BY ELIOT KLEINBERG – PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER

BOYNTON BEACH —

Ground has been broken for Compson Place Apartments, the last phase in Compson Place, the complex at the north end of the 86-acre Renaissance Commons.

The three six-story buildings will stand just south of the Compson Place condominiumrental complex at the corner of Congress Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.

They will host 338 rental units above a 3,427 -square-foot retail operation, likely a real estate office.

The groundbreaking was last week and the complex is expected to open in the summer of 2014.

Compson Place originally was planned as the Santorini condominiums, the last of the condominium complexes at Renaissance, with 348 condo units and 47,000 feet of retail.

But in 2007, as the housing market began to falter, work stopped. The project was redesigned and was restarted in 2011 as 1 – and 2-bedroom apartments renting for between $1,200 to $1,400 a month, along with the much smaller retail footprint.

For the apartments, “we’re putting everybody on a waiting list for now,” Compson Vice President Carl Klepper said Wednesday.

City development director Nancy Byrne said Wednesday the groundbreaking is one more step for the city’s recovery from a free fall in which total property values dropped 40 percent between 2007 and 2011.

“Things that have been stalled for a while are coming off the ground again,” Byrne said.

“There’s going to be demand for not just rental units, but luxury rental units,” Donald White, a West Palm Beach real estate broker, said Thursday.

He said many people in the middle of foreclosures or short sales won’t be able to qualify to buy new residences for a while and will have to opt for rentals, and that could last three to five years.

But he said the window for new construction of rentals and condominiums might be limited and “we might be overbuilding a bit,” adding, that the new Compson Place apartments “isn’t the only (apartment) project going on right now.”

And White said the Boynton Beach’s east and west sides might be working against each other.

“You can cannibalize your own momentum here, and we could end up with just what we had before — a glut of housing that’s just sitting there empty,” he said.

Byrne also conceded the Congress Avenue corridor competes with downtown Boynton Beach, which still is struggling, as evidenced by the “500 East Ocean” tract, a 4.7-acre bald spot along Federal Highway just south of Ocean Avenue.

Shops there were bulldozed in 2004 to make room for a $105 million residential-retail-commercial complex. But the deal collapsed. A bank owns the lot and has had it on the block since July 2011, without success.

Byrne said she’s optimistic that downtown also is on the rise.

She said events such as February’s’s International Kinetic Art Exhibit and Symposium, “drew a lot of people from the west side of (Interstate) 95 that had never been downtown before.”

And, she said of downtown Boynton Beach, “it’s the greatest hidden value in Palm Beach County.”

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