The county has agreed to pay more than $1.1 million for the narrow strip of land needed to add a right turn lane on the well-known Trump Corner rally spot at PGA Boulevard and Military Trail, nearly doubling the project cost.
Meanwhile, the Trump rallies that thrust the corner into the spotlight both before and after the 2020 election have been silenced by dirt mounds and barricades, but not for long, organizer Willy Guardiola vowed.
Certain that the road work, which started in November, would still be going on to halt rallies during the runup to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ November reelection, Guardiola said he is working to anoint a nearby PGA Boulevard corner as “DeSantis Depot.”
As for the corner outside the Publix-based Garden Square Shoppes, blessed with holy water and suffused in prayer as it drew thousands of Trump followers on Fridays over six years, the 300-day construction schedule calls for work to be finished and the corner to reopen on Oct. 29, just 10 days before Election Day.
“They’re doing this deliberately,” Guardiola said.
When told about the county plans in June 2021, Guardiola, president of Christian on a Mission, expressed despair. “It’s going to kill us,” he said at the time.
While Democrats tried to use Trump Corner for their own rallies, they never matched the sheer traffic-stopping fervor of the Friday afternoon Trump rallies, particularly leading up to the 2020 election.
Now Guardiola wants a similar rallying point for DeSantis, who will be seeking his second term as governor.
DeSantis Depot rallies, if all goes as planned, will start in August at PGA Boulevard and Fairchild Gardens Avenue next to Barnes & Noble, he said, about a mile east of Trump Corner. Supporters swarmed the bookstore in November 2019, when Donald Trump Jr. stopped by to sign copies of his book, “Triggered.”
Land costs push turn-lane project to $2.7 million
When OnGardens.org first reported on the county’s road construction plans in June 2021, the county official overseeing the project said she had no idea the corner had become known for its Trump rallies.
The need for the turn lane, with a price tag now exceeding $2.7 million, had been identified years earlier in a study and the project had been creeping forward for years.
To take the 355-foot long strip of land that amounts to about a fifth of an acre through eminent domain, the county proposed paying $386,370.
It turned out to cost far more.
In a settlement approved July 12 by the Palm Beach County Commission, the price hit $1.17 million, including $295,000 for attorney and expert fees and $375,000 for Publix to reconfigure its parking lot.
The county will pay $500,000 for the land itself — $40,000 to Publix and $460,000 to the Garden Square Shoppes owner, Jan Real Estate.
A plan for the reconfigured parking lot shows 536 parking spaces, less than the 567 required by code. County documents say the busy shopping center is losing 22 spaces because of the turn lane.
The county also paid UPS, which has a store in the plaza, $10,000; and Teco Oil and Gas, $4,000, court documents reveal.
R&D Paving, which won the contract with a low bid of $1.26 million, has already installed underground pipes and built the curb leading up to Trump Corner, where utility poles need to be moved before work can progress. The far right lane of Military Trail has been closed to traffic for months.
The total project budget, including the county’s cost of overseeing construction, is $1.56 million. Add in the land and the cost to build a single right-turn lane on a busy county thoroughfare reaches $2.73 million.
© 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.