West Palm Beach In Need Of Premium Office Space

, Daily Business Review

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Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. This is the southern end of the new proposed financial district, anchored on the left by the Esparante building.
Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. This is the southern end of the new proposed financial district, anchored on the left by the Esparante building.

West Palm Beach is "essentially out of Class A" office space as it moves to ramp up the number of financial services firms doing business in the city, economic development director Chris Roog said.

That's why city officials and the Palm Beach County Business Development Board say West Palm Beach urgently needs premium office space if it's to continue pursuing hedge funds, private equity firms and other financial services companies.

Roog said the calls come often from interested companies. He fields about six calls per month from U.S. financial services firms, with at least one group touring the city's Class A office space to scout potential relocation spots. His latest proposal—nicknamed Project Sphere because of confidentiality agreements between the city and potential investors—comes from a company looking to move to West Palm Beach this year.

But city officials and those responsible for marketing West Palm Beach say there's little room for new tenants.

"It's telling that the city is essentially out of office space," Roog said. "The last time we took a tour of office space, I had three spaces to show. That was last month, which means that the city is essentially out of Class A."

Prospects typically want 6,000 to 20,000 square feet of Class A space, but some also consider older offices for lower overhead and the potential to create unique and open work environments.

Already, financial services firms are among the largest users of the city office space, occupying more than 198,200 square feet of Palm Beach's 5.5 million square feet of office inventory, and employing about 4,000 people, or about 8.5 percent of the city's workforce.

"We very much hope that we get some more Class A office space built," said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board.

Working with city staff, the board has been recruiting firms to stimulate the economy by creating high-paying white-collar jobs and boost demand for upscale housing and office space.

Financial District

In January, Mayor Jeri Muoio unveiled the Flagler Financial District—a new name and brand for a large portion of downtown with a cluster of banks and financial institutions. The district runs from Okeechobee Boulevard to Sixth Street and from Flagler Drive to Rosemary Avenue. The goal, the mayor said, was to draw attention to the brisk business already taking place in that quadrant of the city and attract new firms to speed anticipated development expected west of Quadrille Boulevard.

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