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Billionaire developer Jeff Greene has high hopes for West Palm Beach twin towers

Once abandoned mid-construction in midst of pandemic, One West Palm project resumes, bringing about continued change to city's skyline
Posted at 5:33 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 20:50:45-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — They can be seen from almost anywhere in downtown West Palm Beach, as well as to drivers along Interstate 95.

For almost a year, they were nothing more than a structural skeleton as work came to a halt.

But now construction has resumed on the project known as One West Palm.

The twin building, 30-story structures are one part residential and one part hotel and office space.

It's billionaire developer Jeff Greene's creation -- $250 million worth.

Jeff Greene looks out into West Palm Beach as he stands on unfinished balcony of high-rise towers
Jeff Greene looks out into the city as he stands on the balcony of one of his two unfinished high-rise towers in downtown West Palm Beach.

Greene recently gave WPTV a tour of the buildings once again under construction.

"You know, at this point in my life, everything I do has to be something I'm proud of," Greene said.

For several months last year, however, it might not have seemed that way.

Construction came to an abrupt halt early on during the coronavirus pandemic as Greene attempted to scale back on the office space plan.

Jeff Greene's unfinished twin towers in West Palm Beach as seen from other side of Intracoastal Waterway
Jeff Greene's One West Palm twin towers project can be seen from the opposite end of the Intracoastal Waterway.

When the city balked, work stopped.

"Everyone notices," Schanelle Tonge told WPTV. "They want to know what's happening and why it's not going up fast enough. When it first started, it was so incredible how fast it moved."

Downtown workers told WPTV they would often look at the buildings, wondering if it would ever be completed.

looking up at Jeff Greene twin towers in downtown West Palm Beach
Jeff Greene's high-rise buildings under construction in downtown West Palm Beach tower high above the city skyline.

"When the pandemic hit, I kind of went into panic mode, like a lot of people, and, let's face it, I mean, I was building 200,000 feet of spec office space and 200 rooms of hotel rooms … with a tremendous amount of meeting space at a time when the whole world was canceling their meetings and giving up their office space," Greene said.

Greene resumed construction in December.

Now, he said, the buildings are drawing plenty of interest, including from a hedge fund manager who wanted to tour the unfinished towers.

The buildings offer a picturesque view of the Intracoastal Waterway, neighboring Palm Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

view of Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean from top of Jeff Greene's twin towers in West Palm Beach
This is the view of the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean from the top of one of Jeff Greene's high-rise buildings.

West Palm Beach appeared to be one of the pre-pandemic hot spots when it came to northern firms looking to relocate to South Florida.

"I think that trend is continuing," Eric Hochman, chief investment officer at a Boca Raton-based real estate development firm, told WPTV. "I think, you know, generally, companies are focused on Palm Beach and Miami, and we see new, continued focus on Boca Raton as well."

Hochman said he doesn't see it slowing down anytime soon.

"I'm absolutely confident that we will rent all of our office space," Greene said. "There's no question that we'll rent it. The question is how long will it take and what kind of rents will we get?"

Greene managed to build beyond the city's height limit.

Jeff Greene's twin towers are 30 stories tall, exceeding West Palm Beach height limit
Jeff Greene's unfinished twin towers are 30 stories tall, exceeding West Palm Beach's height limit.

"Tall buildings get more views," he said.

The office building is taller because of higher ceilings, Greene said.

"So the views are unobstructed in almost every direction," he said.

view of downtown West Palm Beach with Jeff Greene's unfinished twin towers
The shells of Jeff Greene's twin towers can be seen in this view of downtown West Palm Beach.

Greene's addition to the West Palm Beach skyline is further proof of his belief in the growth of the city.

"I'm a total believer in this community," Greene said. "The reason I became such an aggressive real estate investor is because I saw this as an unpolished gem."