Jim Knight, Knight Group LLC
Jim Knight, Knight Group LLC ()

Dealmaker: Jim Knight

The Deal: Knight led the $20 million sale of a mixed-use assemblage that brokers say is downtown Delray Beach’s largest commercial real estate transaction in about a decade. It closed July 14.

Details: The veteran broker and head of the Knight Group LLC has been doing business from offices in downtown Delray Beach for more than 20 years.

So when Sundy Estates LC wanted to sell an iconic property in the heart of a city tempering history and development, Knight helped ink a record deal to strengthen the economic pulse around the 112-year-old piece of real estate operating as a restaurant, inn and botanical garden.

The deal included the John and Elizabeth Shaw Sundy House and more than 20 parcels along two blocks on both sides of Swinton Avenue between Southwest First and Southeast First avenues.

“It was very complex,” said Knight, who will work with the buyer as exclusive agent for the planned mixed-use project, Sundy Lane. “You had a large tract of land with an income-producing hotel, restaurant and other buildings. And you also had vacant land and entitlements that we had to get done.”

Sundy House is the oldest residence in Delray Beach. It’s evolved with the city and earned a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, about six years before a major restoration to remodel and expand the site.

The property dates back to 1902, when the city’s first mayor, John Sundy, constructed the Victorian and Queen Anne-style house at 106 S. Swinton Ave. The property remained the Sundy family home for nearly 80 years. But its uses changed as the town developed. It became the city’s first church, schoolhouse and bank, eventually morphing into an award-winning restaurant and 11-room boutique hotel with daily rates starting at $129.

“Whenever you’re working with a property in the historic district, there’s a lot of emotion involved,” Knight said.

Working the deal meant treading political water and securing new entitlements for the historic corridor that drew strong interest from preservationists. During a public comment session before the City Commission, about 100 speakers showed up to speak both for and against the redevelopment. As the commercial brokerage consultant, Knight was part of a team that helped win the commission’s approval for a central business district overlay that allows expanded commercial uses and construction of up to 38 units per acre.

The approval meant a developer could expand commercial uses, strengthen returns on the investment property and configure uses to preserve the historic landmark.

It took about a year from start to closing.

The buyer was Delray Beach-based Hudson Holdings LLC, which will serve as master developer on a project to add 130 hotel rooms, Class A office space, covered walkways, parking and about 60,000 square feet of retail.

“The sale is significant,” Knight said. “It will raise the value for commercial real estate in downtown Delray Beach.”

Background:Knight has done business in South Florida for more than 20 years, and brokered more than $500 million in transactions.