Meanwhile. . . in Palm Beach

Paramount Theatre, Palm Beach, Florida
The historic Paramount Theater building in Palm Beach, Florida.
Courtesy of Google Maps

Down in Palm Beach this summer, the development of the historic and iconic Paramount Theatre building is a topic of much discussion.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has reviewed a modified plan for the project, which includes a renovation of the building, as well as adding an adjacent residential and retail component with underground parking, and has decided to defer the application until town officials consider requests for variances and the like.

There has been mixed feedback about the plan so far. While the commission has said that “the design is moving in the right direction,” members still agree that the applicant needs to decrease the mass of the residential development to make it less imposing and more in scale with the historic theater.

“It hurt people to cut the heart out of this building,” says Gene Pandula, a former chairman of the landmarks board. “This is an opportunity to give this building its life back. It has been neglected. We have an opportunity to make it a part of the community that [architect] Joseph Urban designed it to be.”

The applicants, Lester Woerner and his son Trent Woerner, operating as WEG Paramount LLC, are looking for approval for the adaptive reuse of the historic building. The Woerner family, 20-year residents of Palm Beach, bought the 1.3-acre site from the Paramount Church for $14 million in 2021.

The Woerners’ proposed design, crafted by a team of internationally renowned architects and landscape designers, features four three-story townhouses with retail on the first floor, on the south side of the Paramount building. The exterior architectural plan draws on historical photos and sketches of the original Paramount Theatre. New landscaping would surround the building and the courtyard with more greenery. A 127-space parking lot would be built underneath the townhouses, as they would be replacing the 46-space parking lot.

The central aspect of the design would be a new “public event space, an area for a 250-member private club, located in the old auditorium area. In addition, the plan includes a new restaurant serving breakfast and lunch around the existing courtyard and a new retail space facing North County Road. The building, originally a silent film theater, was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by Austrian architect Joseph Urban in 1927. After closing in 1980, the building underwent a transformation into office and retail space.

The building received landmark status in 1982, which prevents demolition or exterior alterations to the building not approved by the landmarks commission.

Real Estate Insider:

The figures are in for the first half of 2023. Sales are sluggish throughout the country. While Behind The Hedges is focused on the Hamptons real estate market during the summer season, cooler weather will be here soon and so that means the Palm Beach season nears. We checked in with John Wilson, a nationally ranked top-producer at Douglas Elliman back in Palm Beach, for his perspective on how the market in Palm Beach is evolving and growing, especially with all the new development underway.

BTH: With the first half of 2023 down and sales sluggish throughout the country, what is the status of the Palm Beach residential real estate market?

JW: Palm Beach is a unique market due to the exclusivity — there are only 2,463 residences on the whole island and ultra-high-net-worth clients all want to be here. Although velocity has cooled off a bit (that is reflective of the time of year since it is summer and everyone is traveling), the state of the market remains extremely strong. There are off-market transactions occurring at this very moment. We have found with our clients, who purchased within the last couple of years, have fallen in love with the island and are now in the market for larger homes so they can have the whole family together during the fall/winter season. We have seen this over and over again. This is very predictable because, as stated earlier, Palm Beach is a one-of-a-kind, very special place — The verdant green landscaping with lush palm trees. The walkability to shopping and dining. My clients that have bought in Palm Beach say they wake up happier in the morning and they are exercising more. They love the peace, security, and sense of calm they experience while being here. As one of my clients from New York who bought in Palm Beach said, “I feel alive again.” Once they experienced all of the above, they fell in love with Palm Beach and want to be here more often. The status of the market is strong demand with limited inventory which will keep prices firm.

BTH: What are your predictions going into the second half the year?

JW: I have been fortunate to live in South Florida for over 50 years and have witnessed firsthand the seasonal patterns. Previously, people would come for Thanksgiving and then return up north for the holidays. The season would then be in full swing after New Year’s. That has all changed since the pandemic and the new pattern is people coming in October and staying until May. Recently I was golfing at a country club in Palm Beach and the manager said the members are reaching out and coming early because they love the Florida lifestyle and can’t wait to get back down here. We expect the market to pick back up in the second half of 2023 with strong demand for this amazing place called Palm Beach.

Palm Beach, Bret Baier
The house at 125 Wells Road in Palm Beach sold in an off-market deal for $37 million.Randy Tanner from Living Proof Photography

Newsworthy Trade:

A North End house sold in an off-market deal for $37 million, nearly four times as much as it traded for a decade ago.

Dana and Paulette Koch of the Corcoran Group represented the sellers of 125 Wells Road, while Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate represented the buyer, Koch confirmed.

“The sale is one of the top 10 sales of 2023 in Palm Beach and one of the top non-waterfront sales of the year in Palm Beach,” Koch says.

Records identified Fox News host Bret Baier as the new owner of the Palm Beach Regency-style house. The 0.6-acre property, four lots west of the beach, the house was built in 1992 and underwent a major renovation in 2015.

The Special Report with Bret Baier host purchased the house from Robert Weiner, who is the wife of Boston shopping center developer Stephen R. Weiner. Weiner’s 125 Wells Road Land Trust purchased the five-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath house for $10.95 million in 2013, from socialite Carol Lee “Leezy” Sculley.

This article appeared in the August 18, 2023 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the full digital edition here