The luxury living crowd turns its focus to the new kid in town, La Clara.
As The Bristol condominium in downtown West Palm Beach nears completion, the luxury living crowd turns its focus to the new kid in town, La Clara.
The upscale condominium on the downtown waterfront broke ground earlier this month at 1515 S. Flagler Drive, following a sufficient but undisclosed number of pre-construction sales.
The property has some of the same features that drew rich buyers to The Bristol, a 69-unit ultra-luxury condominium nearby on Flagler Drive.
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Among La Clara's features are: a limited number of units, only 83; Intracoastal Waterway and ocean views; and a marketing pitch that brands La Clara a Palm Beach property, when it's really across the bridges in West Palm Beach.
A spokeswoman for developer Great Gulf of Toronto, Canada, said La Clara already is seeing interest from Palm Beachers who are ready to relocate from the island enclave to the mainland, to live in a place that's fresh and modern.
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That was the case for The Bristol, the most expensive condominium ever built in Palm Beach County.
Back in 2016 and 2017, that property at 1100 South Flagler Drive was starting to draw Palm Beach residents willing to trade in their landed estates for a mansion-in-the-sky.
But the movement across the bridges gained a big boost in early 2018 when the Palm Beach Post revealed that Palm Beach philanthropist Sydell Miller had purchased the entire 24th floor of the 25-story condo. Miller closed on the $42.6 million purchase at The Bristol earlier this month.
>>PRIOR STORY: Palm Beach buyer snaps up entire floor of The Bristol condo
Now many Palm Beachers are checking out La Clara, too, said Madeline Zito, a Great Gulf spokeswoman.
In February, La Clara opened a sales gallery not in West Palm Beach, where the condo is being built, but on Palm Beach. The Bristol did the same.
The 25-story La Clara features a modern, contemporary design by architect Siamak Hariri. The styling of La Clara, which means "clear" in Spanish, is intended to bring as much light into the units as possible. Each unit has a big private terrace for an extra indoor-outdoor feeling. Building amenities include an outdoor swimming pool with cabanas and outdoor dining area, an indoor fitness center, entertainment room, lounge, private dining room, and kitchen.
There are major differences from The Bristol, however, and they include unit size and price.
La Clara's units, which range from 1,500 to more than 3,000 square feet for one to three bedrooms, start at about $2 million. La Clara is expected to be completed in 2021.
The Bristol's units are larger, with the average unit featuring 4,500 square feet, and the average price about $10 million. The property is set for completion during the second quarter, according to Christopher Kennedy, vice president of Suffolk Construction, the project's builder.
Great Gulf never intended to be the same as The Bristol.
“I think (The Bristol) is beautiful and we wish them all the best, but we see our target market as very different,” Christopher Wein, former Great Gulf president, said in 2016. Wein said he believed 2,000 square feet casts a wide net for residents, snowbirds and families.
Every building has a story, and the 1515 site is exceptionally explosive.
For many years, the property was home to the 1515 Tower condominium, which was built in the 1970s. But after the 1515 Tower condo was badly damaged in the 2004 hurricanes, an investor group called Trinity Development bought the property with plans to build The Modern.
The Modern had fewer stories than the 30-story 1515 building, but the mass was three times greater. Neighbors who opposed the scale and the mass were apoplectic, but Trinity prevailed with city officials and obtained various waivers for setbacks.
The time came for Trinity to tear down the 1515 condo. This became a social event, and on February 14, 2010, in an intricately planned implosion, the high-rise was reduced to a pile of rubble in less than 10 seconds.
After demolition of the 1515 tower, Trinity’s luck imploded, too. The property slipped into foreclosure when First Commonwealth Bank of Pennsylvania sued Trinity 1515 for allegedly failing to repay a $36 million loan. In December 2011, the property quietly was sold for $5.5 million to Terrace Mountain of Austin, Texas.
Terrace Mountain’s Frank Trabold considered building apartments on the site, but the city nixed the plan because he wanted to build 187 units, and the code allowed for only 84 residences. Terrace Mountain ended up partnering with Great Gulf on the La Clara project.
La Clara is Great Gulf's first residential tower in Florida, although it has developed other projects in the United States. Currently, the company has 18 high-rise projects in the pipeline across North America.
Alexandra Clough writes about real estate, law and the economy. firstname.lastname@example.org.