If the definition of an ideal world is one filled with elegant surroundings and days of gentle ocean breezes seductively teasing every care away, the island of Palm Beach would certainly qualify. With a lifestyle and culture curated by those in a position to contrive an atmosphere most people can only dream about, Palm Beach has long held the reputation of being the preferred leisure destination and escape for the world’s most discriminating citizens.
Those who call the Island home know they have something special. That’s why Palm Beach is also a place where traditions are respected and its authentic characteristics, protected. And that’s also why, as long-time residents and experienced Town real estate lawyers know, there is a certain way of doing things when it comes to land use and real estate development.
The Historic Neighborhood Surrounding Mar-a-Lago
When work was completed on Mar-a-Lago, the elaborate 126-room mansion built by Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927, it’s evocative architecture and expansive size foreshadowed the extravagant flair and lifestyle sensitivities that would continue to be a testament to the idea of a life lived the Palm Beach way.
When it comes to real estate transactions in the vicinity of the landmarked estate, which became a private club in 1994, homeowners unfamiliar with the unique ways of the Island may find themselves in need of assistance as they set out to navigate a process watched over by various Town committees and commissions as well as by the denizens of society.
The case of a corner lot owned by a Florida limited liability company managed by Palm Beach real estate investor and commodities trader Nedim Soylemez offers a revealing example of how the ideals that Palm Beach stands for are tended.
As the Palm Beach Daily News reports, “After two rounds of review, the Palm Beach Architectural Commission isn’t yet satisfied with the design for the house proposed for the vacant lot at No. 1090 [South Ocean Boulevard] and has asked the architect to have [sic] make more changes.”
The plans for the house were first presented to the commission in October. “With two stories and a full basement, the traditionally styled, Georgian-style house as presented would have measured about 13,000 square feet, according to town records,” PBDN reports. “With an L-shaped floorplan wrapping around the pool area, the house was presented with a roof of flat gray tiles, a white stucco exterior and light-blue window shutters.” The new house will be replacing a four-bedroom, two-bath home with just 1,279 square feet of living space. The lot, however, offers approximately 18,800 square feet directly across the street from the beach.
Among the concerns voiced by the commissioners were
- the massive scale of the house,
- the arrangement of windows,
- the front porch design,
- the “Repetitive and monotonous” nature of the eastern façade, which faces the coastal road, and,
- the size of the garage wing, which faces Woodbridge Road.
According to PBDN, Alternate Commissioner Richard Sammons said, “The garage (appears) bigger than the house.”
“Commissioner Jeff Smith said the design, overall, left him cold,” the Daily News reported, quoting Smith as saying, “It doesn’t look like a Palm Beach home. It looks kind of commercial.”
When the revised design for the house was presented in January, things proceeded in a much more orderly fashion for architect Angela Lehman of Smith and Moore Architects, but the Palm Beach Architectural Commission still asked for a few more changes.
The Mar-a-Lago Factor: A Real Estate Market Influencer
The Smith and Moore plans may be receiving extra scrutiny because of its proximity to Mar-a-Lago, and therefore its celebrity standing. The new structure will be in close proximity to the private club owned by former President Donald Trump, which is the scene of some of the most celebrated society events on the island, and currently the most valuable parcel of land anywhere in Florida. “The front door of the proposed house would face south to Woodbridge Road opposite the five-bedroom house owned since 1993 by Trump at 1094 S. Ocean Blvd. that’s next door to his Mar-a-Lago Club,” the Palm Beach Daily News says. “The house also would stand next door to the longtime home on Woodbridge Road of Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau.”
Proximity to properties linked to Trump and to his Mar-a-Lago Club has been impacting Palm Beach real estate in a number of ways. As the Palm Beach Daily News reported in another story, a home in the historic Palm Beach enclave near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago recently sold for a record price. “Businessman and private-equity specialist Edgar Bronfman Jr. has sold, for a recorded $13.15 million, the 1950s-era house he bought in May for $12 million in Regents Park, one of a handful of designated historical districts in town,” the paper reported.
If that name sounds familiar, there’s a reason. “Bronfman is a former chairman of Warner Music Group and part of the Canadian family that for years owned the Seagram Co. liquor empire. He once served as the company’s CEO before divesting its ownership,” PBDN says.