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Wynwood Developer Plans 12-Acre Mixed-Use District In West Palm Beach

Joe Furst made a name for himself in Miami working for Goldman Properties, where he was instrumental in the transformation of Wynwood from a gritty industrial area to an artsy district. In 2018, Furst left his role as Goldman's managing director to start his own venture, Place Projects, and now he has another area of redevelopment in his sights.

The principals of West Palm Beach-based real estate and hospitality firm NDT Development sought out Furst for his expertise in Wynwood and teamed up with him to co-develop Nora, a mixed-use district on 12 acres in West Palm encompassing 72 individual properties. But Furst told Bisnow the development will in no way be just an attempt at another Wynwood, as it will embrace its own unique local history and character. 

Renderings of the planned Nora District in West Palm Beach

The developers acquired downtown land just north of the central business district, bordered by Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to the north, North Dixie Highway to the east, Quadrille Boulevard to the south and the Florida East Coast Railway to the west. They have developed a comprehensive master plan with the city of West Palm Beach and urban planning firm PlusUrbia.

The district will be called Nora, for North Railroad Avenue. First, the developers plan to redevelop about 100K SF of commercial properties along the avenue to create a Main Street with restaurants, retail and office. A second phase will bring residential density and more commercial spaces.

Furst emphasized place-based development, which he said means thinking about the context and ensuring that the project is relevant to its surroundings and its history. The Palm Beach area was transformed from swampland largely because Henry Flagler built a railroad and a hotel that spurred development at the turn of the 20th century. The population of West Palm Beach quadrupled from 1920 to 1927; many downtown buildings were built in this era and have a historical charm. 

The Nora project will incorporate about a dozen industrial buildings along North Railroad Avenue slated for adaptive reuse; about 50 parcels, many of them now vacant, between 10th Street and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard where vertical development is planned; and single-family homes and duplexes between Eighth Street and 10th Street that will remain, preserving the character of the neighborhood.

The developers have worked closely with the city of West Palm Beach to redevelop the area, which is currently called the Brelsford Park District. They got the OK from the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency to be reimbursed for $15M of infrastructure improvements through a tax increment refund last week, and the city, rather than the developers, will be the applicant asking for needed zoning changes, Furst said. 

"Clearly, Downtown West Palm is going through a high-growth cycle," Furst said, pointing to projects like Related Cos.' redevelopment of Rosemary Square.

Billionaire Jeff Greene is developing a mixed-use project called One West Palm and is planning to develop acreage in the Northwood neighborhood. Related Group is developing waterfront towers, and Tricera Capital is redeveloping the Palm Beach Post's former site. Officials have greenlighted a University of Florida satellite campus, and Clematis Street remains a main shopping drag. Furst said the different pieces of the city complement each other. 

“As a team deeply rooted in the Palm Beach area, we are witnessing a readiness and desire for a new kind of neighborhood in West Palm Beach’s urban core," NDT co-founder and Managing Partner Ned Grace said in a statement. "The tailwind from the migration of industry leaders from around the country is adding fuel to this new demand, and Nora is the missing piece of West Palm Beach’s Downtown.”

The warehouse portion of the project could finish by April 2023 and the rest could take 15 to 20 years, depending on how the city evolves, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Other projects that Furst is working on include the development of 545 Wyn, Sterling Bay's 300K SF office in Wynwood and a condo project in Brickell with Largo Development and Aria; operation of Doral Yard, a 22K SF outdoor food and entertainment mecca; a partnership with Tricera Capital for a retail portfolio in St. Petersburg; and a land assemblage on the 22nd Street corridor in St. Petersburg where he hopes to build transit-oriented developments.