Steve Ross scores approval for 515 Fern in downtown West Palm

Steve Ross scores approval for 515 Fern in downtown West Palm

Related Companies' Stephen Ross with 515 Fern

Stephen Ross’ plan to develop the biggest office tower in downtown West Palm Beach passed a major hurdle on Wednesday.

The West Palm Beach Downtown Action Committee greenlit the site plan and four variances, or exemptions from the city code, for the planned 25-story 515 Fern. City approval of several other aspects of the project are still pending.

Ross’ Related Companies already ranked as the biggest downtown office owner when it announced plans last fall for the tower on a roughly 1.7-acre site on the northwest corner of Fern Street and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The property, which is steps from Brightline’s station, is owned by a Montreal-based entity tied to Normand Lepine.

515 Fern will span roughly 466,000 square feet. That is more than 100,000 square feet larger than Related’s adjacent 360 Rosemary office building completed 2021, and roughly 10,000 square feet larger than the pair of Phillips Point towers that Related also owns.

Related’s ongoing wager on downtown West Palm is partly rooted in the boom in demand for offices, as well as the New York-based firm’s ability to leverage its tenant network in the Big Apple to move to South Florida.

Case in point: 515 Fern will “house the largest corporate relocation” in West Palm’s history, Harvey Oyer, Related’s attorney, told city board members. The tenant’s name has not been disclosed.

Committee members approved exemptions from development regulations on garage setbacks and on tree spacing. Setbacks, or how close the garage can be to the property line, are partly meant to give neighboring property owners some distance from new buildings. But given that 515 Fern will abut Related’s 360 Rosemary, it doesn’t make sense to provide a 15-foot distance between the buildings, Oyer said.

The committee also approved a reduction in the parking spaces to 785 from the required 965.
The future tenant’s workforce skews young, with many employees younger than 30 and relocating from urban walkable cities, Oyer told the board.

Committee members voted in favor of the abandonment of an alley, though city commissioners have the final say on this.

Related also has vowed to relocate a pair of century-old homes from downtown to the city’s Historic Northwest district as part of its project. Over the last century, downtown has consistently lost the single-family houses that once lined the neighborhood, in favor of bigger commercial development.

The only remaining owner-occupied house is at 315 Hibiscus Street, with others converted to apartments, according to The Palm Beach Post. Related will move the house at 520 Evernia Street, which is on a portion of the 515 Fern site, and the house at 610 Evernia Street, once the home of late city Mayor Joel Daves.

The plan is for Related to rehabilitate the structures after moving them, and sell them as affordable housing.

Construction of 515 Fern is expected to start this year and be completed by 2025.

It would be Related’s sixth office building downtown. Aside from 360 Rosemary, the firm also is building the 25-story One Flagler, dubbed the “hedge fund tower,” at the foot of the Royal Park Bridge, overlooking the Lake Worth Lagoon.

The firm’s shopping spree in 2021 included Phillips Point, half of the ownership interest in Esperanté Corporate Center, and CityPlace Tower, which Related originally developed in 2008 with CP Group.

Northeast Operations

1403 South Atherton St.
State College, PA 16801

Southeast Operations

424 Park Place,
West Palm Beach, FL 33480

Corporate Headquarters

356 Laurens Rd.
Montoursville, PA 17754