White powder found at West Palm Beach Courthouse deemed safe, officials say


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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Officials say a mysterious white powder found at the West Palm Beach Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon was not dangerous.

According to West Palm Beach Fire Rescue, the powder was found inside an envelope in an office.

The entire floor where the powder was found was evacuated as HAZMAT teams entered and investigated.

In the end, officials said the powder was not dangerous and the building will reopen.

Breaking: Hazmat crews from @WPBfire gearing up to enter what looks like the public defender’s office, on the other side of the State Attorney building. @PBCountySheriff out here too. Working to confirm more details. @WPTV

— Andrew Lofholm (@AndrewLofholm) July 9, 2019

Copyright 2019 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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West Palm agency decides to buy former Clematis Off the Hookah building for $7.5 million

Hide caption Noise meter tests showed Off the Hookah, at 314 Clematis St., registered off the charts.


WEST PALM BEACH — A renovation project to subsidize a dozen start-up businesses has turned into a $7.5 million real estate investment by the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, which on Monday voted to buy the former Off the Hookah nightclub building at 314 Clematis St.

City Commissioners, serving as the CRA board, divided over the ballooning cost of the project. But rather than continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate a building the agency didn’t own, they voted 3-2 to buy the property, to sustain its transformation into an incubator and redesign the ground floor as a public pathway to the alley behind it, which the CRA hopes to enliven with restaurants or other attractions.

The purchase decision took heat from community members who felt the CRA was straying from plans to simply rent the vacant space rather than get into the risky arena of real estate investment. The critics asserted that renovation overruns were leading the board to “throw good money after bad,” as one put it, and risk public money better dispensed as grants for proven businesses downtown.

CRA Executive Director Jon Ward countered that this was the kind of project for which the CRA was created and which state law authorized. “We are in the real estate business,” he said. “CRA’s often do things in an unusual manner that the private sector would not do,” with the goal to spark economic growth, even if a project doesn’t generate profits, he said.

The purchase price of 314 Clematis would be offset by rental income from the building’s upstairs offices, and the transformed structure likely would gain value in years to come, Ward added.

He asserted the deal would not prevent other businesses from getting grants from the agency where appropriate, noting that an owner of a similarly large building on the 500 block of Clematis recently approached the CRA for a grant to help break up that space into smaller, more rentable retail spaces. “Just hearing about it has encouraged the private sector to say, ‘let’s do it.’”

A handful of public commenters took Ward to task, saying he was overselling the project and overspending.

“I’m disappointed how flip this CRA director is” about spending more than $7 million for yet another downtown public project promised as transformative, lawyer Eddie Walker said, recalling similar pitches for the library and City Hall 10 years ago. The 314 Clematis project was intended to rid downtown of nightclubs but night life is what brings people downtown after dark, Walker said.

Had engineers been brought in early in the process, the CRA wouldn’t have been in the position of having cost overruns so high they would propose buying the building instead of completing massive renovations to a rental property, he said. Economic Development Director Christopher Roog responded that an engineer did study the building, after interior demolition began.

Nancy Pullum, who leads Citizens for Thoughtful Growth, a West Palm Beach development watchdog group, said the $7.5 million price outstripped the CRA’s mandate for economic development spending.

“That’s tax dollars, it’s not pretend money,” she said. “It doesn’t play well to the audience of taxpayers out there that, because somebody goofed up, now we should be landlords. We’ve got other things to do than being property managers and landlords.”

Commissioners Cory Neering and Richard Ryles also opposed the purchase, with Neering saying the project went far beyond its original intend of renovating to get a subsidized workspace program off the ground.

Commissioner Joe Peduzzi also said he was “struggling with this” and asked if alternative sites might be found.

Roog replied that other properties were available but that negotiations to secure them would have to start from square one, delaying the project. Some start-ups recruited for the incubator project already have signed leases with the owner of 314 Clematis, anticipating the completion of renovations, Roog added.

Peduzzi ultimately voted for the purchase, with Commissioner Kelly Shoaf and Commission President Christina Lambert.

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Getting bigger: Palm Beach County’s newest city has another developer

Minto Communities, the master developer of Westlake, Palm Beach County’s newest city, has sold a 63-acre parcel to another developer. This Minto home is part of a planned 4,500-home city. (Lisa J. Huriash / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

A parcel of land within Palm Beach County’s newest city has been sold, and construction on hundreds of new homes has started within the past few days.

The newest subdivision of 204 single-family homes will be called Sky Cove of Westlake. Homes will start in the low $300,000s. Buyers can choose from 10 floorplans, with one- and two-story homes.

Label & Co. will be offering homes starting about 1,400 square feet, whereas Minto’s smallest home to date has been 1,800 square feet.

It will be a gated community offering three- and four-bedroom homes. Sales will begin late this year or early 2020.

“It’s extremely exciting,” said Harry Posin, president of Label & Co. “To have a high quality affordable housing in a remarkable master planned community is a perfect situation.”

Once a territory of orange groves, Westlake is a destination place for new construction. Once finished, the complete town will have shopping centers, a hospital and 4,500 homes. Westlake is about six miles north of Southern Boulevard, west of Royal Palm Beach and north of Wellington.

The Hammocks, a community under construction by Minto, is almost finished. By the end of 2019, there will be 325 homes.

In April, Minto Communities sold its first patch of land inside Westlake to another developer: 270 acres were sold to Kolter Homes for $52 million, the land slated for 800 homes for adults age 55 and older. Construction on the “Cresswind” subdivision is underway and sales will start in 2020.

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New, high-priced West Palm Beach apartments test range for rents

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West Palm Beach landlords are testing the depth of demand for units with monthly rents in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.

A new generation of apartment buildings in downtown West Palm Beach is changing the city’s skyline and — with two-bedroom units asking more than $3,000 a month — reshaping expectations about how much tenants are willing to pay for rent.

More than 1,000 new apartments have come on the market, and 251 additional units are under construction. Landlords now are testing the depth of demand for premium units with monthly rents in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.

“We think they’re a little high,” said Dan Gallien, owner of Rent 1 Sale 1 Realty, a Royal Palm Beach-based brokerage that has represented numerous tenants in downtown West Palm Beach buildings. “Actually, a lot high.”

At Park-Line, the tower near the Brightline train station, fully 54 percent of the building’s 290 units have been leased, the landlord says. One-bedroom units go for $2,100, and some two-bedroom apartments are priced at as much as $3,258 a month.

That’s in line with the asking rents at other new buildings downtown. At Broadstone City Center, units rent for as much as $2,870 for a two-bedroom, 1,086-square-foot apartment.

At The Alexander, prime two-bedroom units with 1,693 square feet of space go for $3,995 a month. The building touts 12-foot ceilings and ocean views from some apartments.

Spending $40,000 a year on rent once seemed a financially foolish strategy. However, in a trend that has grabbed the attention of apartment developers, affluent Americans have cooled a bit on homeownership.

The U.S. homeownership rate was 64.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, well below the record high of 69.2 percent set in 2004. Many real estate experts say millennials will prove less likely to buy homes than their baby boomer parents, who believed that paying a landlord was akin to throwing away money.

“Renting is a good thing now,” Gallien says.

Even so, downtown West Palm Beach’s apartment boom strikes some developers as a bit too much of a good thing, at least for now. While 251 new rental units are under construction at the site of the former City Hall, four other apartment projects that have been approved remain on hold.

Billionaire developer Jeff Greene in 2017 won city approval to build 348 “micro unit” apartments downtown. However, fearing a glut of new apartments, Greene since said he has decided not to move forward with the project, known as Banyan Place. Greene also shelved Clematis Place, a project slated for 169 apartment units.

Also approved but not under construction are a second phase of Loftin Place and the 400 units planned for the Transit Village project.

In a building spree that is reshaping downtown, 1,069 new units have been completed, 251 units are under construction and 1,110 more have been proposed:

Bargain hunters in search of a tenant’s market might be disappointed, Gallien said. While home sellers consider a listing price a starting point for negotiations, multifamily leasing offices tend to stick to their published rental rates.

“Generally, you’re not negotiating a price with an apartment landlord,” Gallien said.

Even if apartment demand proves a bit soft for now, there are signs that downtown soon could have more workers eager to rent downtown apartments. Next door to Park-Line is the site of 360 Rosemary, a 300,000-square-foot office building scheduled for completion in 2021.

A few blocks away, Greene has broken ground on One West Palm, a development that will include 200,000 square feet of office space. Despite making a big bet on demand for downtown office space, Greene also has complained about what he considers West Palm Beach’s less-than-robust labor market.

“We don’t have that dynamic economy with high wages that other places have,” Greene said in December.

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West Palm man, 58, dies from injuries in motorized bike crash

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The wreck took place in May in Lake Park, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

LAKE PARK — A 58-year-old West Palm Beach man is dead after his motorized bicycle crashed with a car in Lake Park, throwing him to the ground, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

Steven Kinnersley sustained a head injury in the May 13 crash on Greenbriar Court, just east of 10th Street, the sheriff’s office said. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue took him to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, and he died from his injuries Thursday night at the Trustbridge care center in West Palm Beach.

Just before 9 a.m. May 13, Winner Duversot of Palm Beach Gardens was eastbound in a 2005 Nissan Pathfinder on Greenbriar Court, the sheriff’s office said in a report released Monday. It said Kinnersley rode through a stop sign, then missed the “no right turn” sign and traveled westbound, the wrong way, on Greenbriar.

Duversot’s front bumper crashed into Kinnersley, according to the report. As of Monday, there was no record either of charges or traffic tickets against him.

Reached by telephone Monday, Duversot, 19, said Kinnersley came out of nowhere. He said he was on his way home to get something for school when Kinnersley’s bike crashed into his car.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I was like, ‘Where did he come from?’ ”

Duversot said he did not sustain injuries and that his Nissan Pathfinder’s front mirror was cracked.

Attempts to reach Kinnersley’s family Monday were unsuccessful.

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Cottonwood Residential buys Luma West Palm apartments

Luma West Palm Apartments

South Florida developer Charles Scardina Jr. sold a new apartment complex to a Salt Lake City firm for nearly $67 million.

Scardina’s Luma at West Palm Beach LLC sold Luma West Palm Apartments at 7130 Okeechobee Boulevard to CC West Palm Beach LLC, which is tied to Cottonwood Residential.

The deal breaks down to about $273,000 per apartment. Luma was built on a 10.2-acre site west of the Florida Turnpike in 2018. Florida Community Bank provided the $35.6 million construction loan for the project.

Cottonwood Communities, a real estate investment trust, announced the deal was under contract in April. The development includes a heated pool with cabanas, fitness center, 5,500-square-foot clubroom, business center and dog park. The units range from one- to three-bedrooms averaging 1,122 square feet.

In August, Cottonwood launched a $750 million offering to invest in multifamily properties throughout the U.S., according to a release. As of February, it has raised $9.4 million in investor equity.

The REIT cited strong employment in West Palm Beach as part of its decision to acquire Luma. Major employers in the area include Florida Power & Light, the Scripps and Max Planck Research Institutes, and United Technologies.

Related Group’s chairman and CEO Jorge Pérez recently said he plans to use the Opportunity Zones tax break to build market-rate apartments in West Palm Beach.

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West Palm Beach: 5 Foreclosed Houses Near You


WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Are you searching for a new home, but don’t want to break the bank? . A tour of the latest foreclosures in the West Palm Beach area might be your best bet!

Each week, we compile a list of five new foreclosures on the market near you — many of them surprisingly affordable for their size and location.

Below, you’ll find an address, photo, price and size for each property on our list — such as one in the Palm Beach area with 2 beds and 1 bath for $38,500, and another with 3 beds and 3 baths for $119,900.

Click on any address for more photos and details. Enjoy!


Price: $119,900
Size: 2,200 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 3 baths

Price: $38,500
Size: 1,277 sq. ft, 2 beds, and 1 bath

Price: $139,900
Size: 873 sq. ft., 1 bed, and 1 bath

Price: $171,600
Size: 999 sq. ft., 2 beds, and 1 bath

Price: $303,000
Size: 1,992 sq. ft., 4 beds, and 2 baths

Your search doesn’t have to end here! Keep scrolling for more listings. And there are even more foreclosures for you to check out in our real-estate section for the West Palm Beach area.

Photos courtesy of

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Palm Beach County scrambling to plan for thousands of illegal migrants


Palm Beach County’s mayor, administrator and other officials held a closed meeting Friday afternoon to come up with a plan for an anticipated influx of thousands of illegal migrants.

"We will not be able to allow individuals to come into our community and be released and have no idea on the basic services that any human being should be afforded," said County Administrator Verdenia Baker.

Baker said all options for housing were still on the table, from schools to tent cities to unused buildings, but they needed to be long-term solutions.

She said no one has heard officially from the federal government that the expected 500 migrants per month are actually coming.

If they do arrive in two weeks, as Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said he was told by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Miami, they will be transported to the Border Patrol facility in Riviera Beach, processed, given a notice to appear in court and then released.

The idea worries business owner Rob Damiano, who said the county is already struggling with a homeless problem.

"I believe everybody deserves to have a chance but my concern is: Who’s coming here? Are they criminals, part of MS-13? Are they drug addicts?" said Damiano.

Carpenter T.J. Survelis said he saw how badly a similar situation affected California.

"When I lived in San Diego, they would come over the border all the time. It crowds everything. There would be tent cities everywhere. You don’t want that. There’s no place to put them. Bringing them to Riviera Beach, it’s not like a good place to live," said Survelis.

Bradshaw said he was told the people who would be sent had requested Florida because of family connections.

Elcias Soto, who migrated here from Guatemala years ago agreed it is critical for a migrant to have family or friends waiting to help.

"When I came to America, it was hard," he said. "You have to have someone say, ‘Here, live with me. I’ll help you.’"

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West Palm Beach: Don’t Miss These 5 Open Houses


WEST PALM BEACH, FL — If you’re searching for a new place, you’ve likely already combed through all the internet listings for your area. And while you may have learned roughly what these houses are like from the photographs, there’s just no comparison to witnessing the real thing.

Ready to see what’s out there? For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of the five latest open houses scheduled in the West Palm Beach area. That way, you can get a feel for the current offerings without committing to a house blindly.

Below is an address, photo, price, home size and open-house time for each property on our list — including one with 3 beds and 5 baths for $1.9 million, and another with 4 beds and 3 baths for $327,500.

Looking for more photos and details? Just click on any address to learn more. Happy house hunting!

Price: $425,000
Size: 1,492 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 2 baths
Open house: Saturday, May 11th at 1:00 pm

Price: $410,000
Size: 2,734 sq. ft, 4 beds, and 3 baths
Open house: Saturday, May 11th at 11:00 am

Price: $327,500
Size: 2,508 sq. ft., 4 beds, and 3 baths
Open house: Sunday, May 12th at 11:00 am

Price: $1,850,000
Size: 2,811 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 5 baths
Open house: Thursday, May 9th at 11:30 am

Price: $794,500
Size: 4,152 sq. ft., 5 beds, and 5 baths
Open house: Saturday, May 18th at 1:00 pm

Want more options? Keep scrolling for more listings. Or there’s always a full list of local open houses in our real-estate section for the West Palm Beach area.

Photos courtesy of

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5 West Palm Beach Area Open Houses Worth A Look


WEST PALM BEACH, FL — If you’re searching for a new place, odds are you’ve already combed through all the internet listings for your area. And while you’ve probably learned roughly what these houses are like from the photographs, there’s just no comparison to witnessing the real thing.

Ready to start hunting? To help you out, we’ve made a list of the five latest homes to hit the open-house circuit in the West Palm Beach area. That way, you can get a feel for the current offerings prior to committing to anything.

Below is an address, photo, price, home size and open-house time for each property on our list — including one with 3 beds and 2 baths for $489,000, and another with 3 beds and 3 baths for $289,000.

Click on any address for more photos and details. Happy house hunting!

Price: $450,000
Size: 1,395 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 2 baths
Open house: Sunday, May 5th at 1:00 pm

Price: $289,000
Size: 1,740 sq. ft, 3 beds, and 3 baths
Open house: Saturday, May 4th at 12:00 pm

Price: $349,900
Size: 2,310 sq. ft.
Open house: Saturday, May 4th at 9:00 am

Price: $489,000
Size: 1,490 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 2 baths
Open house: Saturday, May 4th at 2:00 pm

Price: $388,500
Size: 2,693 sq. ft., 5 beds, and 3 baths
Open house: Sunday, May 5th at 1:00 pm

Want more options? Keep scrolling for more listings. Or you’ll always find a full list of nearby open houses in Patch’s real-estate section for the West Palm Beach area.

Photos courtesy of

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