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Palm Beach County Businesses Holding on CRE Footprints: Survey  

Most Palm Beach County Businesses Expect to Keep or Expand Office Space

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More than a quarter of executives of businesses in Palm Beach County, Fla., expect to expand their commercial real estate footprints this year, according to a survey released Thursday.

Now for the 700,000-square-foot question: Will that demand, combined with a continued inflow of out-of-state companies and workers, be enough to fill all the new office space going up in Downtown West Palm Beach?

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The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, a public-private economic development organization, and financial services firm Kaufman Rossin polled 544 CEOs, business owners and executives.

Fully 65 percent of respondents said they’ll keep their current commercial real estate footprints in 2024, while 29 percent said they will lease or buy additional space. Just 6 percent expect to pull back on their real estate occupancy.

The trends around employee counts look even more optimistic. Some 55 percent of respondents said they plan to expand their payrolls in 2024, while 40 percent say they’ll maintain their current staffing counts. Just 5 percent anticipated reductions in headcounts.

South Florida’s job growth has helped keep the region’s office market from following the rest of the nation into distress territory. Office vacancy in Palm Beach County was 11.6 percent at the end of 2023, and rents are rising, according to Cushman & Wakefield. (By contrast, Manhattan’s overall office vacancy rate was 22.8 percent at year’s end, the brokerage reported.)

Palm Beach County’s overall asking rents rose to $46.21 per square foot, up 5.9 percent from a year earlier, Cushman & Wakefield reported. Class A rents rose 4.2 percent to $52.43. Class B product recorded a 5 percent annual increase, closing out the year at an average asking rent of $41.12 per foot.

Downtown rents jumped 11.5 percent in 2023, to $64.90 per square foot. Class A space in the submarket recorded a 14 percent increase during the same period, up to $77.27.

Amid the burgeoning demand, Related Companies has embarked on an office building spree. The completions of Brand Atlantic’s 300 Banyan and Related’s One Flagler will bring 215,000 square feet of new office space to Downtown West Palm Beach, and an additional 585,000 square feet are under construction in the submarket, Cushman & Wakefield said.

However, despite the job growth, Palm Beach County employers also don’t expect a mass return to offices. According to the survey, 68.2 percent of respondents work fully on site now, and 67.4 percent expect that situation to hold in two years. Meanwhile, 13.5 percent of Palm Beach County employers say they’re now fully remote, and 14.2 percent expect to be working entirely outside their offices in two years.

Since the pandemic, the in-migration of jobs and employers to South Florida has offset the trend toward working from home.

“There has been a transformation over the past five years with the buildup of industry and influx of business and population,” Rick Slater, Kaufman Rossin’s managing principal for Palm Beach and Broward counties, said in a statement.

Growth comes with some downsides, too, including traffic congestion and soaring housing costs, both cited as challenges by respondents to the survey.

Jeff Ostrowski can be reached at jostrowski@commercialobserver.com.