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Plan to build high-rise in West Palm Beach causing controversy

Posted at 5:23 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 04:10:22-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After two years of debates and delays, a 25-story office tower has been approved to be built in downtown West Palm Beach.

The proposed tower known as One Flagler by Related Companies was approved by the Downtown Action Committee on Wednesday night.

No matter which way you look, you can’t help but see cars around the Okeechobee Boulevard corridor on S. Flagler Drive.

"If anybody would spend the time here, morning, afternoon and evening, the build up of traffic, the vehicles coming out of the different buildings, the Palm Beach crowd coming across at 5, 6 o’clock in the evening tells you there’s a big traffic problem," Gail Levine said.

Now Levine, a 30-year resident, is worried it will only get worse.

"I think you are taking away from the charm of the city. You are building on spaces that are way to small," Levine said.

The lot, which is 400 feet from the waterfront, was previously zoned for only five stories.

In 2018, commissioners voted to override that rule, creating what’s now called the Okeechobee Business District. That move was met with some concern from residents like Levine who called it "spot zoning," and saying it felt like a special deal was made just for this project.

Gopal Rajegowda, the Senior Vice President of Related Companies, released the following statement about the approval of the project:

"We are very pleased with the vote from yesterday’s DAC meeting, and are excited to continue to work alongside the community and the City of West Palm Beach on the thoughtful development of One Flagler. We are committed to our investments in downtown West Palm and look forward to moving this project along."

Gary Hines with the Business Development Board said they have high-end businesses looking to make the move to Palm Beach County. However, he said they are not only looking for good weather and low taxes, they want a luxury building in a prime location.

"If the trend continues that we’ve seen in the past two to three years, there’s definitely going to be a need for more Class A space," Hines said.

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said he was pleased with the Downtown Action Committee’s decision.

"The decision is consistent with the Okeechobee Business District, which I supported," James said. "One Flagler, along with other key projects currently under construction, will help make our downtown even more attractive to corporations and families looking to relocate. This is a win-win."

Even through the building received approval from the Downtown Action Committee, there is ongoing litigation involving the creation of the Okeechobee Business District that could impact the project.