Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plans for Palm Beach Fashion Outlets

Demolition of the 1960's era Palm Beach Mall should start within about two months as developers plan its replacement with the Palm Beach Fashion Outlets.

Down will go 1.2 million square feet of enclosed, traditional mall that sits off Interstate 95 at Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. Up will go 1.1 million square feet of outdoor-style mall, West Palm Beach Building Director Doug Wise said. Developers have said they plan to have outlet stores and traditional retailers.

New England Development, a Massachusetts-based real estate firm, partnered with Eastern Real Estate and Lubert-Adler to buy the 80-acre mall in October for $35.5 million.

Tom Carabine, who is working with the city for New England Development, said the design guidelines and master concept plan were submitted to the city Wednesday.

With a hoped for April start, the demolition will be carefully crafted to allow JCPenney and George's Music to remain open, Wise said.

"They've got some challenges to work through, to keep Penney's open, safe," Wise said.

The new configuration — an estimated $150 million project — will bring new life to the neighborhood and jobs, Wise said.

"It's going to be a huge improvement to the neighborhood," Wise said.

No one is identifying the new tenants, but marketing materials used to promote the center at trade shows last year envisioned such premium outlets as Nordstrom Rack, Bloomingdale's Outlet Store and Last Call by Neiman Marcus and such big-box staples as TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond and the Burlington Coat Factory.

New England Development CEO Stephen Karp said last month that a separate grocery store may be built at the outlet mall as well.

Originally, the new owners looked at renovating the mall, but decided there was too much competition in the enclosed mall market here, Carabine said. The new plans show an outlet center in one large block in the middle of the property with another row of stores lined up on the I-95 perimeter of the property.

Both JCPenney and George's Music are slated to move to the interstate side. Firestone is also staying at the mall.

"JCPenney wants to move into a new store before they give us back the old store," Carabine said. "They're not going to close at all."

The six phases outlined in preliminary site plans given to the city indicate the central block and replacement stores will be built first. Once JCPenney and George's move, then that portion will be torn down and more stores built along I-95.

Construction would start this fall, with those first stores opening in fall 2013, if the timeline holds.
"It's pretty aggressive," Carabine said.

So far, testing for hazards has found asbestos in "little bits, which you would expect to find in a mall this old," he said. The asbestos will be abated before the demolition.

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