Enter Phase 2: Palm Beach County ready for further opening of economy

Enter Phase 2: Palm Beach County ready for further opening of economy

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read September 2020After reflecting on the social and economic achievements of American workers, Palm Beach County is ready to allow more workers to get back to work. For the first time since March, the majority of Palm Beach County industries will be allowed to reopen Tuesday after Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to the easing of coronavirus-related business restrictions.The county now sits in Phase 2 of its multistep reopening plan, which will allow movie theaters, bowling alleys, playhouses and other entertainment venues to reopen following Labor Day weekend. 

Businesses will still limit the number of customers served at one time and will continue to enforce social distancing guidelines. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said that 95% of businesses will be operational in some fashion, according to the Patch. 

Unemployment rates remained under 4% in the county for all of 2019 and the start of 2020, consistently dipping to under 3% in that time span, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. From March to April, unemployment shot up from 4% to almost 15% as shelter-in-place measures were implemented locally and throughout the state and nation. Since April, unemployment rates have dipped, hitting about 10% in July as the economy began to carefully open up. The rate is currently at 11.6%.    

“We remain focused on preserving a healthy community and a vibrant way of life for our hometown,” Kerner told Invest: Palm Beach. “Our outlook is ensuring we remind this community every day that it takes a village to get through this. It is not going to happen without continued cooperation, passion and civic duty on behalf of our constituents, our neighbors and our friends. If we achieve that, the outlook will be excellent,” he said. 

As the county enters Phase 2, lessons learned from the pandemic may help drive future economic development in the region. “We all want to safely get back to doing the everyday tasks but this will take a slow and steady approach,” Boca Raton Economic Development Manager Jessica Del Vecchio told Invest: Palm Beach, echoing the mayor’s sentiments. “Today, with technology, we’ve learned we can work from anywhere. This will allow us to continue to attract new companies from out of state, especially now that we’ve been forced to test the work from home concept for many months,” she said.

Continuing to observe health and social distancing guidelines will be key as the economy continues to open up. “It’s important that we make sure we are ready and comfortable for the upcoming reopening of businesses, schools and local community events,” Del Vecchio said. “We should bear in mind that everyone has different boundaries and comfort levels, so the recovery could vary drastically from one person or location to another. Over the next six months, it will be interesting to see what changes occur as we start getting back to everyday happenings. I hope the simpler joys that we rediscovered during the shelter in place order will remain.”

For more information, visit:

https://discover.pbcgov.org/

https://myboca.us/470/Economic-Development

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read August 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of health, wellness, the essentiality of work, and the innovation that is possible in the midst of a constantly changing landscape. The global pandemic also shed light on the need for businesses and companies to ramp up their sustainability efforts, reduce their carbon footprints, support green initiatives and leave the world a better, cleaner place for future generations. In Palm Beach County, from the air to the ocean, local entrepreneurs are working hard to innovate in an effort to preserve the health of the planet in South Florida and beyond. 

For the past two years, local Palm Beach County resident and entrepreneur Tim Sperry has toiled to transform the ubiquity of paint into an air purifying instrument. His company, Smog Armor, is a solutions provider keenly focused on ending air pollution. With its slogan, “We innovate, you improve,” Smog Armor is committed to helping business owners and residents improve the air quality around them in an effort to eradicate air pollution. 

More than an eco-friendly paint, Smog Armor produces a water-based paint that is nontoxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and infused with enhanced zeolite minerals for maximum absorption of air pollutants. Sperry’s patented process is optimal for reducing air pollution for up to five years depending on the condition of the environment it is painted in. Multiple independent testing has shown Smog Armor paint to reduce 95.1% of indoor air pollution in one hour, while its Green Wise certification ensures it has zero VOCs. 

With a background in real estate and business, and a consuming passion for entrepreneurship and preservation of nature and environment, Sperry transitioned from a life as a restauranteur to a biotech entrepreneur. “I needed to come up with something that I was passionate about, fulfilled by. With my love for nature, I wanted to find a way to help nature and do something that I really enjoyed doing,” Sperry told Invest: Palm Beach. As someone with a sensitive respiratory system, he knew helping reduce air pollution would be the main path in his journey to innovation and preserving the environment. 

His journey began by attempting to reduce vehicle carbon emissions because at that time “that’s what I saw,” he said. He spent months on end researching the dense, esoteric, chemistry-related literature revolving around air pollution and efforts to reduce it. “I essentially became a self-taught chemist,” he said. “I had two computers open. One with the research, and another to decipher those readings.” Time and time again he read about zeolite, a negatively charged mineral that is extremely effective at trapping carbon emissions and airborne pollutants. He designed a series of exhaust tips infused with zeolite aimed at directly reducing CO₂ emissions from cars, conducting and measuring air quality with and without the specialty exhaust tip. His exhaust tips proved to reduce car emissions by as much as 80 to 90 percent, he said. But after driving around for a while with the specialty exhaust tip, he realized that the system was impractical for the average consumer because the tips would constantly fall off and would become saturated after a few months of use. After going back to the drawing board, his light bulb moment came when he considered replicating this process with paint rather than the exhaust tips.

“At that point, I had to try something new,” he said. “Everyone uses paint, so I am not teaching people new habits.” After months of researching the proper paint manufacturers, honing the formula and testing the air purification efficacy of the paint, Smog Armor was ready to cover the walls of commercial and residential buildings and beyond. Local hotels have already used Smog Armor paint to improve consumer confidence in the coronavirus landscape, Sperry said. On the community outreach end of the spectrum, the company has tapped into the power of the arts, collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create impactful murals that purify the air of their local surroundings. To put it in perspective, three gallons of Smog Armor paint will remove as much CO₂ as one adult tree does in an entire year, Sperry said. For Sperry, giving back to the community via the art installations, for example, while advocating for a more sustainable future is the ultimate goal. “We have seen a spike in what we are doing because of all that is going on. We’ve got some amazing collaborations, working with amazing artists and companies, that are interested in showing that they are improving customer experience while building customer confidence and showing that they care about the environment in a public way,” he said. 

Similar to Sperry, two Florida Atlantic University alumni and entrepreneurs are on a mission to end plastic pollution in the ocean. Docked at Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park, 4ocean is a public benefit corporation founded by Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. 4ocean’s mission is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis through global cleanup operations and a variety of methods that help stop plastic pollution at its source. In March, the company relocated it’s corporate headquarters to FAU’s Research Park. 

Through it’s “One Pound, One Promise,” 4oceans supports its efforts from the sale of bracelets, apparel and other products made from recycling recovered materials. Each product purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. To date, the company has recovered more than 10 million pounds of ocean plastic and trash, according to the company’s tracker, found on its website.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important in advancing our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis,” said Director of Operations Desmond Reese in a press release related to its move to FAU. The Research Park at FAU was the ideal location for future growth and innovation because it offers an opportunity to collaborate with FAU’s faculty and students on research and development, Reese said. 

FAU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science will work with 4ocean on several projects, such as developing enhanced methodologies to track ocean cleanup volumes in real time, diving deeper to understand the impact of cleaning waste from specific coastal and river outflow locations, developing additional cleanup operation tools and increasing its efficiency at interruption, capture and prevention of ocean inflow waste in remote regions while also developing datasets and tracking models.

“The arrival of 4ocean is very exciting,” Research Park President Andrew Duffell said in a press release. “It offers real-world research opportunities for both the faculty and students at FAU who can see how two of their fellow alumni are making a positive impact on our environment through entrepreneurship.”

For more information, visit:

https://www.smogarmor.com/breathe-cb

https://www.4ocean.com/

Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Individuals and companies alike need reliable legal counsel during a time of need, and much like the people and businesses they serve, legal professionals quickly adjusted their operations as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the coronavirus may linger and continue accelerating change throughout different industries, Palm Beach legal professionals believe the county is suited to withstand the uncertainty and will continue to adapt to future changes. 

Florida’s favorable tax landscape, talented legal workforce, and diversifying economy are among the factors driving the population growth in the Sunshine State, which in turn drives the legal needs of businesses and residents. “The biggest factor is need, with South Florida growing in terms of population and as a regional business powerhouse,” West Palm Beach injury lawyer Gary Lesser told Invest: Palm Beach. “This means more lawyers have been needed to meet the legal needs caused by that growth.” Lesser, managing partner for Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC, one of the state’s oldest law firms, said Florida law schools’ emphasis on business, community involvement, and technical knowledge produce well-rounded graduates. “We are producing law graduates who are much more adept than they were years ago. Many lawyers are now graduating from law school and joining firms or setting up their own practices in South Florida,” Lesser said. 

 

“Florida has terrific law schools,” Fox Rothschild West Palm Beach Office Managing Partner Robert Sacco told Invest: Palm Beach. “They prepare students to be good theoretical lawyers and also provide critical insights on the practical aspects of being a lawyer. The clinical programs the law schools offer are particularly important in this regard as they give students a real sense of what it is like to practice in the real world,” he said. 

 

While Florida’s legal sector can count on well-rounded talent, COVID-19-related change was inevitable for legal professionals. “COVID-19 has really accelerated trends in the legal and business worlds. One example is the movement toward paperless systems, which is now much more common. The technology was always there but we have now developed greater efficiencies, which clients appreciate,” Lesser said. Video conferences have made client meetings, hearings and mediations possible during the pandemic and help meet the demand for legal services. “I think a lot of these changes will stay with us going forward, making law firms and businesses in general more efficient for clients and customers. I think there will be sectors of the economy that will scale down, but the legal and business worlds will continue to stay very busy,” Lesser said. 

While technology undoubtedly is helping the legal industry meet client demand, it can also increase opportunities for legal professionals. “Technology is a growth area for Palm Beach County,” Sacco said. “Technology companies are finding that South Florida offers business expansion opportunities that increasingly are becoming similar to those of Silicon Valley. West Palm Beach in particular is a developing hotspot for the tech industry – a sizable economic shift from the early 2000s when the area was more focused on tourists and retirement communities.” 

Although the future remains uncertain, Palm Beach County’s business and legal environment is likely to remain resilient in the midst of the coronavirus-related challenges. “Florida is too vibrant to be held down regardless of the outcomes. I think some job creation is needed since we lost so many jobs, but I think the prognosis for Palm Beach County is very good. I have seen some activity picking up in the last few weeks and the businesses that are adept and flexible will see the rewards going forward,” Lesser said. 

Sacco echoes Lesser’s sentiments when thinking about the medium- to long-term future of the region’s economy. “Going into the second half of 2020, the many business growth decisions that were delayed will be unleashed. I believe we will likely see a surge in economic activity as we go forward into 2021,” he said. “While it will take some time to reinvigorate some economic pipelines, I believe the outlook for 2021 is positive and we will ultimately see a strong economic rebound in 2021.” 

For more information, visit: 

https://www.lesserlawfirm.com/our-lawyers/gary-lesser/

https://www.foxrothschild.com/robert-j-sacco/

Palm Beach County shows patriotic spirit this Fourth of July

Palm Beach County shows patriotic spirit this Fourth of July

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July  2020 — Is COVID-19 casting a dark shadow on your Fourth of July weekend plans? Every year Floridians eagerly look forward to Independence Day for peak summer fun, beach and outdoors activities, and family cookouts. However, the rising number of coronavirus cases have prompted Palm Beach County officials to again place the beaches on lockdown in an effort to curb further spikes in infections at a time when many residents were expecting to enjoy time by the water. Along with beach closures, many fan favorites and fireworks displays also erred on the side of caution to prevent more cases of COVID-19. 

Though celebrating the nation’s birthday looks entirely different this year, there are a slew of in-person and virtual events for the entire family to enjoy. Here is a list of activities we are looking forward to in Palm Beach County during the Independence Day weekend. 

Catch some waves at Rapids Water Park

 Bummed that you can’t catch some waves at the beach this Fourth of July weekend? Then spending a lazy day at Rapids Water Park’s lazy river is a great alternative. The Riviera Beach water park, known for its colorful, thrilling slides and family/friendly water attractions, will be open for business this summer following all guidelines and cleaning standards, of course. “I thank you for your patience as we work through the many new challenges this pandemic has presented. We are excited to reopen and provide an entertaining break from the day-to-day world,“ General Manager Bryan Megrath wrote on the park’s website. Tickets must be purchased in advance and the park will feature extended hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, vist: https://www.rapidswaterpark.com/covid-19-safety/

West Palm Beach’s surprise fireworks show

Those wishing to see traditional fireworks shows will have to hang out in the city of West Palm Beach and look very closely skyward once night settles. The city’s traditional fireworks show will not launch near Flagler Drive as usual, but instead from two undisclosed locations north and south of the city, wowing families socially distancing at home. “While some will be able to see the fireworks from their home, all residents will be able to view them by tuning into WPBF 25’s Project CommUNITY: Fireworks From Home at 9:00 p.m. on July 4,” the City of West Palm Beach wrote on its website.

For more information, vist :https://www.wpb.org/government/community-events/community-events/4th-on-flagler

Gardens 2 Go Drive-Thru Market

Feeling lethargic after a good Fourth of July family cookout? Head over to Palm Beach Gardens to access fresh produce, meats, dairy and more while helping local vendors in the process. Every Sunday, local Palm Beach Gardens residents can get ahead on their grocery shopping from the comfort of their own cars by visiting Gardens 2 Go Drive-Thru Market. “Gardens 2 Go will provide residents and visitors with a safe and socially-distanced way to access quality produce, bread, coffee, eggs, meat, seafood, dairy and cheese from local vendors,” the city wrote on its website. 

 

For more information, visit: https://www.pbgfl.com/1067/Gardens-2-Go?fbclid=IwAR2eTUe4tcd4u90VfvyRBjniUdqqFwWsduqX9lewWMbLDDmAEegeK5K2YlU

Virtual trivia 

Want to flex your knowledge of American history as you celebrate the nation’s birthday? Delray Beach has you covered. The city of Delray Beach will host two trivia games set to challenge even the smartest of history buffs. “Your knowledge of Delray Beach and America will be tested. Each game will consist of two rounds of questions (one round on Delray Beach and one round on America) with 20 questions in each round. You earn more points the faster you answer correctly,” the city of Delray Beach wrote on its website. Games are free to enter and family-friendly. Players are playing for bragging rights and a gift card. Game 1 and 2 begin at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on July 4. 

For more information, visit: https://www.delraybeachfl.gov/our-city/things-to-do/4th-of-july

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020—Creative Choice Group is a U.S.-based investment and development company involved in the business of private real estate investment and development. President and CEO Dilip Barot, the company’s founder, spoke with Invest: Palm Beach about the county’s place in the company’s strategy, the impact from a changing demographic and the outlook for the sector.

 

How have your projects evolved in the last year and how is Palm Beach important for your strategy?

We have focused on strengthening our company, both nationally and internationally. In Palm Beach County in particular, our goal is to create 1,000 jobs in the near future. We want the community at large to benefit from the wellness programs we are providing so we are looking at ways to bring wellness programs to the community beyond what Amrit will be bringing. Palm Beach County’s profile continues to grow and we are part of that ecosystem. Of course, in 2019, construction costs increased and that impacted us. But there is always some impact from construction prices and this needs to be offset by creative thinking and collaboration between business owners and community leaders. 

How are the changing demographics impacting your business and how is the county encouraging more young people and families to settle here?

The people coming to Palm Beach County want to learn more and assimilate into the community. Parents with school-aged children will make a decision based on the choice of schools and the younger generation tends to focus on the live-work-play lifestyle. We try to assist them as much as possible to make the right choices when settling in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has a reputation of being home to a lot of wealthy older people. But we have to be diverse because that is what creates the growth and injects the vitality into the county. We therefore need to create an attractive environment for this generation. One way we can do this is by providing a means to have a social lifestyle, providing entertainment, physical activities and most importantly, affordable housing. At a younger age, earning power is typically lower than for older generations. We should appreciate the services and future the young generation bring. New industries will bring new jobs.

How are the Palm Beach authorities providing the auxiliary infrastructure that is needed for population growth?

The county has a good road system but the interconnectivity, particularly from east to west, can be improved greatly. We may need to implement cycle paths and introduce infrastructure, such as bike stands. Lessons should be learned from other communities that have faced the issue before us so that we do not make the same mistakes. The one-person, one-car model is outdated, and people are now learning through this pandemic that open spaces and a healthier, more active lifestyle are far superior.

More and more people are now realizing the importance of a more balanced life, particularly between materialistic needs and good mental health. I believe people in general are constantly striving for improvement and this goal is really coming to the forefront now. In the last 100 years, materialistic growth has been significant, but the inner journey has not kept up with that momentum. We are now seeing that much more in the younger generation, who do not need a lot of money or possessions but instead value experiences and opportunities. I think that is the correct path. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business and what innovation do you see coming from the crisis?

We were able to keep our construction site operating despite the pandemic by ensuring we were practicing the guidelines of the WHO and CDC. We did allow our office employees to work from home.   We are only now reopening through a structured approach. Within days of the outbreak here, we created a virtual online sales center where customers could interact in real time with our sales professionals and have access to all the marketing collateral, including virtual tours. In doing so, we had to consider minute details such as data protection, but we still were able to do this within weeks. We had our best month on record in April in terms of condo and residential sales. We have now implemented a virtual open house system and any in-person showings now have increased hygiene measures in place. We feel our employees are now more engaged at home and productivity is off the chart. We think going forward we will allow a portion of our workforce to work from home, which also builds an automatic contingency into the business model. We have learned a lot from this experience.

How will space and touchless technology be incorporated into everyday life moving forward?

There are already technologies that exist, although perhaps in a more niche space. In our ongoing development, we already have touchless toilets that we see on a widespread basis, but there are also things such as touchless showers that we can incorporate. We see a greater desire for more space going forward. We are learning as we go and welcome feedback from customers at every step of the way. Early next year, we will complete construction on the residences at Singer Island and the resort side will be open early in 2021.

What does your pipeline look like for the next year and a half?

We have a very promising pipeline. There are four sites that could be great wellness and real estate developments for us. We are also looking to develop some of the technology related to wellness. People are spending more money on wellness and developments like those we provide can offer them the opportunity to live their lives in a development with these features already incorporated.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: www.creativechoicegroup.com

 

 

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 Many of the nation’s largest capital operators are increasingly moving headquarters and operations to South Florida to take advantage of the business and tax advantages available in the Sunshine State. As a result, the region is starting to transform its reputation as a playground to be recognized as an environment for serious business, Mary Beth Tarter, the regional head of tax advisory and accounting services firm Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone, told Invest: Palm Beach.

 

What main services does the firm provide in the Florida market?

We are a tax advisory and accounting firm. Our clients are primarily in the financial services industry, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and distressed debt. We also do a lot of commercial real estate. 

 

I work on the individual side of the practice, so I work with fund principals and fund managers, helping with compliance and advisory. We look at their estate planning, trust, gifts, private foundations, all those tools that the high-net-worth group uses.

 

We’ve been here for three years, and we expect to continue growing, to continue expanding our staff within the next six to eight months.

 

What are the particular opportunities that South Florida offers for the kind of clients your firm specializes in?

 

Our firm has always had connectivity to South Florida, because the ultra-high-net-worth community will have vacation homes here. But it really started in 2017, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the most sweeping tax law change we’ve had since 1986. Hedge funds and private equity funds could stand to lose millions because of the deductions that were not allowed at the individual level, even at the partnership level. It got to the point where some of them looked at it very analytically, and recognized that moving to Florida could save them $1 million a year because of the tax situation, and so they moved.

 

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I think our firm handled more residency planning for our clients than we did in the previous 24 years. Many of them did it from an analytical standpoint, while for others, it was just the impetus that they needed: they decided that now was the time.

 

The wonderful part of already having connectivity is that it was seamless for our clients. Now we are here, boots on the ground, and that’s very important for us. They expect a certain level of service and we did not want any disruption to that.

 

People are also starting to recognize that Florida is not just a playground. This is a very serious business area as well. The median age of people moving down here is younger, and that speaks tremendously to the local commerce, the lifestyles that people want for their families, for their businesses. There are so many companies relocating or expanding down here, and of course, taking advantage of the fact that it is, in a lot of cases, tax driven.

 

Has that recognition created a new environment for investors in Florida?

 

It has. New York is rebalancing its budget because Carl Icahn is moving to Miami. New Jersey is rebalancing its budget because David Tepper left. They are coming to Miami to be part of the hedge fund community there, which is amazing.

 

We’ve actually just created another division, with a gentleman who has been in the hedge fund community for the last 25 years. He is Latin by birth and is looking to expand and help those startup funds, even those that are coming from Latin America as well. A big part of our clientele also has international connectivity.

 

How do you see the reactivation of the commercial real estate industry after COVID-19 is left in the rear-view mirror?

 

I think the real estate industry is going to be a little stalled until people can get outside again. Then they are going to start taking advantage of the opportunities they have been denied over the last couple of months. I truly believe that for anybody who has the available cash, for the most part, our clients among them, we will see an increase of activity in both commercial and residential real estate because you weren’t allowed to do it. 

 

All companies, not just those in commercial real estate, need to be really thoughtful about what they do in the future, especially those people who have taken the stimulus loans, such as the PPP loans. You have certain requirements that you have to certify in order to go through the application process, but I also believe there’s going to be heavy oversight to limit the potential of fraud.

 

This has forced a lot of people to pivot their business model, and I think that some of the things that people have come up with are amazing, and a true credit to the ingenuity of the entrepreneur. I see nothing but positives after this is done. I really don’t see any negatives.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://www.flsv.com/

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

By: Felipe Rivas

Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of conducting business during the coronavirus landscape. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19 related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus. 

 

In South Florida, a region hit particularly hard by coronavirus, real estate professionals are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 to the market while analyzing current and future opportunities. “Simply put, the South Florida industrial real estate market is healthy, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” Miami Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Gian Rodriguez told Invest: Miami. When you factor in the scarcity of developable industrially-zoned land, a growing population, single-digit vacancy rates, steady air and sea cargo volumes from our ports, as well as positive lease absorption of industrial product, it’s no wonder the major institutional owners and occupiers have a large stake in our market,” he said. These factors coupled with demand for e-commerce provide opportunities for distribution, logistics and warehousing subsectors in Miami-Dade County. “With the onset of COVID-19, we’ve only seen an increase in demand for well-located distribution space, further spurred-on by stay-at-home mandates which have only bolstered online orders.  Just take a look around, there are UPS, FedEx, DHL and Amazon trucks rolling down our streets almost on an hourly basis, and each one of those come from a warehouse within our market,” Rodriguez said. 

New construction will likely experience a growth in demand as population growth continues in South Florida and residents settle into the suburbs and other communities away from the downtown areas. “While we are only in the early innings of the COVID-19 impact on real estate, we are following several trends closely. New construction may have an advantage over existing, as residents will likely equate “new” with “clean and safe,” Lesley Deutch, principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Palm Beach, told Invest: Palm Beach. “We are also anticipating a trend we call ‘the Great American Move.’  For safety reasons, financial prospects, life change improvements, personal comfort, or employment, we expect a surge in household and business relocations that will provide new strategic opportunities for the real estate market,” she said. This trend will likely create opportunities for real estate developers, investors and home builders. “New construction can incorporate technology such as air purification and touchless lighting which will appeal to future residents. A stronger focus on health and wellness will translate into new housing product with better home offices or private workspaces in apartments, flexibility for multigenerational living, private outdoor space, and a preference for functionality over design appeal in the home,” she said.   

 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://www.realestateconsulting.com/

https://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en/united-states/people/gian-rodriguez

 

 

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Shrinking office space has led companies to focus more on the rehabilitation and renovation of Palm Beach’s office space. Angelo Bianco, managing partner of Crocker Partners, walks Invest: through the main trends in the office niche, how it imbues sustainability and resilience into its projects and why Boca Raton is the buoyant business center it is today.

 

 

What is your take on the evolution of the office sector in Palm Beach?

Palm Beach County’s office market has not changed as much as others. Office users by and large have not changed. Even considering new trends such as co-working spaces, it makes up a small fraction of our portfolio. We have observed tenants in Palm Beach County making an effort to reduce their square footage per employee, parallel with technological advances. The need for law firms to have file storage, for instance, has declined dramatically. We still see the desire for private offices and a significant portion of traditional office use. Some companies have switched to open offices, but the pendulum is swinging back even faster now due to the pandemic. The trend to create more private offices and more square feet per employee will offset the impact from the other trend we expect following the coronavirus crises: more telecommuting. Although technology has changed the need for space, the human condition has not changed. People still appreciate privacy and separation from their co-workers.  

What primary factors explain these preferences?

Our Palm Beach portfolio consists of 3 million square feet of office space. Most of our tenants have renovated their space over the past 10 years. Even though firms have grown since the 2008 crisis, their footprint has not gotten larger than it used to be because they use the same office space much more efficiently. Shortly before the coronavirus crisis, we reached the point where employment gains fueled by the longest economic expansion in our history backfilled the space lost during that last downturn.

We are on the cusp of a new disruption with the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news for office landlords is that tenants have already reduced their space needs per employee significantly and during this past economic expansion have not taken additional space for growth. Although some office tenants will be significantly impacted by the pandemic, office tenants and their landlords should be in a good position to weather this storm.

How do you view the residential and industrial sectors?

During the first 10 years of our company’s existence, we developed and invested in many property types: hotels, multifamily, retail, office and industrial. Over the years, we specialized in office buildings primarily and although our business has done quite well as a result, the over concentration in one product type has prevented us from participating in the significant growth experienced in multifamily and industrial property over the last 10 years, particularly in Palm Beach. Despite the recent impact on the multifamily market, we believe that this sector will continue to benefit from the constant inflow of people moving into the area who require housing. This is the same reason that we are bullish on industrial. The Southeast region of the United States is an area that continues to see fast-paced growth in employment and population so investing in front of that is critical. 

What is your assessment of the up-and-coming Boca Raton market?

Boca Raton is by far the biggest employment base in the county. It dwarfs any other market. If you took all the office space in West Palm Beach and doubled it, you would still fall short of where Boca Raton is positioned. It has been a business hub for decades and will continue to be an attractive place for companies to headquarter. The quality of life is phenomenal, plus it has an unparalleled access in Palm Beach County to an incredibly well-educated, well-informed workforce. This is part of the reason we have been headquartered there for 35 years.

What is Crocker Partners’ outlook for 2020?

2020 is going to be a muted year. Any noncritical, ongoing investment project is likely to be delayed until 2021. Everything has stopped dead in its tracks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Regardless of when businesses restart, it takes time to remobilize, meaning projects will not realistically recommence any sooner than 4Q20. The delay will be made worse by the fact that everyone will want to restart their projects at the same time. By Q121, we expect to be back to business as usual. We expect to spend much of the remainder of 2020 focusing on ensuring a safe workplace environment for our tenants. In April, we formed a Remobilization Task Force headed by our director of construction and development and consisting of senior regional managers in consultation with our vendors and contractors to review and implement governmental and industry guidelines and evaluate best practices and potential capital improvements to facilitate a healthy work environment. We are also in the process of hiring a full-time director of environmental health who will absorb the responsibilities of the Remobilization Task Force on a permanent basis and research and implement physical changes and protocols with the hope of making our buildings the paragon of environmentally health and safety in the industry.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://crockerpartners.com/

 

Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020Affordable housing, business and economic development are issues at the heart of every buoyant city. Michael Simon, executive director of the Boynton Beach CRA, goes over the different projects and initiatives in place for the city to continue its growth despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

What is Boynton Beach CRA’s contribution to Palm Beach?

The Boynton Beach CRA is tasked with community development, whether that is in the form of affordable and workforce housing, business and economic development, or physical redevelopment, such as mixed-use projects,  streets, parks and sidewalks. For the last 15-plus years, the CRA has been heavily focused on physical and economic redevelopment, as well as affordable housing. That has taken various forms, including business promotion events and assisting with the development of a $70-million, 354-unit mixed-use project with commercial space on Ocean Avenue. Recently, we’ve done a lot on affordable housing. We have 123 units going up that should open toward January 2021. There is another ongoing project with the Centennial Management Corporation for another mixed-use project in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard redevelopment corridor.

 

Our business development activities have intensified due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but we have always offered commercial improvement grants focused on our businesses and matching grants for façade improvements, interior buildout and rent-reimbursement programs to assist businesses in the first year of their lease. Our matching grants go as far as 50 percent of their lease rent, up to a maximum of $1,750. We pumped several million dollars over the last two years into those programs and have assisted 85 businesses since 2015. 

 

How has the Downtown area benefited from these initiatives?

The CRA district, which extends along the federal highway corridor, lacks the commercial spine that Delray Beach, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach have. Boynton has a small main street called Ocean Avenue that has a mix of existing residential and commercial units. All of the infill redevelopment projects have been focused on the main hub corners. We are focusing our efforts on recreating our Downtown in the sense that people are used to thinking of one. 

 

How have your affordable housing efforts been received?

We have been really blessed on different fronts. First of all, finding the land. The CRA made major land investments in 2005-6, one of which was purchasing 8 acres on North Seacrest Boulevard. That provided an opportunity for single-family and multifamily space. We built 21 homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and the  Boynton Beach Faith-based CDC on half of those acres. Affordable multifamily rental apartments are being built on the remaining 4 acres. Like most towns, we have a higher need for affordable rentals and ownership properties. We showed creativity in those projects as we distanced from the usual use of down payment funding, resorting to land acquisition instead and turning it over as the subsidy to the nonprofit developer to build the housing. The rental side is a difficult market to get into for affordable builders. It is hard for them to find financing.

 

What local partnerships have you put in place to meet your objectives?

We have a good relationship with CareerSource of Palm Beach County. We have relied on them during our job fairs and to assist with our placements. They are a big player in Palm Beach County and the Business Development Board has an excellent relationship with them as well. South Tech, an academic institution, provides marine technology degrees and certifications, as well as for plumbing, automotive and electrical. We are looking to partner with them more in the future through their relationship with the city and feed those graduates and school alumni into these larger construction projects within the CRA district. 

 

How has the CRA reacted to the COVID-19 landscape?

The CRA took immediate action just prior to the shutdown and remains active during the pandemic. We are reaching out personally to our grant recipients and local businesses to maintain a line of communication as the economic activity reopens to remain attentive to their needs, address their fears and assist them in any way possible. We designed and implemented a Small Business Disaster Relief Forgivable Loan program, totaling $500,000 for maximum loans of $10,000 each. If the loan is spent on eligible payroll, utilities and inventory for their business within one year of the loan date, we can turn the forgivable loan into a grant, provided the required justifying documentation is presented. We released the funding on April 23 and by April 24, we received  about 100 applications and issued the funds in less than a week. 

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.catchboynton.com/