Eastwind Development has promised Palm Beach Gardens officials that if they allow 136 apartments, 14 will be rented at rates that police, firefighters, teachers and nurses can afford.
PALM BEACH GARDENS — A Palm Beach Gardens developer wants to build apartments on land once slated for a six-story office building.
The question is how many apartments Eastwind Development will be allowed to build in City Centre, a commercial development at the corner of PGA Boulevard and Ellison Wilson Road. Right now, the number is zero.
If the city council makes changes to allow a mix of residential and commercial development, the developer could build 95 apartments, Palm Beach Gardens Planning & Zoning Director Natalie Crowley said.
But the developer is hoping to build 136 apartments in the planned Solera at City Centre because he’s promised to include 14 that police officers, firefighters, teachers and government employees can afford.
It’s up to the city council whether to approve the additional apartments on the 3-acre parcel in the southwest corner of City Centre, which also is home to Twisted Trunk Brewing, Sara’s Kitchen and PNC Bank. City Centre is roughly 14 acres.
Eastwind Development President Jack Weir said he wants this to become a template for developers in northern Palm Beach County and the county as a whole. He’s also trying to show investors that projects with workforce housing, also called essential services housing, make less risky investments. Tenants rent them out faster and stay longer, he said.
“It contributes to the health of the community when people can live near where they work, where their children go to school, where they shop,” said Weir, who also is a board member of the Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County, a nonprofit organization that works on housing affordability issues.
It also benefits Business Development Board officials to have a variety of housing options when they’re trying to attract new businesses to Palm Beach County, Weir said.
City Centre is across from an unincorporated pocket where county officials approved 70 yet-to-be-built condos along the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Solera at City Centre apartments would generate less traffic than the commercial development approved for the site, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, according to the developer’s application. The city approved a 57,300-square-foot office building, but it was never built.
The apartments would range from 700 square feet for a one-bedroom to 1,250 square feet for a three-bedroom. Most would be one or two bedrooms. All would have 9-foot ceilings, tile and wood plank flooring, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and conservation features to slash utility bills.
Eastwind plans to rent the apartments for working people for $1,525 to $1,775 a month, according to the development application. The rental rates will float, but the goal is to keep them $100 to $150 below the market rate for one-bedroom apartments and $200 to $250 below the going rate for the two-bedroom apartments, Weir said.
Eastwind put the property under contract in July. Weir said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from disclosing the sale price because the deal with City Centre Associates had not closed.
Although the City Centre isn’t within a quarter-mile radius of the future Tri-Rail station where experts have encouraged workforce housing, it is in a Palm Tran service area, Crowley said. It’s also within walking distance of grocery stores, restaurants and shops.
“We really like this location,” he said. “One of the things that we look for is walkability.”
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