap between the two definitely makes me want to revisit this." West Palm Beach Commissioner Keith James agreed. "For me, there are two things that need to be highlighted. One is the appraisal and the other is the change in state law," said James. "We need to discuss this as a Board because those are two significant changes." A third factor affecting the process involves what could be build right across the street. The Palm Harbor Marina, which is located between the Old City Hall site and the water has said they want to build a hotel on their property. Unlike the Old City Hall site which currently has a five story height limit, the marina is not limited to five stories. According to the memo attached to the CRA agenda, "it may be prudent to know what the marina tenant intends to construct and measure its impact on the City Hall site prior to committing to a development on the City Hall site." If the CRA Board decides to withdraw the project, the land would remain in the hands of the CRA until the Board decides to revisit the project.  The Board is expected to discuss the issue at its July 29th meeting.


Project Details:

Click here to read the entire Kolter proposal


Site Evaluation

  The most prominent characteristic of the site is its direct access to the Flagler waterfront. This provides both short- and long-range views from the site and also allows buildings on the site to seamlessly interact with the Flagler waterfront Park and all associated Park offerings.   Secondarily, the site offers proximity to the Clematis district, a positive attraction despite the noise and hours of operation of Clematis businesses. Because of the width to depth ratio of the site, Kolter has positioned the Hotel restaurant and meeting rooms along the eastern portion of the site to interact with the Park and enjoy a variety of water views. The proposed 5-story Hotel will be consistent with other more recent private development (Florida Crystals Building) directly on Flagler (see height survey above and attached). The proposed mixed-use building would then be positioned on Olive Avenue, where it would relate to that streetscape and pedestrian environment by offering neighborhood retail and a ceremonial building entrance. By utilizing this positioning scheme and incorporating 12 typical residential stories above an internal garage, approximately 50% of the residential units would have water views above the Hotel, thereby increasing their value and increasing the underlying land value proportionately. Primary servicing and logistics for both components would take place internally between the buildings and not interfere with local vehicular traffic.  

Hotel Component Programming

  The primary demand generator for the Hotel operation is expected to be leisure, with business as a secondary driver. The opportunity for special events at this location with water views and Park interaction are very strong. Weddings, anniversaries, smaller business groups, etc. should help support the property in the competitive market set. The proposed convention center hotel with its large public subsidy will produce substantial downward pressure on room rates and occupancy for all hotels in the market once opened. A minimum of 120 rooms is contemplated and required to support the intended uses and the valuation of the land. Further study and discussions with leading hotel corporations will be required to obtain a more precise room count. Meeting space, dining and social areas are all planned for the ground floor allowing direct access to and communication with the Park. Approximately 50% of the proposed rooms will enjoy eastern views from the guest suites and there will be several over-sized suites incorporated in the design. A major driver of the overall Hotel design was the interface with the waterfront public Park. Interaction with the public and architectural/aesthetic appeal from Flagler were both high priorities in the proposed design.    


Parking needs continue to be studied. Each proposed use (Hotel and mixed-use residential) will require a “practical” supply of parking that may be in excess to code required. Kolter believes that the Banyan garage may become a component of the parking solution as will thoroughly contemplated surface parking.      

Mixed-Use Residential Building

Highest and best use for the western portion of the site was determined to be residential use with ground floor retail; the Class “A” dominant office corridor has been firmly established on Okeechobee Blvd. Sales of Downtown condominiums this year are up over 25% and all indicators point to a continuation of this upward trend.   Further supporting this proposed use is the fact that Kolter also believes the site and the City would be underserved by a multi-family rental building on the site. The sidewalk retail would continue the trend of encouraging businesses to operate within our Downtown pedestrian network. The proposed 15 stories will allow for substantial water views over the Hotel and is consistent with general development along the Olive Avenue corridor in the vicinity of the site. The proposed 260 residential units average 1,084 square feet each, with a mix of one bedroom, one bedroom with den, one bedroom lofts and two bedroom with den units. The units are designed and intended to be sold as condominium units. Approximately 50% of the units will have premium views to the east. Kolter’s experience in West Palm shows that eastern water views are highly desirable and produce approximately 1.5 times the value for each unit that provides such a view as compared to those that do not have water views. This dramatically improves the tax base, absorption rate and success of the project and is directly related to the land value proposed. Of the 15,200 square feet of retail space, 80% will front Olive Avenue and be further supported by a covered arcade and large public sidewalk. There is also a central plaza on the Olive Avenue frontage that would allow outdoor use by one or more of the retail establishments. All building amenities and support components are self-contained within the structure. Setbacks, the use of the arcade, building recesses at key floor locations and well-designed massing and articulation have all been utilized to create the quality of architectural presentation shown. This type of massing is also critical to the building yield and therefore the underlying land value as proposed.    

Architectural Statement

  The architectural style of this proposed mixed-use project is a carefully blended eclectic statement, employing select architectural features from a slightly traditional Mediterranean style with the prominent design features of a modern contemporary complex.     This eclectic blend allows the overall architectural composition to offer a significant degree of interest and variety. Generous amounts of glass have been employed to create a significantly open feeling within the building itself, especially as the building opens out to the east and the waterfront public Park.     One prominent feature of the project is the central vehicular and pedestrian axis between the two major buildings, which serves as a dynamic arrival point for each of the major uses. It is enhanced by significant pedestrian and landscape improvements and generous applications of pavers, eating areas and major covered drop off elements. Special architectural features include recessed areas at the pedestrian plaza levels, a variety of vertically articulated roof elements and carefully placed balcony elements at the Hotel and the condominium.     Additional accent materials include precast stone, ornamental metal railings and sunscreens and carefully positioned hip roof features with Spanish “S” tile.  

Park Statement

    The project has employed a number of effective design features to fully integrate itself with the proposed public Park as well as provide special connections to important adjacent properties. In this regard, the 200’ Park setback line has been softly adjusted to include portions of the public Hotel plazas as they embrace the western edge of the Park itself.     The net area of the “Park” is still comparable to what would be achieved with a pure 200’ setback line. Additionally, critical pedestrian circulation through in the Park has been recognized via the organization of walkways and plazas, both at the Hotel and within the Park to merge with each other in transition areas that are marked with special geometrical features, including plazas, fountains and art in public places.     The generous landscape treatment of the Park has been designed to create a natural, yet somewhat formal relationship to the pedestrian hardscape and the curved linear western edges of the Hotel plaza. A variety of materials will be employed in defining the pedestrian hardscape and landscape, including a diverse assembly of paver materials, stone, seating elements, pedestrian lighting and generous landscape treatment.  


Project Details:

Click here to read the entire Crocker proposal

Development Analysis

Proposed Users and Street Liners

This significant site connects the urban environment of this thriving downtown with the spectacular waterfront that draws visitors to the area.  Its location to the north of Clematis Street continues the growth of the economic center to the north and unites the downtown with the existing buildings and facilities to the north.   This prominent location is ideal for a mixed use development providing a hotel and luxury residential apartments with retail, restaurant, and amenities accessible on the street levels.  Combines with waterfront, public open space, this project will encourage enjoyment by residents and visitors alike.  

Banyan Street

  A luxury 12 story, 200-room hotel will front on Banyan Street providing guests with pedestrian connection to Clematis Street and the waterfront.  The Banyan streetscape will be lined with retail spaces on each side of the hotel entrance lobby.  

Narcissus Avenue

  The design respects the urban grid maintaining the line of Narcissus Avenue while converting this small section of street to a pedestrian use.  A proposed restaurant will occupy the corner of Banyan and Narcissus and engage the park site to the east with spectacular waterfront views from its second level.  This use will be viewed from the fountain at Clematis Street and invite pedestrians to the north.  The new pedestrian way created on Narcissus fronting the open space of the park will be lined with retail uses on the ground level and hotel event and meeting spaces above.  The event spaces will step back and open onto a terrace overlooking the park and water to allow for outdoor events unique to South Florida hotel venues.  

2nd Street

  Where the north edge of the project meets 2nd Street, the building corner will be open and terraced planters and fountain features will connect visually to the hotel pool deck above.  The openness creates a sense of joining the public and private spaces and is sensitive to the green space of the park to the east and the playground and church site to the north.   Facing 2nd Street is an ideal location for luxury residential use with townhomes lining this quiet street.  This arrangement is sensitive to the church site across the street minimizing traffic and encouraging safe pedestrian routes.  

Olive Avenue

  Ground floor and second level retail and office spaces will line Olive Avenue long side the lobby to a luxury residential building of 265 apartments.  The bus and trolly stop on Olive Avenue will remain and encourage the use of public transportation by residents, hotel guests and business patrons.  

Building Height

  On all sides, the project will present a friendly streetscape encouraging a vibrant pedesrtian atmosphere.  Within, the active liner uses conceal a 3-1/2 level parking garage providing 560 spaces.  Above, a split level deck provides open spaces and swimming pools for both the hotel guests and residents.   This unique site lies between the urban environment and street grid to the south and west and opens to the waterfront, green spaces and gentle curve of Flagler Drive to the north and east.  Our design responds to these surroundings locating the building towers along Banyan and Olive and stepping down with green roofs and terraces to the north and east.  As described earlier the open space and pool decks of the 4th level terrace down with planters and water elements at the northeast corner to the park site.  

Waterfront Connectivity

  The conversion of Narcissus Avenue into a pedestrian way will draw downtown visitors towards the park site, waterfront and marina.  This new pedestrian promanade will be lined on one side with small retail shops and a cafe, and will open to the green space of the park.  Retail shops in this area could serve the marina and hotel guests, as well as residents.   On the second level, the hotel event spaces open onto a large terrace overlooking the park and waterfront.  The north end of the terrace will cascade down to the park level with planters and fountain features.   This design would create an ideal venue for weddings and celebrations allowing events to be held in the outdoor green space adding to the vibrant activity of the waterfront.  The hotel amenities could easily serve events in the park held during the City's annual celebrations, Sunfest and Fourth on Flagler.   The terraced, northeast corner of the building provides an open visual connection to the open space and pool decks above and continues the green space vertically.  The building plaza and park will be designed as an extension of the waterfront development on the east side of Flagler.        

Navarro Lowrey Concord

Project Details:

Click here to read the entire Navarro proposal

Overview of Proposed Development Concept

  Our concept is to develop a 205 Room Hyatt Full service Hotel along with a Signature, 7,000 SF restaurant overlooking and interacting with the new waterfront park our submittal proposes along Flagler Drive.  The site planning of our concept calls for the more public portions of the Project to be located along the southwestern portion of the Site, allowing physical and visual connectivity to the energetic Clematis Street entertainment corridor.   The rooms are logically positioned to maximize the views to the waterfront while the height of the project is within the Five (5) Story limit imposed east of Olive Avenue in 196.  We believe it makes more sense for the City to pursue an economically feasable solution which represents the current height restriction because this approach results in a total project of less than $100MM, a figure which is more likely to be financed in the current but still relatively unstable real estate capital markets.  Projects exceeding $100MM are finding selective financing available in primary cities such as New York, San Francisco and Washington DC.  West Palm Beach, while certainly attractive as an investment market, is still considered a secondary market for which very large capital commitments would be more difficult to secure.   In addition, proceeding under the current Five (5) Story limit allows Proposer to move through the development process briskly and thus open for business in Spring, 2014.  Any delays to gain public approval of a change to allow a Fifteen (15) Story height will serve to prolong the development period by both the time required to seek the public approval and the additional construction time required for the larger concept (10 additional levels of construction).   We believe a "market window" exists now to deliver a well branded, full service hotel on a high quality site in West Palm Beach (such as the former City Hall site) and that any delays in beginning this development pose more risks than benefits to the City.  

Design Architect's Statement

  The architectural style of the proposed hotel is an essentially contemporary theme, using vertical and horizontal articulations to create significant massing interest.  Employing generous amounts of glass, the hotel graciously opens itself up to the park, especially through the use of slightly raised public plazas and terraces, which flow out into the Park.  Carefully placed balconies have been used to articulate the primary facades, each being configured in a way that is most appropriate to the geometrical mass upon which they sit.  The use of thin eyebrows and overhangs reinforces the contemporary theme and provides shade elements to certain areas of the building.  The inclusion of an open bar element at the roof level creates a special focal point to emphasize the semi-circular building mass on the southeast corner, while providing a unique opportunity for color and landscape at the roof level.   The use of complimentary pastel colors in conjunction with off-white tones reinforces the rhythm of the special massing elements of the facade of the Project.  The entire entry experience is paved with special pavers to differentiate vehicle and pedestrian areas and to create a strong open and inviting "first impression" along the Banyan frontage.    

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