The 60-year-old co-op with 22 units sold for $29 million. Photos provided
By John Pacenti
Duncan Burke fell in love some 50 years ago with the understated individually owned apartments next to Ocean Club of Florida. His godparents owned in Ocean Maisonettes across the street and he bought into the apartments.
“My wife and I loved it. It was small but wonderful,” said Burke, who travels around the globe but is based in Greenwich, Connecticut. But Burke and the other owners at 6855 N. Ocean Blvd. in Ocean Ridge decided to say goodbye. The oceanside complex sold for $29 million on Oct. 18, according to Palm Beach County official records. The money will be split among owners according to the size of their units, 22 in all. The 60-year-old building was a co-op, meaning that to sell it, all owners of the studio and one-bedroom units had to agree. Owners had already agreed not to inhabit the property recently as repairs mounted.
“It ends a long period of uncertainty as to what to do about the building, which was frustrating,” Burke said. “It was bittersweet for those of us who have been down there with family since the 1970s.”
New construction along Ocean Boulevard — be it condominiums or multimillion-dollar spec mansions — represents a confluence of spiking land values, an influx of new year-round residents and new regulations ushered in by the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside in June 2021.
The sale of the co-op apartments (within dotted lines) to an affiliate of the Edwards Cos. has generated buzz about what’s next, including the possibility that luxury condos will be built.
It is “Logan’s Run” for aging complexes that once were the backbone of the area’s charm. The co-op follows the path of Wright by the Sea, the historic Delray Beach hotel that sold four years ago for $25 million to make way for the ultramodern Ocean Delray condominiums.
With more than 200 feet of direct ocean frontage, the co-op possesses the same allure of unobstructed ocean views that made Wright by the Sea desirable.
The new owner of the apartments — or more important, the 2.1 acres they sit upon — is an affiliate of Edwards Cos., a Columbus, Ohio-based family-owned holding company that advertises a host of developments: mixed-use urban, multifamily, student housing, condominium construction.
It is the mixed-use part that has some Ocean Ridge residents alarmed.
The Edwards Cos., under a limited liability corporation, also is behind Delray Beach’s Atlantic Crossing, a $300 million multiuse project slated to have offices, shops, restaurants and condos.
The company did not respond to an email for comment.
Also, the Ocean Club — the beach and tennis club next door to the co-op — would not talk about the sale.
Betty Bingham’s father — former Ocean Ridge Mayor H. Peirce Brawner — was one of the original members of the Ocean Club. She said there is plenty of concern among Ocean Ridge residents about what the Edwards Cos. will construct.
“I doubt seriously they will be able to put stores and offices,” said Bingham, who is not an Ocean Club member.
Ocean Ridge interim Town Manager Lynne Ladner said the zoning is high-density residential multifamily. There is a height restriction of four stories.
“There has been no permit pulled. They have not started any land development with our building department,” Ladner said. “They haven’t done anything but change ownership. There has been no discussion with the town.
“We have quite a few people who are asking about it and I am telling them the same thing.”
The Edwards Cos. isn’t talking, but the affable lawyer who helped manage the sale said the plans will be to construct up to 20 luxury condominiums after the razing of the old apartments.
The lawyer, Brad Capas, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield, said necessary repairs in the wake of the Surfside collapse were going to be costly for owners of the apartments.
“Nobody wants a repeat so everybody is paying attention to it,” he said. “In this particular case, residents were not full-time and did not want to pay to do the capital improvements to pass inspections.”
New regs for old buildings
They are not alone. Coastal residential buildings are reckoning with the Surfside tragedy, forcing residents to incur hefty assessments for upgrades or repairs.
The Florida Legislature ushered in reforms last session, mandating that condos and co-ops three stories or taller and within 3 miles of the coast must have a “milestone inspection” 25 years after opening and every 10 years thereafter. The first inspection for those farther from the coast would be 30 years.
Condo associations must have enough money in their reserves by 2025 to fund all necessary repairs to maintain the structural integrity of their buildings. Ocean Ridge Management, which managed the apartments, did not have any comment and efforts to reach board members on the exact nature of pending repairs were unsuccessful.
“It’s my understanding that the owners voluntarily moved out — out of an abundance of caution,” Capas said.
There were about five serious bidders for the property, but Capas said it was a complex sale because of the zoning restrictions on it, such as height and easement.
“The site planning of the property, the design of the building, is a little complicated because there are some obstacles that they have to work through,” Capas said.
He estimated that the new condominiums will run about $2,000 per square foot — about the same as at the recently completed Ocean Delray.
Former Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel said Ocean Ridge is no different from barrier island communities throughout South Florida.
“The market value of the land and aging buildings are prompting some developers to come in and take an interest,” he said.
“That has been happening for quite some time. It is completely different than it was 30 years ago. The pandemic just put it on hyperdrive.”
Realtor Nick Malinosky said seasonal residents have been increasingly replaced with families moving primarily from the Northeast, California and Chicago and staying year-round.
He said these older buildings’ time has come.
“They’re ugly to look at, the windows are small. Typically, the vegetation in the landscape isn’t great,” Malinosky said.
“The development, assuming it stays within the standard zoning and regulations, will be a great improvement to the area.”
Duncan Burke represented the typical resident of the apartments. Burke said he and his family used it for two or three weeks in March, maybe a weekend in November and another weekend around New Year’s Day.
It was certainly enough time to create some great family memories.
“It was about as nice as it gets in Florida around there,” he said.