WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – Construction has begun in earnest at the 10-story vacant office building in West Palm Beach, Fla., that will become the residence for the Houston Astros players and staff during spring training and a baseball-oriented hotel available for use by the public, particularly tourists, the rest of the year.
In the redevelopment, the 191-room, Hilton Garden Inn-branded hotel will be located in one of the three look-alike office buildings along Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Together, the three structures have been dubbed The Forum. Holliday Fenoglio Fowler arranged the $18.72 million in construction and redevelopment financing for the project.
Building A — the westernmost structure, located at the corner of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Congress Avenue — “has been substantially gutted,” said Scott Wadler, a senior director of HFF and part of the group’s debt placement team. With the loan approval in hand, construction work will move to the next level “starting shortly,” he said.
The HFF team worked on behalf of the borrower, a partnership between Crane Capital Group, Inc. and Westmont Hospitality Group, to place the three-year, fixed-rate loan with Woodforest National Bank. Loan proceeds will be used to convert the office tower into the combination hotel and staff living site. Westmont Hospitality Group will manage the hotel, which is expected to open in mid-year 2018.
The redeveloped 10-story residential building will feature an amenities package that includes a restaurant, pool and gym.
The reconstruction work is being done by Straticon Construction, a family-owned company with offices in Stuart and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and in New York City.
Wadler, who was part of the debt placement team along with analyst Wesley Hightower, said team members and Astros staff will stay at hotels in various area locations during the 2018 Grapefruit League season which begins Feb. 23, much the way it was done last year, the inaugural spring training season at the new athletic facility.
Crane Capital Group, Inc. is an investment management company founded in 2006 by Jim Crane, CEO and chairman of Crane Worldwide as well as president of the Houston Astros. Crane Capital is part of a portfolio of companies owned by Crane which both invests and provides investment advisory services across a broad number of industries primarily focused on service-based companies. Wadler said Crane’s company does not deal with real estate very often.
Crane acquired the vacant Forum Office tower on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in early 2017. The property is located about a half-mile east of a major Interstate 95 interchange. Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard is a heavily commercialized strip that includes other hotels, gas stations, office buildings and a large Target store across the street.
In addition, the hotel is adjacent to the Palm Beach Outlet Mall, a 440,000 square foot outlet shopping center. Opened in February 2014, the facility was built on the site of the former enclosed Palm Beach Mall, which was razed.
The site is five miles from the new, $150 million, state-of-the-art, fan-friendly Houston Astros Spring Training facility, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, which is also the Grapefruit League training center for the Washington Nationals.
“Jim Crane and the entire Houston Astros organization are looking forward to deepening our involvement in West Palm Beach,” said Astros SVP and General Counsel Giles Kibbe. “After a successful inaugural season at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, we have been excited to explore new opportunities in the area. This new hotel will bring the excitement of the 2017 World Series Championship to Florida, serve as an excellent home for our players and staff during spring training and will be enjoyed by the public throughout the year.”
Winner of the 2017 World Series, the team has been around since 1962 when it took the field as the Houston Colt .45’s at Colt Stadium. Three years later, the team became the Houston Astros, and will enter their 57th season in Major League Baseball fresh from their first-ever World Series win last fall.
In 2013, the Astros moved to the American League West Division, becoming the first franchise to move from the National League to the American League. The Astros’ home field is Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Officials at the ballpark in West Palm Beach said they hope to capitalize on the momentum from Houston’s World Series victory in 2017. Spring training begins Feb. 23 with an afternoon game pitting the Astros against the Washington Nationals, who share the facility.
Local media are already advertising season information, including promotion of an Astros-Boston Red Sox game at the Ballfield of the Palm Beaches on March 1.