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Deal may be near for high-rise at CityPlace

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Darcie Lunsford

After aborting plans to build an office tower in 2001, CityPlace developers may be nearing a deal at last to begin construction on a $30 million high-rise as early as next year.

The New York-based owners of the retail, residential and entertainment center in the heart of West Palm Beach are close to announcing a deal with Mizner Park developer Tom Crocker to erect the $550 million mixed-use center's first office tower, according to sources familiar with the talks.

CityPlace partner Ken Himmel, reached in his New York office, declined to confirm the Crocker deal.

"There will be a press release within the week," Himmel said. "I am not saying anything."

But news of the deal is spreading as Crocker and CityPlace officials explore the legalities of possibly altering CityPlace's land lease to accommodate an outside developer.

The 72-acre site that houses CityPlace is owned by the city and leased to CityPlace Partners for $20 million over 75 years.

"I know that they have been meeting and negotiating," said Nancy Graham, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority. She declined to provide details of the pending deal or its structure, except to say that the pair "should do one hell of a signature office building."

So far, no specific plans have been filed, but the site is approved for a 284,000-square-foot building as tall as 15 stories, according to Eric Schneider, a senior planner with the city.

"I do know that CityPlace had put out a bid system for someone to come in," Schneider said. He, too, was aware of Crocker's interest in developing the site.

Crocker declined comment through a CityPlace publicist, but officials for the developer had already scheduled a meeting with Neil Merin, the West Palm Beach real estate broker that leased CityPlace's aborted tower.

That proposed 260,000-square-foot tower was slated to go up on the same Okeechobee Boulevard site along the southeastern edge of the existing retail and movie theater complex before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The tower was about half pre-leased when CityPlace developers pulled the plug.

Developing a high-profile CityPlace office building is in keeping with Crocker's strategy for CRT Properties (NYSE: CRO), which is rebranding itself as an upscale office REIT.

Crocker took the helm of suburban office operator Koger Equity more than four years ago. He relocated the Jacksonville-based REIT to Mizner Park, sold off many of its less-than-posh office assets, renamed it and has been trying to acquire an asset on the REIT's home turf.

Assigning any ownership interest in a CityPlace building to Crocker would require the land lease to be amended and approved by city commissioners, according to assistant city attorney Hal Bradford, who was contacted by Crocker staffers gathering information about the CityPlace lease.

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I was wondering when I was going to hear some news about this. I had heard that id Cityplace didn't break ground by 2005, they'd have to give that land back to the city, so I think they're focused to go through with it. I'm looking forward to a rendering.

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CRT, Related Team for $90M Office Tower

By Melissa Bogdany

Last updated: Friday, October 15, 2004 11:00am

WEST PALM BEACH-CRT Properties of Boca Raton and the Related Cos. of New York in a joint venture are planning to develop a $90-million, 20-story, class A office tower in Downtown.

The 335,000-sf building, called CityPlace Tower set to rise at the southern end of CityPlace, will be the first major new office building Downtown in 15 years. CityPlace is a $600-million, 72-acre, urban mixed-use project that the Related Cos. developed. The site of the planned tower is opposite the new Palm Beach County Convention Center.

The project, scheduled to be completed in 2007, is part of CRT Properties

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