The night before, however, West Palm Beach commissioners delayed official zoning for the development project, with Commissioner Kim Mitchell flagging the use of a Chattanooga, Tenn. construction management firm, while lobbying for local and minority contractors, businesses and workers.
For now, individuals seeking employment or currently working within the construction industry are invited on Tuesday, Aug. 21 to join New England Development, Eastern Real Estate, EMJ Construction and the city to learn about job opportunities for the new project.
AT GAINES PARK
That job fair, like the one that drew more than 500 site-work related contractors July 9, is free and open to the community at the Mary V. McDonald-Wilson Center at Gaines Park, 1501 N. Australian Ave., West Palm Beach. For more information contact the Mosaic
Group at 561-336-1249 or email@example.com. Interested applicants can pre-register and upload their resume to pboutletmall.com to secure interviews and a chance to win a $100 Home Depot Gift Card.
EMJ Construction is seeking qualified applicants to fill full-time, part-time and apprentice positions. Candidates of all ages, experience levels and trades are encouraged to attend the job fair, at which mini-interviews will be conducted. Candidates are advised to arrive dressed professionally and prepared with resumes.
Palm Beach Outlets is expected to open in 2013. The developers recently acquired the 80-acre property on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in West Palm Beach adjacent to the east side of Interstate 95. Officials say approximately 386 full-time construction jobs will be offered over the next two years. The project promises an open-air outlet center and an adjacent shopping center featuring a dynamic mix of national and retail tenants. The economic impact of the revision is expected to be significant — $319 million a year in total economic activity, its developers say.
STYLE, AND TRIALS
Many locals, snowbirds and other South Floridians have long anticipated with a sense of nostalgia the redevelopment of what originally was the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled mall developed in Florida. Former owners once bragged that the Palm Beach Mall, first built and opened in 1967, was the largest in the southeastern U.S.
Through years of expansions and renovations, JCPenney became the anchor tenant. A food court was added and later redesigned. A centerpiece fountain was installed. Other big-name stores such as Lord & Taylor and Sears came – and went as, by the early 2000s, already declining traffic had accelerated its flight with the murder of a teenage food court restaurant manager. There was competition from shiny new Wellington Mall and CityPlace. Stores closed while the economic recession scuttled efforts to revitalize the property. A new owner, Massachusetts-based real estate firm New England Development, partnered with Eastern Real Estate and Lubert-Adler for the $35.5 million purchase in October 2011.
With the new mantra, “Fashionable Outlet Shopping,” the new developers are casting light on the horizon.
A reminder of the potential perils of such a project, however, came with the Aug. 2 death of construction worker Juan Arias, who fell 15 feet from a scissor-lift platform to the concrete floor inside the mall. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the death of Arias, who had recently celebrated his 38th birthday.
Moreover, despite Mayor Jeri Mouio on Monday calling it a travesty for the commission to delay moving the project forward, and urging against setting a bad business precedent, the commissioners’ 4-1 vote postponed official zoning approval.
The developers’ anticipated economic impact includes 1,576 full-time equivalent employees at the revamped facility; $82 million in wages; $319 million in total economic activity and $862,000 annual net fiscal benefit to the city in 2015 after deducting the costs of city provided services.
The redevelopment timeline includes job fairs in Summer 2013 for mall and tenant workers; completion of the hazardous materials abatement (removal from inside the buildings) that began in April; demolition of buildings (except for JCPenny and Firestone which will remain) starting in August 2012; site work beginning in Fall 2012; building construction starting in January; and the mall opening in Fall 2013.
The revamped JCPenny is slated to open in 2014, with the remainder of the large retail businesses along I-95 due in 2015.
Photo: Palm Beach Mall