How much is Palm Beach Gardens worth?

Rise in city’s value slowed by coronavirus pandemic; Gardens Mall dips.

The pandemic has hit Palm Beach Gardens in the pocket book.

The city’s 10 most valuable properties, worth more than $1 billion, lost $35 million in value as of Jan. 1, as determined by the Palm Beach County property appraiser.

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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Blessed’ ground of Trump Corner to undergo conversion

Will construction break up Gardens’ hotspot for Trump rallies?

It’s “blessed” ground.

Trump Corner, the space outside the Publix shopping center in Palm Beach Gardens where local resident Willy Guardiola draws hundreds of Trump supporters for weekly rallies, has been sprinkled with holy water and suffused in prayer. 

It’s blessed in practical ways as well, with abundant parking, helpful police and a supportive landlord. 

“It’s the best location in the entire county,” Guardiola says.

But this fall the corner of Military Trail and PGA Boulevard is going to be ripped up in a $1.3 million county construction project to add a right-turn lane.

And construction is expected to last about 10 months, meaning that 13-foot wide strip along southbound Military Trail will be off limits as the race for Florida governor heats up. 

“It’s going to kill us,” Guardiola said when informed of the county’s road construction plan. “That’s where I’m going to hold all my DeSantis rallies.”

Trump Corner
A quiet Thursday in June at Trump Corner at PGA Boulevard and Military Trail in Palm Beach Gardens. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

‘A captive audience’

Once construction is done, as the 2024 presidential election looms, the corner will have shrunk. It’s not exactly huge now. The lawn pitches sharply upward from the sidewalk leading to a flower bed and shrubs surrounding the brick-bordered sign proclaiming Garden Square Shoppes.

Guardiola, president of Christian on a Mission, loves it because of ample parking nearby but when more than 1,000 flag-waving Trump supporters show up the patch of grass and sidewalk outside the Bank of America branch fills fast.

For political purposes, the long wait drivers endure to turn right is a plus —”a captive audience,” Guardiola calls them.

“It could be positive or it could be negative. If it’s Trump people, it could be great,” he said. When it’s anti-Trumpers, the former college basketball referee urges supporters to ignore catcalls and say nothing.

Rallies open with prayer

He credits the peaceful nature of the corner, which began hosting Trump rallies in June 2016, to police presence and prayer. 

At the start of each rally, usually held at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, a friend from his church blesses the site with holy water. The group recites a prayer. 

Willy Guardiola
Willy Guardiola, right, with fellow Trump backer Lou Marin of Orlando, at a Trump birthday bash they organized at Southern Boulevard and Interstate 95 on June 14, 2021. (Provided by Willy Guardiola)

“We’ve never had an incident,” he said. “It’s the holy water. It’s prayer. … Police and prayer.”

Before the 2016 Trump campaign, the corner often drew local sign-wavers on election day. But Guardiola believes the colorful Trump rallies have usurped that old identity. “We went big. This is national. It isn’t local,” he said. “It sets the tone for the state of Florida.”

That help explains his reaction in September, after Democrats began holding Wednesday rallies on Trump Corner to counter his Friday rallies. 

“This isn’t just any intersection. I mean this is Trump corner. It’s got a name. It’s nationally known,” Guardiola told CBS-12. “And for another group to come out here, it’s just a lack of respect. I’ll say it over and over again. I would never do that to anybody.” 

Democrats were aghast.

“I can’t believe you think this corner is yours. This is public property,” former Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, a Democrat who helped organize the rallies, said this week. “They’re getting their just rewards (with the construction) as far as I’m concerned.”

Strip of land costs $386,000

Trump Corner
A right-turn lane is planned for this strip along Military Trail at Trump Corner in Palm Beach Gardens. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The county engineer in charge of the project said she had never heard of Trump Corner and the corner’s political calling card had nothing to do with the decision to add the turn lane. The need came up in routine traffic reviews, said Kathleen Farrell, the county’s assistant director for roadway production, and the wheels of government began turning. 

The county sued the owners of the Garden Square Shoppes, Jan Real Estate, in December to seize a 355-foot long strip that amounts to about a fifth of an acre. In April, a Palm Beach County Circuit judge approved the county’s bottom line offer, $386,370, for the 13-foot wide strip and an adjoining 6 feet. Jan Real Estate  can challenge the valuation and go to trial if it believes it is due more money. 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: What’s that mammoth building rising at PGA and I-95?

FIXING I-95: State has a plan to ease PGA Boulevard backups

Work will include new curb, gutter and sidewalk, a retaining wall and relocation of overhead electric lines, underground pipes and traffic signal mast arms.

Five bids came in on June 1, ranging from $1.26 million to $1.71 million. The winning bidder must be approved by the Palm Beach County Commission, expected in September or October, before construction can begin.  

The county originally estimated the job would take 150 days but with material shortages caused by the pandemic it increased the time to 300 days.

That means if work begins in November, it could last until the end of August. 

Guardiola said he would show up to contest the plan. 

“I will be there to stake my claim. This has been our corner for five years.”

© 2021 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

APARTMENTS AND OFFICES: What does developer Dan Catalfumo have in mind for PGA Station

EXCLUSIVE: Cheesecake Factory to be torn down at Downtown Gardens

Plan calls for apartment building, hotel to replace Cheesecake Factory, Texas de Brazil at Shopcore’s Downtown Palm Beach Gardens site.

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The continuing evolution of Palm Beach Gardens’ fledgling downtown calls for the demolition of The Cheesecake Factory restaurant to make way for a 280-unit apartment building.

The proposed move, announced Tuesday before a city advisory board, adds residents — an integral component of any downtown, even one started in the suburban shadow of the Gardens Mall. 

It’s not the only change proposed by Chicago-based Shopcore Properties, which already is deep into a redesign of the Downtown Palm Beach Gardens property it bought for $141 million in 2014. 

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Long time coming: Spat stalls demolition of old DMV building on PGA Boulevard

Driver’s license building could be demolished this summer if truce holds between Tax Collector Anne Gannon and Palm Beach Gardens.

It’s arguably the ugliest building on PGA Boulevard.

Amid upscale office towers and the Gardens Mall, the squat, blue-trimmed structure looks like a mistake, vacant and grim, the blue-lettered “DRIVER LICENSES” sign washed away long ago. 

In the last public action, the Palm Beach Gardens City Council approved Tax Collector Anne Gannon’s $11 million proposal to replace the former driver’s license building with a structure nearly 10 times the size.

That was in May 2019. 

Since then, nothing has happened. At least not at the building site. 

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