By Kristina Webb
A top-down overhaul of the PGA Marina in Palm Beach Gardens is in the works, to the tune of $80 million. Details for the project were unveiled recently during the Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board’s meeting, where board members voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project to the city council.
The rebuild is long overdue and planning has been underway for about five years, said Ken Tuma with Urban Design Studios of West Palm Beach, the agent for the project.
“We’re not flippers,” said Austin Schell, chief executive of Port 32 Marinas, the company that paid $16.8 million for the property on the northwest corner of PGA Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway in 2021, according to county records.
“We’re here for the long haul,” Schell added.
The current property — with one large indoor boat storage facility and adjoining surface parking lot — was built in 1973 and is “quite an eyesore,” Schell said.
Port 32 has nine marinas in Florida, and Palm Beach Gardens would be the company’s flagship, he said. “It will truly be one of the nicest marinas on the Eastern Seaboard,” Schell said.
New PGA Marina to add 57 boat slips, replace 50-year-old complex
The marina is part of a 7.5-acre planned unit development that includes the River House restaurant on the northeast corner of the property. The River House sits on about an acre and a half that was split off to a separate owner in 1989.
The application for the project corrects an issue with the access point to the River House, where cars have to pass through the active marina site with forklifts carrying boats back and forth between outdoor boat storage space and the water, Tuma said.
The project will level the current facility to build two side-by-side buildings with a total of 471 boat slips, including 451 dry slips and 20 wet slips, Tuma said. That is an increase from the current number of 394 dry and 20 wet slips.
The building on the east would be the larger of the two, with 26,500 square feet of boat showroom space in addition to 33,400 square feet for a drive aisle and open rack area for dry storage for boats, plans show. There would be 16 showroom bays with eight on the first floor and eight on the second, said Lauren Sands with Urban Design Studios. Those showrooms are designed to be viewed from PGA Boulevard, she said.
The building on the west replaces the open area with 9,100 square feet of marine retail sales space, 38,800 square feet for a drive aisle and open rack area for dry boat storage, 1,300 square feet for a marina office and about 800 square feet of additional space, plans show.
Another 5,000-square-foot building would include a ship’s store and dockmaster’s office, with fueling stations for boats. “This ship’s store is not your typical convenience store,” Sands said, noting that it is “strictly designed to be accessed from the Intracoastal Waterway.”
The design includes more bathrooms and seating areas, she said.
While Port 32 has poured money into the property over the past few years to make improvements, the rebuild is necessary to bring the marina up to a higher standard, Tuma said.
“The building got better because he (Schell) did improve it over time, but the purpose of today was, ‘How can we make it better?’” Tuma said.
Over the past few years, Port 32’s planners and designers have worked with neighbors to fine-tune the project, he said. When neighbors to the north did not like plans for outdoor storage, the plans shifted to provide primarily indoor storage, Tuma said.
The application also includes a request for a major conditional use of a commercial marina on the property — a request that wasn’t necessary when the site was first developed in the 1970s, Tuma said.
With an expected cost of $80 million, the project marks “a significant investment into the city of Palm Beach Gardens,” he said.
Several neighbors, business groups support marina overhaul
The city has received several letters supporting the project from neighbors including the owners of the River House restaurant, Harbour Financial Center, the PGA Corridor Association and the North County Chamber of Commerce. Several residents also have sent letters of support, the city staff said in their report on the project, although some have said they oppose the proposed height of the structures.
In total, board members were presented with 22 letters of support, Tuma said. Joey Eichner, co-chair of the PGA Corridor Association, spoke at the meeting to share the organization’s support for Port 32’s plans. The project team reached out to the association to make a presentation, after which the association’s board voted unanimously to support the project, Eichner said.
“We believe that it just goes so well with the city,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: PGA Marina in Palm Beach Gardens set to undergo $80M overhaul