By Alexandra Clough – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
What once was a historic telephone building now is home to an airy loft apartment building, the first of several new apartment projects set to
open in downtown West Palm Beach.
Final touches are being made to Alexander Lofts, an 85-unit converted loft building at 326 Fern Street set for occupancy in May. The historic property, previously known as The Meridian, was built in 1926 for Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph as a regional office headquarters. Palm Beach Gardens-based Ram purchased the building and an adjacent property for $5.25 million in 2012.
Ram converted the Meridian building into apartments and renamed the six-story property Alexander Lofts, after telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. In tribute to the property’s origins, a mural on the east-facing exterior wall is a a colorful surrealist portrait of Bell. The mural was completed last year by Los Angeles artist Tristan Eaton, who used 600 cans of acrylic spray paint over 15 days to create the artwork.
When Ram bought the property three years ago, Ram chairman Peter Cummings said the goal was to create apartments “very different from new construction.”
It appears he succeeded.
The converted loft apartments feature adaptable open space. This means there no interior bedroom doors, just walls. (Bathrooms do have doors, however.)
Soaring ceilings, some as high as 15 feet, neutral color palates and industrial features, such as exposed ductwork, blend the historic elements of the building with modern finishes, such as glass-and-marble backsplash in the kitchen.
The property consists of studios, one and two-bedroom apartments. Rental rates still are being finalized.
But Hugo Pacanins, managing director of multifamily for Ram Realty Services, said monthly rents will start at $1,350. The building is pet friendly and has Wi- Fi throughout.
Reminders of the 1926 building’s historic roots are everywhere. Some units have original, 10-foot transom windows. Exposed brick decorates the lobby. Even the lobby’s modern ceiling light fixtures, large orbs lit in white and yellow, resemble the telephone assembly of rotary phones.
Pacanins said the goal was to create apartment space that was bright and neutral, to allow the apartments to be a “canvas” for tenants.
Back in 2012, Cummings said the cost of the Alexander Lofts redo could equal the purchase price.
In fact, Pacanins said, the conversion was about double the $5.5 million purchase price. Construction challenges, including piping, electrical and even exterior pavement issues were among the reasons for the added expenses, which sometimes take place with historic properties, Pacanins said.
In any event, Ram finally is at the finish line with the lofts. Plans are to start leasing in about two weeks, Pacanins said.
More WPB apartments
Farther north in downtown, the first apartment complex that is all brand-new construction is moving along well. The first residents are expected to be in Loftin Place by October, according to the developer. Loftin Place is between North Dixie Highway and North Olive Avenue, with Sixth Street on the south and Eucalyptus Street bordering the north side of the property. The first phase is in progress, with 259 planned studios, one- and twobedroom apartments, said Nader Salour, a principal with Cypress Realty in Jupiter. Leasing for the first completed units in this phase will start in May or June. When the property’s second phase is completed, Loftin Place will consist of 463 units.
Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.