Say goodbye to PGA eyesore: Old DMV building torn down after 44 years

It’s been four years since Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon announced she would replace the building with one 10 times its size.

DMV Building

It’s gone. 

February 2022 is the month that the ugliest building in Palm Beach Gardens got torn down.

The old driver’s license building on PGA Boulevard, erected in 1978 and long outlived in shape and size, has been made to disappear in a weeklong demolition flurry. 

It took four years and a lawsuit to get to that point and it’s still unclear how much it’s going to cost taxpayers to build its sleek, high-ceilinged, glass-encased replacement. 

While the permit put the cost of demolition at $15,000, no construction permits have been pulled yet and a request to the office of Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon for documents clarifying the updated costs is pending. 

While many cringed as they drove past, some aren’t convinced it was the ugliest building in Palm Beach Gardens. With its sharp edges and overhanging roof, it had elements of 1970s chic. 

Driver's license building on PGA
The long vacant driver’s license building at 3185 PGA Blvd. is gone after long delays and a lawsuit pitting the county tax collector and the city. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

But it was low and squat and it aged poorly. It had been unused for four years and it hadn’t been big enough to do the job for years before that. People waiting for driver’s licenses snaked out the front door and wrapped around the building without cover from withering heat and rain. 

What may have seemed swank in the rough patchwork of the 1970s felt blighted in the elegance of the 2020s directly across the street from the Gardens Mall, which it predated. 

Now, the construction site is cloaked with cheery construction fencing featuring a green plant pattern.

Anne Gannon

With its useful life over, Gannon set out to replace the structure in February 2018. She set aside $11 million for a new building, which would be 10 times the size of the old, and offer space for vehicle registrations, property tax and business tax services as well as driver’s license renewals.

But she encountered hurdles as she underwent city planning review, resulting in delays and prompting her to sue the city. 

Even after hiring veteran land-use attorney Marty Perry, it took Gannon’s consultants led by Song & Associates about 15 months to respond to the city’s many critiques and reach the point of city council approval. 

DMV building
A rendition of the proposed driver’s license building on PGA Boulevard from the northwest. (Song & Associates)

Connections to neighboring properties proved particularly vexing.

The city wanted a roadway connection east to link the backside of the tax collector property to the larger county property next door, which offers not just the north county courthouse but the north county library as well. Song’s planners had no problem with the suggestion but the city requested technical fixes in a series of exchanges over months, documents submitted in the lawsuit show.

But the bigger hangup came over the city’s desire to allow a north-south road, which partially exists as an entry road beside the PGA Tour Superstore, to continue south into county-owned land and link PGA Boulevard to Fairchild Avenue.

DMV building
Plants are evoked on the construction fence along PGA Boulevard for the old DMV building. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

After months of negotiations, a settlement over one issue concerning the road resulted in a disagreement over another and Gannon sued. About two years after the city council’s May 2019 decision to approve the building, the issues concerning the road were cleared, allowing construction to proceed. 

In April 2021, the tax collector submitted revised documents to the city that would soon get the green light. 

At the time she said construction could begin as early as July. Gannon was not available for comment Friday.

The Morganti Group is overseeing construction of the new tax collector’s building on PGA Boulevard. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

In September 2021, she signed a contract with the Morganti Group, revising a June 2019 bid, to be construction manager. It is working with architects and contractors to deliver the new building.

Regardless of the price tag, it’s makeover was long overdue, north county commercial real estate broker Rebel Cook told OnGardens in May.

“Yes, that building is an eyesore,” she said. “It’s a leftover building from a time long ago … literally an embarrassment on that street.”

Read the first story about the DMV building, detailing the tax collector-city flap

What else is gone? Old Robb & Stucky building making way for apartments

Wrecking ball awaits Cheesecake Factory in Downtown Palm Beach Gardens

Construction going on now at PGA and Military Trail: the so-called Trump Corner

© 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

5 thoughts on “Say goodbye to PGA eyesore: Old DMV building torn down after 44 years”

  1. Let’s hope the new facility, in its final architectural incarnation, is both attractive and easy to negotiate. Given its prime location, it needs to be a bit of a showpiece — even if it *is* a government building …

  2. Joel,

    Thank you for the article and story concerning the old DMV building demolition. It’s great PBG is getting a new modern building to support our government interaction needs. However…

    Regarding the traffic implications… Yikes! With all the construction going on within a square mile of the PGA Superstore (e.g. the Catalfumo plan for apartments and office space) and this new DMV building it’s going to make PGA Boulevard even more difficult to traverse via car. With all this construction on PGA Boulevard (including the condo/apartments to be built just over the PGA Bridge across the Intercoastal from the Waterway Cafe), PGA Boulevard is going to become a nightmare on steroids. I see no traffic mitigation being performed with all these building projects. I fear the traffic, sprawl and congestion mess that is Fort Lauderdale and South to Miami is heading our way now.

  3. Yet another example of government hubris. At least in these united American States, as designed, government was supposed to be minimalists. NOT usurping million$ and million$ of OUR money to aggrandise themselves.
    Shame of those that do, and shame on any of “we the people” that approve.

  4. I feel like the city is going to rot in h*** for doing this. Ruining our quiet neighborhood. I grew up near this new road (15 + years) and still live on the same street. This gorgeous land was once forests and cow pastures. In one week you demolished even more of the last bit of forest we still have. You disturbed a well-known habitat for the endangered gopher tortoise, many of which have had to relocate to my backyard. Even scarier and sadder, I’ve already seen 3 coyotes on my street/wandering into neighbors’ yards, since you destroyed and pushed them out of their last remaining home. I hate what this world has come to. Is nothing sacred?

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