West Palm Beach will continue to experience explosive growth as corporations move into the area to take advantage of the business-friendly climate, billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross said Monday.
All this change is occurring just across the bridges from Palm Beach, which is already noticing heavier traffic and many more visitors to the island.
“Everybody has caught on to what is happening here and people really want to be here,” Ross told a Palm Beach Civic Association audience. “We can try to fight it, or we can make it better.”
More than 200 people gathered at The Beach Club to hear Ross, chairman of the Related Cos., which is investing more than $500 million in West Palm Beach and is the largest commercial landowner in the city’s downtown. Its projects include the 360 Rosemary office building and the 25-story tower at 515 Fern.
Ross founded Related in New York in 1972. He is also a philanthropist, owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, a Civic Association director and part-time Palm Beach resident.
He was interviewed during Monday’s luncheon by his friend and fellow University of Michigan alumnus, Robert Nederlander. Nederlander is a member of the Civic Association’s Executive Committee.
Palm Beach will have to adapt to change and join hands with West Palm Beach to find solutions to worsening traffic congestion and water supply and infrastructure challenges, Ross said.
“You hear people talking about the growth,” he said. “But we haven’t seen what’s really going to happen … the impact hasn’t been felt yet.”
Corporations are interested in relocating to West Palm Beach or elsewhere in Palm Beach County because that is where their employees want to live, Ross said. They are drawn to the lower taxes, warmer climate and to neighborhoods that are generally safer than those found in large urban centers like New York City.
“These are exciting times for all of us in Palm Beach,” Ross said. “Palm Beach has been the greatest seasonal community in the world … [but] what Palm Beach is will soon be changing. People kind of resist change. But … [we can] make this a model for the rest of the country.”
Ross said the corporations want to see better private schools and better hospitals in West Palm Beach.
“I’m trying to bring the University of Florida medical school here, along with a new hospital,” he said.
He said he and Jeff Greene, a fellow billionaire developer and Palm Beach resident, are both working with the University of Florida to establish a graduate school and technical innovation center in Palm Beach County.
“The whole state of Florida is growing,” Ross said. “But the area that will attract tech and corporations – West Palm Beach is at the center of that.”
Southeast Florida will also need more golf courses, said Ross, who’s building three courses in Martin County. “It’s about bringing it all together … [creating] more inclusive growth that is beneficial for all of us.”
Traffic is something that we all will have to deal with, he said. “We have issues we have to find solutions for. But this is a great, great time. Your homes are increasing in value and they will continue to grow in value.”
During a question-and-answer session with the audience, one woman asked Ross, “Why did you choose Palm Beach? Why are you here?”
He replied, “Why are you here? … I’m a resident of Palm Beach. I was here seasonally and working in New York. But the world is changing. You have to adapt to change. It’s going to happen, with or without me, with or without you. People want to live here and they can afford to live here.”
Related first landed in West Palm Beach when the company built CityPlace, now known as The Square, in 2000. Jeff Greene, speaking from the audience, said CityPlace was the beginning of a turnaround for West Palm Beach and Ross deserves credit for that.
Michael Pucillo, vice chairman of the Civic Association, said Ross is “an accomplished real estate entrepreneur and a noted philanthropist” whose projects in New York are well known, including the Time Warner Center [renamed Deutsche Bank Center in 2021] and Hudson Yards.
“In South Florida, Related has had a significant imprint, including here in West Palm Beach, where Related has a portfolio of virtually all of the Class A office buildings,” Pucillo said.
The luncheon was sponsored by Baptist Health Cancer Care.