Palm Beach Post

Small apartments, workforce-housing units in chic setting coming to West Palm Beach

The 88 apartments will be built on a vacant lot that once was home to the raucous bar Spanky’s.

Two longtime childhood friends who helped shape the look of downtown West Palm Beach are joining forces to craft a new type of apartment building, featuring small units in a building that will be big in personality.

The 88 apartments at 512 Clematis will be built on a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Clematis Street and Quadrille Boulevard, site of the former Spanky’s bar. This land is a key corner at the western edge of Clematis Street’s entertainment venue.

The light-and-bright apartment complex also is near the Brightline passenger train as well as The Square, the mixed-use shopping, dining and residential complex that is expanding north to Clematis from Okeechobee Boulevard.

The 512 Clematis apartments are a venture by architect Keith Spina and real estate developer Frank Navarro.

Their friendship stretches from Belvedere Elementary School to FAMU’s architecture school to the present day. Their names may not be familiar, but their work is.

Spina ORoarke + Partners architects has sketched many notable Palm Beach County properties, including the PGA Commons shopping center, the Jupiter Yacht Club and the Lucky Shuck restaurant.

Navarro Lowrey was the master developer of Flagler Banyan Square, the redevelopment of the old city hall that now is home to The Ben Hotel, the Oversea apartments and Elisabetta’s Ristorante. Spina also designed Flagler Banyan Square.

Navarro, managing principal of Navarro Lowrey, said he recently joined forces with Spina to launch the five-story apartment project, which is slated to begin construction in April.

“With the level of amenities and the finishes we are curating here, I do think it’s going to be a first of its kind,” Navarro said. “This part of West Palm Beach has become so monolithic with big projects on big blocks, I’m hoping we can show the market that smaller projects with more care can work.”

Of the 88 units, 13 are designated as workforce-housing units, which are priced at a lower cost than market rate rents for middle-class residents. They are restricted to renters making 100% of the average median income of West Palm Beach. As of 2021, that figure was $56,549, according to the U.S. Census.

Navarro said these 13 units will be offered exclusively to employees of the city of West Palm Beach for the first 60 days of leasing.

Market rents for the new project aren’t yet firm, but they could range from $2,200 to $2,400 for units not subject to workforce-housing income restrictions, Navarro said.

512 Clematis features unusually small apartments, sometimes called micro-apartments, which range in size from 450 to 750 square feet and often cost less than standard-sized apartments.

Last year, West Palm Beach was set to feature its first micro-apartment project, Current Apartments at 625 S. Olive Ave. But the project sold to a hotel company before it even opened as rental units. The property now is the AKA Hotel Residences.

Proposed 512 Clematis in West Palm Beach to favor walkers, cyclists

In a bid to emphasize alternative types of transportation, 512 Clematis will have only 21 parking spaces for the 60 studios and 28 one-bedroom units.

“The way we’ve developed it, with smaller units and less parking, is because we believe our target market is tenants who will not have a car,” Navarro said.

Cyclists will find favor in this project, which will feature sturdy bike stands. The nearby Brightline passenger rail station also is an added perk for the complex.

But the apartment building’s main focus is creating a sense of a community, Navarro said.

Expect a club room, a fitness center, a covered outdoor lounge, a barbecue grill, a soaking pool and lots of “nooks and crannies and courtyards” where people can gather, work on a computer or read.

Spina’s design evokes a tropical retreat, featuring soothing pastels and more than a touch of relaxed, Palm Beach style.

“We want to make the entire project almost a bed-and-breakfast feel,” Navarro said. “You’re part of a larger community.”

Property evolves from raucous party spot to stylish downtown West Palm Beach residence

Some residents may remember the site formerly was home to Spanky’s, a music venue, a locals’ gathering spot and the occasional source of police calls when rowdy patrons spilled into the street. The bar closed more than a decade ago, and the property was leveled.

An investment group snapped up the property four years ago for $3.5 million, and Spina designed the project. An affiliate of Navarro Lowrey paid $5.3 million for the site in September.

Backers said the planned complex fills a couple of needs for downtown.

It adds a dozen workforce-housing units to a downtown crowded with high-priced rental apartments. And it links the western block of Clematis Street with the growing office and residential community at The Square.

“I had wondered when we might start seeing some of the gap fill the dead space between The Square and Clematis Street,” Navarro said. “Our project is proof that is happening.”

Leasing is expected to begin during the third quarter of 2024.

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