By Dan Moffett and Mary Thurwachter
Up and down the coastal communities, from the condo walls of South Palm Beach, to the mobile homes of Briny Breezes, to the old polo homes of Gulf Stream, a common question resonates from neighbor to neighbor.
“When is that Publix going to open in Manalapan?”
No one has heard it more than Stephanie Young, the marketing director for Manalapan’s Plaza del Mar, where a $10 million renovation is nearing completion, anchored by the supermarket chain’s new 28,000-square-foot store.
Construction is on schedule and so is a grand opening in June.
“Publix gets the keys to the building in June,” Young said. “And everybody can’t wait. We’re all very excited.”
The excitement of new development along the coast isn’t confined to Manalapan. A half-mile north, South Palm Beach is awaiting the opening later this year of a 30-unit luxury condo building at 3550 South Ocean, the site of the old Hawaiian Inn hotel. With unit prices between $2 million and $6 million, the project could increase the town’s tax base by 30 percent or more.
“It definitely will raise property values,” said Mayor Bonnie Fischer, “and boost sales in other buildings more actively than we’ve seen in a number of years.”
The project is a joint venture by New York-based DDG and developer Gary Cohen’s Boca Raton-based Paragon Acquisition Group, and Fischer says the developers have “tried very hard to accommodate the town” during construction.
Christine Mang, who lives next door in the Tuscany condominiums, said the 3550 is a welcome improvement over the dilapidated hotel. Recently the developers offered to install a Japanese garden as a buffer for Tuscany residents.
“The Hawaiian, the Ocean Inn, was falling apart,” Mang said. “Anything will look better there than what we had before. Will it increase the value of our property? I would say yes.”
South Palm Beach Councilwoman Stella Gaddy Jordan hopes the stylish architecture of the 3550 will inspire neighboring condo associations to renovate their 1970s-era exteriors.
“I hope that seeing the modern design will make some of our other buildings want to modernize, too,” Jordan said. “It’s a good thing for our town.”
Two projects boost Lantana
Meanwhile, across the bridge in Lantana, a fishing village with small-town appeal is growing and becoming even more appealing, Mayor Dave Stewart says. Two potentially transformative projects are underway. The larger one, Water Tower Commons, a 72-acre retail and residential project east of Interstate 95 on Lantana Road, is expected to bring shops, restaurants, offices and residential units to the town.
“Water Tower Commons will be a gateway to our town and the whole surrounding area,” Stewart said. “The development will be a great employment center for businesses and a place where people can live, work and play in the community.”
The second major project, Aura Seaside, a high-end apartment complex north of Hypoluxo Road on the east side of Dixie Highway, will offer 248 rental units and 10,000 square feet of office space. The 10-acre waterfront property, across from the Kmart Shopping Center, was home to the Cenacle Spiritual Life Center for 52 years. Trinsic Residential Group is the developer.
“Aura Seaside is very near total completion and it will be a great addition in the eastern portion of our town,” Stewart said. “It can have a positive effect for the Dixie Highway corridor.”
Lantana Chamber of Commerce President Dave Arm is full of optimism about both developments.
“The new residential developments at Water Tower Commons and Aura Seaside are welcome additions to Lantana,” Arm said. “We’re hoping that these modern, upscale communities will attract many young, affluent individuals and families to our town.”
Arm said Lantana’s small-town seaside image will be “enhanced by an influx of new people who will appreciate the charm of the town. We hope that many of them will eventually purchase homes and set down roots here.”
Water Tower Commons is the biggest development in Lantana’s 96-year history, according to David Thatcher, the town’s development services director. The site plan for the residential portion was approved in January and permit applications are expected in a month or two, Thatcher says.
The project, on the site of the former A.G. Holley tuberculosis hospital, is from Lantana Development, a partnership between Southeast Legacy and Wexford Capital. The residential portion of the project, on 16 acres, is being managed by the Related Group, a leading private developer with 40 years of building and managing high-quality communities throughout the world. Ten years ago, the Related Group built the Moorings about a mile away along the Intracoastal Waterway in Lantana.
“The addition of a company like the Related Group for the residential end, based on their history, should have a positive effect for not only Lantana but all the surrounding areas,” Stewart said.
Construction on the retail portion of Water Tower Commons is about a year behind schedule, in part because of the challenging retail environment, developers say. But construction on the first phase of the residential portion, to include 360 apartments in 14 buildings, will begin this year.
“It’s exciting to see these projects, as well as many other new sites that are planned or already under construction on Lantana Road and Dixie, including the new stores at the Winn-Dixie/Kmart center on Dixie and Hypoluxo,” Arm said. “The seaside fishing village nature of Lantana will remain intact, while this commercial and residential construction attracts new businesses and residents, and increases the tax base of our town.”
Customized Publix welcome
Manalapan’s Publix is expected to draw significant numbers of shoppers from Lantana and other communities across the bridge. Winning approval for the store wasn’t all that easy for Kitson & Partners, the Plaza del Mar landlord. It took more than a year of haggling with Manalapan commissioners and residents to agree on the supermarket’s architectural details and operating rules.
“The addition of this industry-leading grocer to the property has been critical to the redevelopment of Plaza del Mar,” said Tom Hoban, president and chief investment officer at Kitson. “We at Kitson & Partners would like to thank the town of Manalapan, its residents and Publix for their hard work. Without everyone’s cooperation and collaboration this would have never become a reality.”
Manalapan Mayor Keith Waters helped broker final concessions from Publix over sign designs last summer, and the town gave the project the green light.
“The grocer is creating a unique store to this market that does not exist in its portfolio today,” said Kitson retail Vice President Matt Buehler. “It’s not a stock set of plans that came off the shelf.”
Besides adding the Publix, Kitson will give the mall a sweeping facelift, adding dozens of royal palms and new LED lighting. The plan is to turn a struggling plaza into a trendy boutique mall with an equally trendy boutique grocery store that appeals to high-end shoppers such as those in South Palm Beach’s 3550 condo.