The Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has plans to transform a former laundromat in Old Town into a steak and seafood restaurant with rooftop seating and an indoor/outdoor bar.

The CRA recently accepted a proposal from Palm 78 LLC to design, fund, maintain and operate the restaurant on a site located at 11 NE First Street (the corner of North Flagler Avenue and NE First Street). The site, owned by the CRA, is currently occupied by a 6,000-square-foot vacant building dubbed the “Wash House.”

Negotiations between the CRA and Palm 78 restaurant group are underway, with the objective of turning the site into an anchor for the Old Town Arts and Entertainment District.

“The team from Palm 78 has crafted an exciting proposal for the space, one that will support our goal of creating a thriving dining destination,” said CRA Director Nguyen Tran.

Rendering of Palm 78 steak and seafood restaurant planned for Old Town in Pompano Beach.

Palm 78 is headed by Lino Joseph, who is the concept creator and owner of five restaurants in the Atlanta metropolitan area – four upscale Caribbean restaurants, named Spice House, and Palm 78, Joseph’s newest restaurant, which opened in July 2022. The Palm 78 concept – a steak and seafood restaurant featuring tropical-infused cuisine and craft cocktails – is the same concept Joseph is proposing for Pompano Beach.

The plans for the Pompano location include demolishing the existing structure and constructing a new building similar in size, according to the proposal submitted by Palm 78. The new building would be set back a little further from the street than the existing structure to provide more outdoor seating.

Joseph currently estimates the buildout of the restaurant would take 270 days after the issuance of permits. The estimated cost of construction and equipment is $5.1 million.

“We want to strive to bring a great product to Pompano Beach,” said Joseph.

The proposed hours of operation for the restaurant would be seven days a week, starting at 11am. The restaurant would have 54 full-time employees.

Project site of Palm 78 steak and seafood restaurant planned for Old Town in Pompano Beach.

Joseph, who lives in Atlanta, said he chose Pompano as the location for his next restaurant because he’s originally from Miami and plans to return to South Florida in the next few years.

Joseph’s close friend, Henri Crockett, also played a role in his choice of the restaurant’s location. Crockett – who grew up in Pompano and went on to play football with the Florida State University Seminoles, the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings – thought the location in Old Town would be a good opportunity to bring something positive to the community.

Crockett is one of Joseph’s business partners in the Palm 78 restaurant project. He is also the founder and president of the Crockett Foundation, a Broward County-based non-profit organization that serves youth through educational programs, including in Pompano.

Joseph said Palm 78 will be invested in the community and will partner with culinary schools and workforce development programs to hire and train people who want careers in the restaurant industry.

Rendering of rooftop area planned for Palm 78 steak and seafood restaurant in Pompano’s Old Town.

The former laundromat building has stood vacant for roughly eight years. The CRA purchased the structure in 2019 for $1.2 million, after leasing it for five years. The CRA gutted the interior space down to dirt floors in an effort to make it easier to install new utilities and attract a restaurant use.

After showing the property to potential tenants and getting their feedback about the space, CRA staff realized some improvements needed to be made to the property in order to draw a successful operator to the location.

In June 2021, the CRA Board allocated funding for improvements to the building. The proposed improvements included opening the west and south sides of the building; installing new windows and door entrances; adding pilings for an elevator and infrastructure for stairwells; and making the roof structurally sound to allow for rooftop usage.

However, during the due diligence phase, the building was inspected by a structural engineer and two contractors. According to CRA Redevelopment Project Manager Kimberly Vazquez, all drew the same conclusion – it would be more cost effective to demolish the current structure and do ground-up construction of a new shell for restaurant use. The estimated cost to build just a shell was over $1 million.

As a result, CRA staff decided it would be better to find a developer/restaurant operator who could partner with the CRA on the construction of the site. In May 2022, the CRA issued a solicitation for proposals. When the solicitation period closed in September 2022, one proposal was received from Palm 78.

A development agreement is being negotiated with Palm 78. Once it is finalized, it will be brought to the CRA Board for approval.

The Palm 78 team has proposed a long-term ground lease with rent ($83,000) starting in the third year, and an option to purchase within five years after the restaurant’s opening.

The CRA’s redevelopment of the Old Town area as an arts and entertainment district has attracted other restaurants, including South PMP Bar & Kitchen, which is about to open, and soon-to-be-constructed Papamigos.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Joseph. “We’re excited about coming to this area and making an impact.”

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