Millionaire Mansions, Climbing Rental Charges & Extra

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So you own a 24,000 square foot mansion in the Byrd Beach neighborhood of Highland Beach on two acres with 151 feet of beachfront. They don’t want to sell, but people keep making offers.

Then one day someone makes what Bev Aluise Knight, owner of Boca Raton-based Ocean Estate Properties, calls “your move-out offer.” It’s $45 million. And you take it

As Knight – who struck the deal – described to me on Monday, that’s basically what happened to Bruce Leeds. He’s the vice chairman of Global Industrial Co. He bought the property at 2455 S. Ocean Boulevard — the largest single-family lot in Highland Beach — about a decade ago, demolished the existing house and built a palace.

According to a press release, the three-story home has eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, and three half bathrooms. There are three stone chimneys – in South Florida? – a theater, gym and other high-end amenities. The roof is made of slate, and the driveway is cobblestone, picked up from the streets of Philadelphia. It is delivered furnished. The buyer’s name is not disclosed.

Knight calls it the highest-priced home sale of all time in southern Palm Beach County. The previous record, she said, was for the adjacent property to the south. It cost $34.7 million in February, according to the real estate appraiser’s website.

Obviously, this isn’t your typical South Florida property. However, from what Knight said, many homeowners in that area can relate to what happened to Leeds.

“He wasn’t selling,” Knight said, “but he kept getting all these calls. There are big names looking for very high quality places to move right into. There is just so little inventory and the demand is just crazy.”

Knight describes Leeds as “a longstanding customer”. She sold him the property 11 years ago. Now it’s a “very unique seller’s market.” For low earners, however, the question arises as to where to go after the sale. Although they may fetch the highest price for their old home, they may be chasing the same scarce inventory for a new one.

“Where are you going?” Knight asked rhetorically. Well, if you’re at Bruce Leeds level, that’s no problem. “You go where you want.”

Rising rents with falling unemployment

Photo by David Gales – stock.adobe.com

Speaking of real estate, a report by Avison Young shows that the region’s commercial and industrial markets remain strong. Some rental prices have increased by 60 percent since 2012. One important reason is employment growth. The county’s unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April 2020 as the region, state and nation were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the rate is 3.5 percent.

MHG searches Boca Raton for a new headquarters

Speaking of jobs, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Indianapolis-based MHG Hotels is considering a second headquarters in Boca Raton. The company is opening several properties in the area. A spokeswoman said the city has been speaking to company officials since late 2021. The company will bring up to 25 employees.

Delray pays the Boca Museum to run Cornell

old school placeCornell Art Museum in Old School Square; Photo courtesy of Delray Beach DDA

Delray Beach will pay the Boca Raton Museum of Art $125,000 in management fees through September to operate the Cornell Museum in Old School Square.

Approval of the deal is on the agenda for today’s City Commission meeting. The contract has a term of 18 months with an option for a three-year extension thereafter. The amount of the fees for the next year will be negotiated by July 30.

According to the agreement, the “museum’s activities include programming, commercial activities, collections, exhibitions, fundraising, philanthropic and all other activities related to the management and operation of the museum [Cornell] for himself and for the city”. The museum could contract with third parties and would provide quarterly reports to the city.

City manager Terrence Moore engineered the deal with the museum after Mayor Shelly Petrolia and city commissioners Juli Casale and Shirley Johnson canceled Old Square’s lease on the Cornell and the rest of Old School Square. The city got no bidders after looking for a company to manage the entire complex.

Irvin Lippman is executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The museum, he said, has not yet decided whether to apply for money from the local redevelopment agency because Old School Square has received programming compensation for many years. The management fees are necessary, Lippman said, because the museum is acquiring Cornell in the middle of its fiscal year.

Lippman said the museum’s latest Machu Picchu exhibit drew 150,000 visitors before it closed last month after a five-month run.

In addition, Lippman said, the museum’s membership increased by 200 percent. She had declined during the pandemic. “We are very satisfied,” said Lippmann. The museum’s next major exhibit is The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Despite many threats to do so, lawmakers took no action to stop school boards from restricting public comment during their meetings.

The Palm Beach County board had been discussing options — some problematic — to change the rules about who can comment and for how long. The board members then decided to wait until the end of the legislature.

CEO Frank Barbieri informed me on Monday that he would ask his colleagues to consider limiting the number of speakers at the workshop meetings. The workshops will provide presentations on issues that may be put to the vote of the Board of Directors at regular meetings.

Workshops take place before the regular meetings. If the workshops are long, Barbieri said, it can delay the later meeting and bother people who have scheduled their time for items on that agenda.

“If we have 15 or 20 people speak at a workshop,” Barbieri said, the board may need to move items around so the regular meeting can start on time. Boca Raton does not allow public comments at workshop meetings.

How a fired principle can return to the classroom

LatsonWilliam Latson, Former Principal of Spanish River High School Photo courtesy of SDPBC

If the former principal of Spanish River High School wants to return to Florida to teach or become an administrator, he must take a college course on the Holocaust.

William Latson was fired – twice – after he emailed a parent in 2019 saying, “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” He added, “I can’t say that the Holocaust happened is an actual, historical event because, as a school district employee, I am unable to do so.” The parent had questioned whether Spanish River had followed state requirements for teaching about the Holocaust.

The school board fired Latson, who had been transferred first, not for his comments but for failing to communicate properly during the controversy his comments sparked when published in The Palm Beach Post. His settlement puts him on probation from the state for three years and contains other conditions. There is no report that Latson wants to work in Florida. His certificate has expired.