The group that owns the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn is focusing
on immediate issues, such as restoring the sea walls.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Jane Smith
Once a political hot button for the town of South Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn is getting an image upgrade under its new owners.
An investment group paid $8.25 million for the 1.1-acre site in November 2012. Since then, they hired Trust Hospitality of Coral Gables to manage the 58-room hotel and run the oceanfront Tides Bar & Grille.
“We kept the menu. The food was one of the best things about the hotel when we bought it,” said Gary Cohen, CEO of Paragon Acquisition Group LLC in Boca Raton.
They’ve done minor renovations to keep things running and are mulling what to do with the property. “The long-term prospects for that piece of land are as condos, not a hotel,” said Cohen, without saying when that would occur.
The land underneath the hotel has nearly doubled in taxable value in the past year, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office. It was appraised at $5.8 million for the 2013 tax year.
The 59-year-old hotel is known as the Hawaiian to locals because of its Polynesian-style architecture with a winged roof. Its bar was popular happy hour place with National Enquirer reporters when the tabloid was based in Lantana. And it was known for victory parties hosted by Town Council candidates.
In 2002, the Paloka family, through Kosova Realty, paid $3.3 million for the two-story motel, then called the Palm Beach Hawaiian Inn.
In 2006, they sought approval to build a $250 million, 14-story project with two underground parking levels, but it was rejected the following year, pitting condo owner against condo owner.
A second attempt in 2009 for a scaled-back 10-story, 99-unit design also was rejected.
In 2010, town voters made zoning changes more difficult by requiring a referendum. The current zoning for that slice of oceanfront property allows 33 units to the acre, according to Rex Taylor, town manager.
A more dense project, such as the Palokas’ second version, would now require a referendum.
But for now, Cohen’s group is concentrating on more immediate problems, such as restoring the sea wall that protects the hotel from the ocean’s waves. He hopes to have that permit in 60 days.
His group also has hired coastal engineers to advise them on rising sea levels and what can be done to protect the hotel. “They are looking to Palm Beach to see if what they are doing, in terms of sand, can be done to rebuild the beach in front of the inn,” Cohen said.