The mystery man behind $29 million BallenIsles buy

Maryland biotech business owner takes control of prime parcels on PGA Boulevard at BallenIsles entrance.

He owns not one but two multimillion-dollar homes in north county.

He graduated from MIT at age 19.

He got his start running a life-sciences company with the help of his father, whose company later sued him. 

His company was selected to participate in Operation Warp Speed to respond to the COVID pandemic. He holds numerous patents. But his name does not even appear on his own company’s website. 

And now, property records show, he has paid nearly $30 million for vacant land outside one of the most prestigious addresses on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens — BallenIsles.

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Fast fix is no fix for PGA backups at I-95

Work to start Nov. 9 but FDOT engineers concede $10 million project will do little to ease backups on PGA Boulevard by the Gardens Mall.

If you drive west on PGA Boulevard to get on Interstate 95 during the afternoon rush hour, you know the problem.

Cars back onto PGA from the ramp to the highway, starting where the ramp from PGA merges with a ramp from Alternate A1A. 

A $10 million project to improve the southbound traffic flow, set to start Nov. 9 and last more than a year, may make it easier for motorists once they reach the highway. But, as project managers made clear at a launch meeting Thursday, the improvements will do little to ease the backups that bring westbound traffic near the Gardens Mall on PGA to a near standstill every afternoon. 

Continue readingFast fix is no fix for PGA backups at I-95

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.

It’s gone. 

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

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Fix for PGA flyover logjam on fast track

A $7.2 million infusion from the American Rescue Plan moves up construction at PGA Boulevard and Interstate 95 by two years.

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The daily traffic snarl on PGA Boulevard at Interstate 95 took a significant step toward easing Thursday with the act of a local transportation planning agency.

State plans to improve traffic flow on the perpetually stalled southbound I-95 entrance ramp moved up two years with an infusion of $7.2 million from the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress in March.

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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

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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