News - Bruce Macleod: The CityPlace Story
The Real Deal Series organized by Robert Danziger of Northland fame is a regularly scheduled series of luncheon meetings in which the principals of significant real estate deals meet with MIT/CRE students to tell the full story of their project. February 12, following on the heels of a morning session with Dan Neidich of Goldman Sachs (see related story), students heard developer Bruce Macleod cover in detail an unlikely but spectacular success. Located in an area of West Palm Beach, Florida that Danziger likened to Boston's former "combat zone" and Macleod said was once the center of crack and crime in the area, the site was cleared of most of the rundown buildings on it in anticipation of an eventual redevelopment. Cityplace came into being because of the determination of the city's mayor which resulted in an RFP won by the Palladium organization (with which Macleod was then associated) and its partners in a highly contested competition.
The history of the project, its complex financing which included a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) component, and major changes in configuration and tenancies during the construction period were all covered in detail. This included the renovation of a large church which became an arts and cultural center and the centerpiece of a piazza similar to that of a small Italian town; a last minute change in the operator of a 4000-seat motion picture theatre; and the addition of a Macy's department store not originally anticipated. Almost unique among shopping centers that have come to be called "life-style" centers, Cityplace has both significant national and local retailers as well as a critical mass of residential units in the form of apartments above the shops and multi-story townhouses, most of which were sold or rented with surprising speed. In effect, according to Macleod, a new town - within a town but open to it - was built. It has regular retail streets open to cars and an open air center despite the intensity of the Florida summer climate. Provision has been made for the addition of three office towers and a hotel connected to the convention center. Distinctive architecture and design details characterize this lively retail and residential environment, one that may not be easily replicated elsewhere, but nevertheless is full of lessons on the development process, its art as well as its science. Cityplace is one of the most frequently visited centers by real estate professionals interested in studying innovation and a certain amount of daring. Macleod is a 30-year veteran of development, much of it in retail with Federated Department Stores, a partnership with the late Arthur Fischer and a lengthy and productive association with the O’Connor Group.