Area's costs spur firm to expand elsewhere

By Alexandra Clough
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 06, 2007

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Builder Dan Catalfumo plans to make a pitch to develop West Palm Beach's "tent site." The move comes as Catalfumo Construction & Development works to build the City Center project downtown, finish the 2700 North Ocean luxury condo on Singer Island and wade through early planning for the Briny Breezes redevelopment along the ocean. All in a day's work.

Catalfumo said he's already pondering ideas for the prime downtown "tent site" the city is pitching to developers. His thoughts include "a killer hotel, a small amount of residences and some office."

But more office space downtown would work only if the building could snare a "gorilla-sized" corporate tenant willing to take at least 150,000 square feet of space, he said. That large corporate user is lacking downtown, he says: "Who's the biggest tenant in West Palm Beach? Nobody springs to mind."

Catalfumo was coy about whether he had any prospects.

"I have the whole banana farm looking for the gorilla," he quipped.

Farther north, Catalfumo still is beating the bushes for buyers of his ultra-luxury 2700 North Ocean condo. The $400 million, twin-tower project recently was "topped off," and closings should start early next year. But at this late date, about 30 percent of the condo's 242 units remain unsold.

Catalfumo acknowledged sales were slow last year, but he said he's noticed more action in the past 90 days. The units left to sell are at the highest end, $2 million to $7 million.

These mega-rich buyers aren't exactly easy to find. On the other hand, these buyers aren't bothered by the tax and insurance crises, either.

If there are any signs of life these days in the real estate market, it seems to be in the highest end, especially waterfront, said Kevin Dickenson of Prudential Florida WCI Realty in Palm Beach Gardens.