Harbourside Opens October 15

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Looking forward to a successful launch!-Stefan

What It Took to Make Jupiter’s Harbourside Happen

Updated: 6:11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014  |  Posted: 3:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014

By Jennifer Sorentrue – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

JUPITER —

Developer Nick Mastroianni was facing an uphill battle in 2007 when he first pitched plans to build a new downtown along the shore of the Intracoastal Waterway south of the Jupiter Inlet.

Mastroianni not only needed to win the blessing of the Jupiter Town Council, a board that is known for being one of the county’s toughest on developers, but he had to find a way to finance the project in the middle of The Great Recession — a task many thought would be impossible.

The amphitheater at Harbourside Place in Jupiter.

It took seven years, and a $99.5 million pledge from a collection of foreign investors, but businesses are slowly starting to open at Harbourside Place near the northwest corner of U.S. Route 1 and Indiantown Road. An amphitheater, envisioned for public concerts and other events, is set to open in December.

“It was very difficult, but we pressed through because we knew it was a good project,” Mastroianni said last week. “If you look at what we developed in Jupiter, it is a very strategic city center. It really is a community development.”

Plans for a much-different Harbourside were proposed in 2004, but were quickly rejected by town council members who were concerned about the size of the project and the large number of residential units.

+What it took to make Jupiter’s Harbourside happen photo

Nick Mastroianni, developer of Harbourside Place.

Miami-based BAP Development’s original proposal for the site included two seven-story condominium towers and two other buildings with shops, restaurants, and offices. The developer later scaled back the project, but it was again rejected by the town.

“When I first got elected, I remember this guy coming into my office and showing me this really, really intense, seven-story development,” recalled Councilman Todd Wodraska, who was elected to the board in 2004. “I remember the guy coming in and telling me that this is what he was going to do. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t think he knows how this works.’”

Jupiter has a “well-earned reputation” of being tough on developers, and council members’ vision for the area included hotel rooms, not condo units, Wodraska said. The five-member board also wanted to make sure the site became an entertainment center for the town’s Riverwalk, a 2.5-mile-long scenic public path along the eastern shoreline of the Intracoastal Waterway.

“That is one council that understood their ability to say, ‘No,’ ” said Joanne Davis, a local land planner who has spent decades monitoring development across the county. “They are looking for good projects.”

After spending more than a year trying to persuade the town council to approve its plan, BAP walked away from the 8-acre site.

Mastroianni and his firm, Allied Capital & Development of South Florida, acquired the property and came up with a new proposal — one that did not include condos or other residential development. The plan called for a hotel, restaurants, offices, a marina and an amphitheater.

Bravo restaurant opens for business in Harbourside in Jupiter on Saturday, October 11, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

“Mastroianni was the first one who came to the table with no residential,” Wodraska said. “It was like maybe we can start here.”

After several meetings, council members approved the complex in 2008. The project included a critical section of the Riverwalk, designed to be at gathering place along the waterfront.

“It was very important for the council to get that connection of the Riverwalk built,” Councilwoman Wendy Harrison said. “It was envisioned as the part of the Riverwalk that would be the most active.”

+What it took to make Jupiter’s Harbourside happen photo

CHRIS SMITH

Map of harbourside showing tenants

But even after approving the project, at least two town council members questioned whether it would ever come out of the ground. The economic downturn had brought construction in the county to a near standstill. Most developers were unable to find financing for their projects, and even if they could, the market for retail and office space had nearly dried up.

“If I was going to bet you $10 in 2008 or 2009, I would have said there was no way that thing was going to get built,” Wodraska said. “In 2008, we were walking into a compete recession. Nobody was lending anybody any money.”

Harrison said she too questioned whether Mastroianni would be able to raise the money he needed to construct the $150 million complex.

The amphitheater at Harbourside Place in Jupiter is near completion on September 30, 2014. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

“There were many times when I thought it was not going to happen just because of the precariousness of the financial markets,” Harrison said. “It was a very ambitious project. There are a lot of working parts to it.”

As the financial markets were collapsing, Mastroianni said the bank his development company was relying on for a loan was taken over by the federal government.

“It wasn’t just hitting bad economic times,” Mastroianni recalled. “Our bank was taken over by the feds and our loan was in oblivion.”

Bravo restaurant, located next to the outdoor amphitheater and stage, opens for business in Harbourside in Jupiter on Saturday, October 11, … Read More

Desperate to keep the project moving forward, Mastroianni turned to a federal program, known as the EB-5, that lets foreign nationals gain U.S. citizenship in about two years in exchange for a $500,000 investment.

Mastroianni said his firm used the program to raise $99.5 million, largely from Chinese investors.

Construction began on Harbourside in 2012. Later that year, the two-story building that had been home to The Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum was demolished to make room for the complex.

The first seated patrons, Susan and Eddie Rieck, Jupiter, are attended by Yasmin Chasan, Palm Beach Gardens, as Bravo restaurant opens … Read More

“I am excited for people to get in there and see how much effort the town put in to making it a destination that people can utilize,” Wodraska said. “This is really something for everyone to come and enjoy.”

But some still question whether the project was the best fit for the site.

Councilman Jim Kuretski, the lone dissenter in the 2008 vote to approve the project, has said he is concerned Harbourside will be too pricey for many Jupiter residents, and the restaurants and bars won’t attract the family-oriented clientele that some residents want on the waterfront.

Rebel Cook, a commercial real estate broker based in Jupiter, questions whether the project should have included some residential units. The area, she said, may not be able to support so much retail, she added.

“I just don’t see enough population here year round to support that much square footage,” Cook said. “I think it is very ambitious.”

Mastroianni said the project will create a place where people can hang out and shop, something he says the area desperately needs.

“Condos did not belong there,” he said. “ There isn’t a place that I know like this any where else.”

Staff writer Bill DiPaolo contributed to this story.

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