War of words over proposed downtown office project


As development heats up in a downtown West Palm Beach, a proposed office tower is pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Dr. Margaret LaManna and husband Manny Levin stood on the balcony of their dream penthouse home on the 19th floor of the Esperante building.

“We were invited to a party here in 1995, and stepped out on the balcony and fell in love with the view,” said LaManna.

Eight years later when the condo went on the market, LaManna and Levin snapped it up, and were married at the real estate closing.

But now LaManna and Levin fear losing at least some of their priceless views.

Related Companies, developers of CityPlace and other projects downtown, plan the One Flagler office tower, just to the east of the Esperante building.

The proposed 25-story One Flagler building, designed by a renowned architect, would provide badly needed high-end office space downtown.

“And it puts it where the market, the high end market, is asking for,” said attorney Harvey Oyer, who represents Related.

Also, as part of the project, Related would preserve the historic First Church of Christ, Scientist building, which sits on Flagler Drive, immediately to the east of the tower site.

One Flagler will, however, need an adjustment to the five-story height limit currently placed on the property. Voters in West Palm twice approved height restrictions near the waterfront, designed to preserve views, and the area’s character.

Attorney Oyer pointed out the 25-floor building, placed to the west of the church, would essentially sit a block off the waterfront.

“It, in fact, does not undermine the intent of the original 1996 voter referendum,” said Oyer.

But LaManna and Levin, and other residents of nearby downtown condos, say they bought their units, believing the height limits would remain in place.

“What we had counted on, could be changed in a heartbeat practically,” said Clint Fowlkes, who lives at One City Tower.

Opponents say they’ve gathered more than 1,000 signatures on petition.

City boards have started holding hearings on One Flagler, with more to come.

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