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WEST PALM BEACH, FL-Elected Palm Beach County officials will learn later this month whether $7.3 million is enough to buy 62 acres of land zoned for light industrial use in the 500-acre Vista Center Corporate Park. County staff presently is negotiating to buy the Vista Center property at an estimated $117,742 per acre, or $2.70 per sf, from West Palm Beach-based Palm Beach Commerce Center Associates Ltd., a holding of Miami-based Palmcos Inc. and Palmcos II Inc.

The county began a search in earnest earlier this year for a light industrial site as part of an estimated $36-million strategic plan to physically consolidate a number of its operating units.

“We’ve been talking about centralizing facilities for maybe five, 10 years,” John Chesher, who directs the county’s capital improvements division, tells GlobeSt.com.

Although reticent to talk about the negotiations, county officials cite the poor conditions of many existing facilities as the reason for consolidating operations. They, as well as a spokesman for Palm Beach Commerce Center Associates, referred questions about the negotiations to Ross Hering, the county’s director of property and real estate management. Hering was unavailable for comment.

“We’re in very old buildings that are inefficient and sometimes don’t even have air-conditioning,” Chesher says. “We’re trying to update and consolidate our facilities to make operations more efficient.”

The county intends to us about $8 million in public improvement revenue bond anticipation notes to finance initial acquisition, construction and equipment costs, according to county records.

“We’re asking for a one-year, short-term note to buy the land, and then do a bond referendum,” John Long, a fiscal manager in the county Office of Financial Management & Budget, tells GlobeSt.com.

Once the Palm Beach County Commission approves the acquisition, the county intends to issue about $28 million in public improvement revenue bonds to finance development of the project. The commission could approve the acquisition as soon as July 24, Long says.”It’s really premature to talk about it now because it’s in negotiations,” he says.

In May, the county commission authorized staff to begin negotiations on the Vista Center property, a mixed-use development of regional impact (DRI) adjacent to Florida’s Turnpike at Jog Road and Okeechobee Boulevard. Home of the Emerald Dunes Golf Course, the site is zoned for office, industrial, commercial, hotel and condominium use. The DRI allows for about 3.1 million sf of useable space.

In authorizing the negotiations, the commission rejected another staff proposal to buy 235 acres for about $11.28 million, or $1.10 per sf.

“The key issue for the board is whether it wants to spend the additional money required to provide land for future growth and unanticipated needs,” according to a staff report. “Staff recommends the purchase of 235 acres at Jog and Belvedere (roads) for $11.28 million, which will accommodate future needs. If the board chooses to only meet its immediate needs, staff recommends the board purchase 62 acres at Vista Center for $7.3 million.”

It is uncertain when construction could start, but the county already has picked West Palm Beach-based Gee & Jenson Inc. as the principal architect and engineer for a project that will build out at about 300,000 sf. Phase-one plans cover about 170,000 sf. “It all depends on the negotiations and the purchase of the property,” Chesher tells GlobeSt.com. “Once we get started on that, we have a consultant ready to go.”

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