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McClatchy-Tribune  05/16/2014 10:44 AM ET
North Palm Beach County retail and restaurant growth is surging [The Palm Beach Post, Fla. :: ]

May 16--Excitement is building in northern Palm Beach County as new retailers enter the market and a new mega complex as well as revamped shopping centers take shape.

Driven by residential and job growth, what's happening isn't necessarily startling, runaway or massive.

"We are just coming back into a more normal mode of the last 30 or 40 years in South Florida," said Neil Merin, chairman of Merin Hunter Codman, a commercial real estate broker with four offices in Palm Beach County, including one in Palm Beach Gardens.

Retail and commercial growth is following the residential growth that's just starting to return, Merin said.

This summer the upscale grocer The Fresh Market is slated to open at The Shops of Fisherman's Wharf, an established center on East Indiantown Road in Jupiter.

In the fall, Trader Joe's, a supermarket known for its store brands, is scheduled to open in Palm Beach Gardens at the southwest corner of PGA Boulevard and Prosperity Farms Road in PGA Plaza. The plaza is undergoing $12 million in renovations.

"Everybody is looking forward to both of those retailers opening. Whole Foods is constantly busy," said Rebel Cook, a commercial real estate broker based in Jupiter.

The $5 million renovation of Tequesta Shoppes on U.S. 1, where a former Stein Mart store is being turned into stores for Marshalls and Home Goods will dramatically improve that corridor, Cook said.

"Older centers have to be renovated and updated. A lot of the very large shopping centers around the country are becoming entertainment centers because the retail market is changing so dramatically," Cook said. "The reason it is changing is that people order on the Internet."

The largest number of calls from people looking to lease retail space comes from those looking to open fitness studios and restaurants, Cook said.

The area's latest entrant into the entertainment center center category is Harbourside Place, a $50 million, 360,000-square foot development in Jupiter. It's under construction on the Intracoastal Waterway on the northwest corner of Indiantown Road and U.S. 1. It will include a 179-room Wyndham Grand hotel, parking garages, 66,000 square feet of retail, 55,000 square feet of office, roughly 33,000 square feet of restaurants, a public amphitheater and a marina.

Nick Mastroianni III, vice president/planning and operations at Allied Capital & Development, North Palm Beach, which is developing Harbourside, said it's 70 percent leased. A soft opening is expected in September, with a grand opening in November.

The developer bills Harbourside as "Jupiter's rising downtown," and "CityPlace on the water" but some residents have voiced concerns that it's too big for the area.

With a focus on restaurants, cultural events, art festivals and concerts, Harbourside wants to be a community gathering place. The roads will not have to be shut down to accommodate a large event, and the amphitheater can hold about 1,000 people, Mastroianni said.

Merin said that while Harbourside's retail square footage is not huge, it is interesting because of its location. Most of the purchases will be made by tourists or people who make an impulse buy after being drawn there for dining or an event. It won't be a shopping destination, he said. The project has been in the works for eight years.

In many cases the new tenants are replacing those who left the market, whether the space was formerly a Blockbuster or a Winn-Dixie.

"In some cases you are not replacing them fully. Many merchants want to go to smaller size stores because of the impact of online sales," Merin said.

Two broad categories that will not go online are such entertainment centers as Harbourside and mom-and-pop stores opened by people who have an idea and want to open their own business, whether it's a Chinese restaurant or a sewing store, Merin said.

"North county is doing reasonably well. It did

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