Saturday, June 18, 2016
A GOOD MOVE: IMPROVING DETERIORATING BUILDINGS ON PALM BEACH’S ROYAL POINCIANA WAY
A positive development is brewing in Palm Beach that will have appropriate eyes on re-development issues. A decade ago the Testa family, restauranteurs, sought to change zoning restrictions, especially the town’s on-site parking requirements which the Testas said discouraged others from investing in the deteriorating buildings, including the restaurant they owned. The town has approved redevelopment by purchasers of the Testa property into a new restaurant, shops and luxury homes with underground parking.
Adjacent properties have been purchased from a Saudi prince that encompass about 30,000 sq ft of rentable restaurant, retail and office space and a 1400 sq ft apartment, all within about an eighth of an acre. Included are Classic Collections (landmarked), Evelyn & Arthur (landmarked), Nick & Johnnies (façade is landmarked), and The Palm Beach Bookstore. The properties were sold to generate funds the seller plans to reinvest in other capital projects, almost all of it planned to stay in the U.S. According to news reports, the new owners have talked to other owners of adjacent properties, who don’t want to sell… YET!
This area is just north of “downtown Palm Beach” and The Breakers Hotel on a street with a pretty median, open views and royal palm trees, and some parking. The new owners of the properties are focused on re-energizing the street, improving its walkability, adding the needed underground parking, and stopping the inevitable deterioration and blight. Along with preserving the “small town appearance and character,” and adding upgraded or new businesses, the expected result will be new jobs, new residences and new patrons will come to the area.
The community has members who want to protect the street’s small-town character from over-development. The proposed new underground parking area will counter complaints about anticipated congestion and bring new people to the area. As this development comes about, we will watch it grow and be proud. The Preservation Foundation (your editor is a member) recently played a large part in restoration in the Royal Poinciana Plaza area, caddy-corner and a bit down the block from the Testa property. It would not be surprising to find the Foundation involved in this project.
The anticipated soon-to-be owners have engaged an architect who is a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission “to work with us on the landmarked buildings… to properly restore and protect the site’s historically significant buildings.” This should counter objections about the appearance of the street when the area is redeveloped.
Most (perhaps all) of the buildings they purchased are wood frame, dating to the early 1900’s, and are suffering decay from roof leaks and water damage, mold accumulations and wood rot, termite infestation and structural failures. Electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems require complete upgrades or replacements. Estimates for costs may be equal to or exceed the $10.35mm cost of the properties.
In the US of A, you can’t stop progress, thank heavens.
MARILYN FARBER JACOBS
Luxury Property Specialist at Heath & Joseph Real Estate