West Palm Beach quickly becoming 'Wall Street South' as northeast firms relocate to South Florida

'This market is growing,' developer Jeff Greene says
Downtown West Palm Beach
Posted at 5:01 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 18:49:38-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — West Palm Beach's new nickname of "Wall Street South" seems to only be gaining momentum as yet another office tower is being proposed downtown.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County confirmed reports that a new tower will be located next door to a recently opened office building at 260 Rosemary Ave.

RELATED: Middle-class residents being squeezed out of Palm Beach Co.

West Palm Beach lately has become a developer's dream, but for some small businesses that have been here a long time, it could be a nightmare.

John Ries, owner of Hot Pie Pizza in West Palm Beach, Sept. 14, 2022
John Ries is a downtown business owner who fears the new development may force his business out of town.

John Ries, who owns Hot Pie Pizza on Olive Avenue, remembers when the downtown area wasn't exactly the place to be.

"2006, 2009, during the real estate crisis, this town was like a desert," Ries said.

Now Ries' location is hot, along with any other available block downtown.

Headlines are calling West Palm Beach "Wall Street South" because many northeast firms are eyeing the city for a warm change. Those big companies include BlackRock and Goldman Sachs.

"It's certainly become a lot busier in West Palm Beach," local developer Jeff Greene said. "This market's growing."

Greene has two towers under construction downtown — one residential and one business space.

He also has a private school that he said is near capacity and expanding because of relocated professional families.

Developer Jeff Greene, Sept. 14, 2022
Developer Jeff Greene outlines how West Palm Beach's development continues to grow in multiple facets.

"We started this school because we felt that our market needed to have a school on par with the finest schools in New York and Boston and Los Angeles," Greene said. "The kinds of families moving here are world-class parents. They've gone to the best colleges, super high achievers, and they are moving to our community."

All this fast growth does come at a cost to people like Ries, who said the squeeze of rising rents and pressure to leave is immense.

"It's definitely going to be an enclave for the rich," Ries said. "What built this town and what built this county was the middle-class, hardworking people of this county, and now they're saying, 'Thank you very much, but here's a kick in the butt.'"

The pizza owner said the growth is adding new pressure on him and other business owners.

"Mom and pop are getting pushed out unless you want to charge $15 for a glass of wine," Ries said.

Kelly Smallridge with the Business Development Board said there are 1.5 million square feet of office either under construction or on the drawing board for West Palm Beach.

She said firms are coming here and aren't just dipping a toe in the sand.

"These companies are signing eight- to 10-year leases," Smallridge said.

Smallridge said there is still a steady stream of Wall Street firms looking at moving to West Palm Beach in the next year.