Couple enjoys ‘fabulous water views’ and wildlife at Palm Beach home


The pool and patios are just adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway. “This house is all about the fabulous water views,” Sandy Hutzler says. Photo by Andy Frame, courtesy of Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A southern exposure, long views of the Intracoastal Waterway and daily visits by ibis and other waterbirds — no wonder homeowner Sandy Hutzler says Ibis Isle is a South Florida paradise for outdoor living.

For nearly 28 years, Hutzler has owned a mid-century-modern home at 2315 Ibis Isle Road with her husband, Albert “Jiggs” Hutzler, on the island subdivision near the Par 3 Golf Course.

“We love Ibis Isle because it’s so private. We bought an apartment first, and when we needed more room, we waited until a house on the south end came up for sale,” she says.

Appreciating the house as much as the location, the Hutzlers choose to keep intact the integrity of its original 1961-era architecture.

“We updated the bathrooms and put in a white-tile floor, but other than that, we left it as it was,” Sandy says. “We decorated it minimally, too, because this house is all about the fabulous water views and we wanted to keep that focal point.

“We did increase a side of the terrace because we eat outside at the water’s edge three times a day. We have a lovely back lawn, and ibis are here all the time. They sit with us while we eat. They are always around, and it’s so sweet. There’s a beautiful bird sanctuary near us and we also see osprey; and we even saw a bald eagle. We see dolphin, too.”

The Hutzlers enjoy the privacy of their lot, and they like walking over to the oceanfront golf course’s clubhouse for meals.

+ The mid-century modern home is at center, with the circular driveway. The Hutzlers enjoy the privacy of their lot. Photo by

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“It’s right on the beach,” Sandy Hutzler says.

But it’s time to sell, she says. They have family in Baltimore, where they plan to spend more time.

“We will miss our house terribly,” she adds.

Their five-bedroom, five-bath home — with 4,577 square feet of living space, inside and out — is listed for sale for $4.75 million with agent Joan Wenzel of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

On the southern tip of the small island, their 180-foot deep lot has 105 feet of water frontage. The entry, on the north side of the home, is faced with slate.

With all-white interiors, the entry leads to a foyer and hallway. The living room lies directly to the south, with three bedrooms to the east — they include the master suite in the southeast corner and one of the guest bedrooms, which is set up as a library.

On the west side of the house are the dining room and kitchen, a staff suite, the laundry area and two-car garage. A guest suite sits over the garage.

Features include picture windows and walls of sliding-glass doors in the east-facing rooms that take advantage of the views as well as built-in cabinetry in the living room, dining room and library.

Sandy Hutzler was a real estate agent for 32 years, starting out her career at Martha A. Gottfried Inc., which became part of Douglas Elliman in 2012. She readily points out selling points with a practiced eye — the pool and patios are just adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway; the second-floor guest suite provides great privacy for homeowners and their visitors; and the house has 15 closets.

The home is perfectly positioned for them to enjoy the annual holiday boat parade, and they see fireworks from Lake Worth, Lantana and West Palm Beach, she says.

In addition, the fishing is great.

“Our grandchildren have loved it. The first thing they do when they visit is set up their fishing rods and chairs on the water. They catch one fish after another. We make them throw them all back in.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Jon Bon Jovi pays recorded $10 million for Palm Beach house

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi is apparently behind the company that just paid a recorded $10 million for a Palm Beach house with ocean views built in 1985 at 230 N. Ocean Blvd. The lot measures about a third of an acre. Meghan McCarthy/Daily News

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has paid a recorded $10 million for an oceanfront house in Palm Beach, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal.

The singer evidently used an ownership company to buy the longtime home of Judith Goldfarb and her late husband, businessman Gene Goldfarb, at 230 N. Ocean Blvd. The deed was recorded Thursday by the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office.

The real estate brokers and other parties directly involved in the deal couldn’t be reached.

+ Jon Bon Jovi is interviewed at the Samsung annual charity gala 2017 at Skylight Clarkson Sq on November 2, 2017 in

Bon Jovi is said to own a home in Boca Raton, as The Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets have reported, and for years, he has regularly been spotted in South Florida, dining at restaurants and attending polo matches, according to news reports. A December 2017 posting on a Facebook fan page shows a photo of the singer posing with fans on Worth Avenue. The same month, he was also photographed dining at Benny’s on the Beach at the Lake Worth beach, as the Palm Beach Post reported.

Bon Jovi, who is married to Dorothea Hurley, also has friends who are seasonal residents of Palm Beach, according to media reports, including radio shock jock Howard Stern and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is also a friend of President Donald Trump. Stern lives about a mile from the property, and Kraft’s residence is even closer.

On Wednesday, Bon Jovi made a return appearance to Billboard’s “Artist 100” list, earning the No. 1 spot. The list “measures artist activity across key metrics of music consumption, blending album and track sales, radio airplay, streaming and social media fan interaction to provide a weekly multi-dimensional ranking of artist popularity.”

Billboard attributed the singer’s “surge back to No. 1 … nearly entirely to sales generated by a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer accompanying Bon Jovi’s upcoming U.S. arena tour.”

Ready to renovate, replace?

The five-bedroom, two-story house built in 1985 stands on a property measuring about a third of an acre at the corner of Atlantic Avenue, two blocks south of Wells Road on the near North End.

The house is ripe for renovation, sources said. It’s unclear whether Bon Jovi will renovate it or replace it with a new home.

A New Jersey native, Bon Jovi is lead singer for the band Bon Jovi, which earned $35.5 million last year, according to Forbes ranked the band No. 80 on its 2017 list of the world’s 100 highest-paid celebrities. In 2016, Forbes estimated Bon Jovi’s personal net worth at $410 million.

He also is a 2018 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band came to the forefront in the 1980s and has since sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, making them one of the best-selling groups of all time, according to Billboard News. Their hits include Living on a Prayer, Bad Medicine and Wanted Dead or Alive. The band’s latest album is This House Is Not For Sale, which also is the title of its latest tour.

Listed for over a year

Broker Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate acted on behalf of the buyer in the Palm Beach sale.

The house had been on the market for more than a year, according to records in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service. Broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates had it listed at $10.875 million, down from its original price of just under $14 million.

Moens and Angle couldn’t be reached and their offices declined to comment on their behalf.

The house has 6,803 square feet of living space, inside and out, as well as a two-car garage, a swimming pool and a balcony facing the sea, property records show. The interior features a library/den, a dining room, a fireplace and a wet bar, according to its MLS listing.

+ The house at 230 N. Ocean Blvd. just bought for a recorded $10 million by a company linked to rocker Jon

The buyer was a Florida limited liability company named after the property’s address with a mailing address in care of Sussman & Associates, a Nashville-based accounting firm specializing in the entertainment industry. Headed by Charles Sussman, the firm handles international business management, royalties and tax planning. Sussman also is the manager of 230 North Ocean LLC, records show.

Sussman and his company are credited on at least two of Bon Jovi’s albums for providing business-management services for the singer.

Ellen Goldfarb, who has a home in Palm Beach, acted as trustee of the trust in her mother’s name that sold the house, the deed shows. She couldn’t be reached.

The Goldfarbs paid $2.2 million for the property in 1991, courthouse records show.

Judith Goldfarb is the widow of Gene Goldfarb, an apparel manufacturer and wholesaler who was chairman of House of Perfection Inc., a company founded by his father in 1934. He “owned and operated manufacturing facilities in the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina,” according to his obituary in The New York Times.

The Goldfarbs supported a variety of charitable and cultural organizations, including the U.J.A.-Federation, Ben Gurion University, State of Israel, American Jewish Congress, United Way of Palm Beach and Greenwich, Conn. The couple also supported lent support to Good Samaritan and Saint Mary’s hospitals. Gene Goldfarb also was one of the original supporters of the Kravis Center, according to his obituary.

The sale is the latest deal in what has been an active Palm Beach season for properties priced at $10 million or more.

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Ex-administrator Sansbury joins crowded District 2 Commission race


John C. Sansbury in 2000

After John Sansbury retired as Palm Beach County administrator in 1986, commissioners voted to name the street on which he lived in his honor.

Sansburys Way was to be a capstone to his 11-year tenure leading the county’s staff.

But Sansbury, 68, isn’t quite done with county government — or, at least, he doesn’t want to be done with it.

Sansbury said Monday he plans to file paperwork to run for the County Commission seat being vacated by Paulette Burdick, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

“There’s a right way, a wrong way and then there’s Sansburys Way,” he joked.

Former county attorney Gary Brandenburg will serve as Sansbury’s campaign treasurer.

Sansbury’s entrance into the District 2 commission race — he said he plans to file paperwork with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday — would make a crowded field even more crowded.

A quartet of Democrats — Gregg Weiss, Sylvia Sharps, Emmanuel Morel and Alex Garcia — have already filed to run in the district, which stretches from Lantana Road in the south to Roebuck Road west of West Palm Beach in the north and from the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach to Sansburys Way/Lyons Road in the west.

Sansbury, a former Republican, says he plans to run as a Democrat.

“There’s nobody that knows more about Palm Beach County than the person you’re talking to,” he told a reporter.

Sansbury noted that he wrote a letter recommending that Verdenia Baker be promoted to county administrator. He was county administrator when Baker’s predecessor and mentor, Bob Weisman, was hired by the county.

Weisman retired in 2015 after 24 years as county administrator. The county government center was re-named in honor of Weisman, who also had a street named after him.

The two roads intersect in unincorporated Palm Beach County west of West Palm Beach.

Sansbury has lived on the road named for him for the past 40 years. An older brother, Tom Sansbury, is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board.

After Sansbury left as county administrator, he went into real estate development. He also served as a Port of Palm Beach commissioner from 1988 to 1992. And several of his deals, real estate and otherwise, came under government or public scrutiny, including his steering of a $3,000 port catering job to the Crazy Horse Tavern, a now-defunct bar that he partially owned. The Florida Ethics Commission reprimanded him for the deal in 1991.

Sansbury — who ran again for the Port Commission, and lost, in 2000 — said he’s running for the County Commission seat because he wants to get back into public service.

“I’ve always been involved in public service,” he said.

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Funding Shortfall Looms For Palm Beach County’s 34 Designated Natural Areas

Scrubs are typically dry land with sandy soil and low shrubs, interspersed with trees like the sand pine. But the Yamato Scrub Natural Area in Boca Raton contains several different ecosystem types, including this marsh.

Palm Beach County’s prized natural areas — protected areas of dunes, wetlands, scrub and flatwood forests — could lose money for maintenance in the next few years because of changes to funding sources.

That’s prompting a push for money for the 34 designated sites, which were purchased with taxpayer dollars and are popular destinations for hikers, bikers, fishermen, kayakers and wildlife photographers.

"We’ll regret it if they fall into disrepair," said Scott Zucker of Audubon Everglades, which along with the Loxahatchee chapter of the Sierra Club has begun a campaign for funding. "As green spaces, they serve to recharge our aquifers, so they’re an important source for water. Much of these areas are wetlands, and wetlands are important in terms of reducing the force of hurricanes."

It costs the county about $6 million per year to maintain the approximately 31,000 acres of natural areas. In years past, Palm Beach County has paid using interest from an endowment and the fees developers pay in order to build extra homes on their land.

But after the county shifted the endowment to an investment vehicle that pays less interest, and after officials cut the amount developers are required to pay, the natural areas face a $3.5 million annual shortfall and could run out of funding by 2019, according to the Palm Beach Post.

A prickly pear cactus in Yamato Scrub Natural Area in Boca Raton.

There are various options for how the county could make up the deficit, including using proceeds from a tax on hotel and motel stays. Zucker says the environmental groups are trying to raise awareness and generate public support for natural areas with cards that will be delivered to Palm Beach commissioners in March.

"We are hoping to present them with somewhere between 800 and 1,000 cards signed by members of the community encouraging them to be generous," he said. "It’s basically an ‘I love the natural area’ campaign."

Zucker says there’s not currently a way to sign one of the cards online, but volunteers are taking the cards to their neighborhoods and churches, as well as festivals and meetings of outdoor groups like the Sierra Club.

An annual festival celebrating the natural areas is scheduled for Saturday, March 10, from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Winding Waters Natural Area, 6161 Haverhill Rd. in West Palm Beach. Organizers say the event will include a 5K trail race (registration required), hands-on exhibits, wildlife presentations, a kids zone, guided hikes and kayak tours, prescribed fire demonstration, food trucks and more.

The county also has a number of other smaller events showcasing the natural areas scheduled throughout March. You can find more information here:

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Purim in Africa among Palm Beach County holiday celebrations

Children have fun at last year’s Purim carnival at the Boca Raton Synagogue in Boca Raton. Other Purim carnivals and events are planned throughout Palm Beach County. (COURTESY)

To celebrate Purim, many Palm Beach County synagogues and temples have created a wide variety of events. such as carnivals, a comedy night, costume masquerade balls, a Purim interpretation of famous Broadway musicals and Purim in Africa celebrations, all to take place during and following Purim.

Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County celebrated Purim with the first ever South Palm Beach County Community Purim Carnival that took place at the Federation campus in Boca Raton, in partnership with B’nai Torah Congregation, Boca Jewish Center, Boca Raton Synagogue, Chabad of East and Central Boca Raton, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh, and Temple Beth El of Boca Raton among other organizations.

"Purim is such a festive holiday and children look forward to it. With so many partners, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chabad and more collaborating, sharing resources and ruach (Hebrew for "spirit"), we are able to plan a huge event that will bring us together from all across this vibrant, diverse Jewish community," said Rabbi Josh Broide of The Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement, one of the sponsoring organizations, prior to the event.

Another Purim carnival will be taking place on March 4 beginning at 11 a.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel, 2200 Yamato Road in Boca Raton, featuring bounce houses, bungee jumping, a dunk tank, face painting, and other games and prizes for children.

CBI will also be having a Purim interpretation of the musical "Annie" on Purim on Feb. 28 tiled "Estie’ (in reference to Queen Esther) to be performed by CBI members. The program will take place at 5 p.m., which includes a community dinner. For more information on both CBI events, call 561-241-8118 or go to

Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, 333 S.W. Fourth Ave. in Boca Raton, will present a Purim interpretation of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" titled "Megillah on the Roof," as performed by clergy and temple members on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m., which includes dinner. For more information, call 561-391-8900 or go to

Temple Beth El, 2815 N. Flagler Dr. in West Palm Beach will host a masquerade ball on Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. which is free for all. Prizes will be awarded for the best costumes. For more information, call 561-833-0339 or go to

Temple Emanu-El, 190 N. County Road in Palm Beach will have a costumed event titled "Shmatte Ball and Dinner" beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 28. For more information, call 561-832-0804 or go to

Boca Beach Chabad, will be celebrating Purim with "Purim at the Improv" taking place on March 1 at 5:30 p.m. at The Pavilion, 301 Yamato Road in Boca Raton starring comedian Marc Weiner.

"Purim is celebrated with joy and laughter, so having a comedian is a perfect way to celebrate," said Rabbi Ruvi New of Boca Beach Chabad.

For more information, call 561-394-9770 or go to

Two congregations will be celebrating Purim as if one is living in Africa. .Palm Beach Synagogue, 120 N. County Road in Palm Beach, will be having a "Purim Safari" on Feb. 28 at 6:45 p.m. with dinner and Shalot Manot baskets among other surprises at the event. For more information, call 561-838-9002 or go to

Chabad Jewish Center of Palm Beach, 844 Prosperity Farms Road in Palm Beach will have a "Purim in Africa" event on March 24 at 4 p.m. featuring African style food, African hair braiding, along with a Megillah reading. For more information, call 561-624-7004 or go to

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NJ firm picks up rental portfolio in Palm Beach County

Palm Beach townhouse and condo portfolio

A Rochester, New York-based investment firm just sold a three-property portfolio in Palm Beach County to a New Jersey investor for $19.1 million.

Companies controlled by John Summers and Kenneth Marvald sold a 100-unit portfolio to LLCs managed by Austin Rolnick of Pentaurus Real Estate Investment & Management. The deal includes the 40-unit townhouse development St. Charles Landing at 100 Harrington Court in Palm Springs; the 32 condos at Whispering Winds at 4100 Coquina Winds Way in Greenacres; and 28 of 34 townhouses at Villas Santorini at 4624 Villas Santorini Drive in unincorporated Palm Beach, according to Marcus & Millichap’s Joseph Thomas.

Thomas, Adam Duncan and Tyler Carbonelli brokered the deal. The sellers are Charles Landing LLC, Wallace Street LLC and Santorini Condos LLC, and the buyers are Acastus Charles Landing LLC, Arion Whispering Palms LLC and Argos Santorini LLC.

The portfolio sold for its $19.1 million asking price and was fully leased at closing, Thomas said. The deal includes 15 buildings and two clubhouses built between 2007 and 2015.

Rents averaged $1,427 or $0.79 per square foot at St. Charles Landing; $1,534 or $0.86 per square foot at Whispering Winds; and $1,934 or $0.82 per square foot at Villas Santorini, according to marketing materials.

Last year, Pentarus paid $7.2 million for a 72-unit apartment complex in West Palm Beach. The company also owns properties in Palm Springs, Boyton Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

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Florida’s Latest Railroad Is a Mostly Private Gamble

The Brightline, which runs between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, is paid for by a private company and could be a new model for public infrastructure – if it survives.


Just last month, a fleet of brand-new passenger trains, painted in eye-popping colors such as magenta, azure and lime green, all with yellow accents, started carrying riders between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. If all goes according to plan, they will soon start servicing Miami, too, rolling down 66 miles of one of Florida’s most congested corridors in an hour. Passengers can enjoy wide seats and onboard Wi-Fi, and will start and finish their trips in architecturally striking stations in downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach. The stations will include retail spaces, along with adjacent office buildings and apartment towers that promise to add extra vibrancy to the surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s a startling development in an area that, despite being hemmed in on a narrow strip of land between the Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean, depends almost entirely on cars.

But what’s more startling is how the service is being paid for. It isn’t the state of Florida or the municipalities along the route that are putting up most of the funds; it’s a private company that’s convinced it can make money by building and running the $3.1 billion project largely on its own. By 2020, the company, named All Aboard Florida, hopes to extend its “Brightline” service all the way to the Orlando airport, 168 miles north of West Palm Beach. With top speeds of 125 mph, the train could take passengers from Orlando to Miami in a relaxed three hours, rather than the four stressful hours it usually takes in a car.

For many transportation and infrastructure advocates, Brightline is exactly the right project for the current political and financial environment. Congress has repeatedly balked at raising new taxes or finding long-term sources of money to pay for existing infrastructure needs, and most states don’t have the financial wherewithal to launch ambitious new public works projects. That leaves deep-pocketed private investors as a crucial source of funding to build much-needed infrastructure. For conservatives, relying on the private sector represents a wager that what gets built can be supported by the market rather than by tax dollars. The fact that Brightline will be the first privately built passenger railroad to open in the United States in decades means it will garner plenty of attention.

But before Brightline can serve as a model for infrastructure development elsewhere, All Aboard Florida needs to prove its trains can make money. There are many doubters. They point to lawsuits, angry neighbors, construction delays, safety questions and political interference. All Aboard Florida has so far struggled to show it can put together a financing package that will attract investors, operate in the black and provide Floridians with a new transportation option that could reshape the state for years to come. No matter how high the hopes may be, if the finances don’t pencil out, the rest is just fanciful thinking.

(Governing discussed this story with an All Aboard Florida representative for six months, and, at the company’s request, pushed back publication to accommodate delays in Brightline’s scheduled South Florida opening, which finally occurred last month. Ultimately, however, the company declined to make anyone available for an interview or to submit answers to written questions. Governing drew from public statements, regulatory filings, court documents and news accounts to provide information about the company and its operations.)

Florida today might seem like an odd place to build new intercity rail, but it was rail that transformed the state from a sparsely inhabited swamp to a booming vacationland a century ago.

Henry Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil, built a rail line and accompanying hotels that pushed the Florida frontier down the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville until it reached Key West. That line led to the creation of West Palm Beach and the incorporation of Miami. The line Flagler built, the Florida East Coast Railway, stopped serving Key West after a hurricane in the 1930s, and it stopped carrying passengers entirely in 1968. But it’s the same route that Brightline trains would travel on for most of their journey between Miami and Orlando.

A rendering of the MiamiCentral train station. (Brightline)

To follow the finances of Brightline, it’s helpful to know that Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm from Wall Street, owns Florida East Coast Industries, which in turn owns All Aboard Florida, which operates Brightline. None of them own the track, or the freight railroad that uses it, but they have a long-term agreement to give them access.

Car-saturated though it may be, Florida is an attractive place to build higher-speed passenger rail because it is flat. That makes track upgrades simpler — and less expensive — and makes it easier for trains to get up to speed. The fact that All Aboard Florida has access to existing tracks and rail rights-of-way all along the coast generally eliminates the need to take additional private property, which can be a legally onerous and politically fraught task. The company’s plans largely avoid that problem even in the areas where it will have to build new track, because the new rail line will follow an existing state highway from Cocoa (near the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic Coast) to the Orlando airport.

The distance between Orlando and South Florida is another factor that makes rail service attractive. Brightline will be too slow to qualify as true high-speed rail, like the 200 mph bullet trains that service cities in Europe and Asia, but it will achieve speeds similar to the Acela on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The distance from Miami to Orlando is too long for many drivers and too short for flying, which is the sweet spot for passenger rail (one reason why the Northeast Corridor, from Boston to New York to Washington, is Amtrak’s most popular route).

Connecting Orlando to South Florida would also link Florida’s top tourist destinations. Supporters hope the easy access between cities will encourage visitors to tack on a few extra days to their vacations, so that cruise passengers and beachgoers in Miami could also visit Walt Disney World and Central Florida’s other famed theme parks with little extra hassle.

For Brightline’s southern stretch, stations in the heart of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have been designed to appeal to residents who want to enjoy walkable amenities in city centers. That’s especially true in the newly resurgent downtown Miami. Brightline’s MiamiCentral train station will span six blocks in a formerly drab corner of downtown. The tracks are elevated 50 feet above street level, held up by V-shaped columns. Below the tracks, glass-enclosed retail spaces will line the streets, while above, towers will provide 800 rental apartments, a valuable commodity in an area where the number of residents has doubled since 2000. “The private sector can move things faster sometimes than government,” says Alyce Robertson, the executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, a city agency. “The station went up like magic. It seems like they were just breaking ground, and now it’s beautiful. The architecture is also not the standard-issue value engineering you see in government buildings. Pretty soon, we are going to have a new service here unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

An interior rendering of the train station at the Orlando airport. (Brightline)

Brightline has the potential to reshape the area’s other transportation offerings as well. MiamiCentral’s location next to the busiest stop on the county’s light rail line and next to the downtown people mover will make transferring among the different systems easy. Even more important, Brightline will share its southernmost tracks and MiamiCentral station with the area’s commuter rail service, Tri-Rail, which connects Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The Brightline connection will allow Tri-Rail for the first time to drop its passengers off downtown instead of at the airport or a transfer station northwest of the city.

Local governments have spent $69 million to bring Tri-Rail into MiamiCentral. Bonnie Arnold, a spokeswoman for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Tri-Rail, says the benefits of the new station go beyond convenience. “You’re going to know you really arrived somewhere when you get there,” she says. “It’s what you think train stations ought to look like. It’s going to set Miami on fire for places people want to go.”

And one day, it might do that. But in the meantime, there are plenty of Floridians who don’t like Brightline and some who would be just as happy if it remained unfinished. The most vocal opponents are people living near the center of the route, who will see trains speeding by but get little benefit from them. That’s a region called the Treasure Coast, just north of West Palm Beach. County, state and federal officials from the area have tried to put the brakes on the project. Opponents have raised concerns about unsafe pedestrian crossings, blockage of emergency vehicles, environmental impact and additional expenses for local governments.

Debbie Mayfield, who represents much of the Treasure Coast in the state Senate, is pushing legislation to give the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) more power to enforce safety standards on railroads that operate at speeds greater than 80 mph. That would require Brightline or any future high-speed railroad to put up fencing in areas where there are a lot of pedestrians, roll out better train controls to prevent derailments like the one in Washington state in December and install remote systems to warn when crossing gates aren’t working properly. Mayfield also worries that local governments, which had agreed to pay for maintenance of railroad crossings when they only handled slower-moving freight trains, will now be on the hook to pay for upkeep of the far more expensive gates required for the private Brightline. Mayfield’s legislation has cleared one committee, but it is still a long way from reaching the governor’s desk.

Mayfield, though, says she would be “absolutely OK” with Brightline if her bill became law. “We are not trying to kill it,” she insists. “We are elected to ensure the safety of the citizens of Florida and to protect taxpayer money. That’s what I care about it.”

The railroad’s safety quickly became an issue as service began in January. The day before its formal launch, a Brightline train struck and killed a pedestrian who reportedly crossed the tracks while the gates were down. Days later, another Brightline train killed a cyclist who tried to beat a train. It was the fourth fatality Brightline’s trains were involved in since July. Both of Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, asked federal railroad regulators to investigate the deaths and address railroad crossing safety in the region.

Florida has been debating, studying and planning high-speed rail for decades. Before Brightline, though, the closest it came to building it was in 2010 when the Obama administration, with the backing of then-Gov. Charlie Crist, announced it would pay for an 85-mile segment from Tampa to Orlando, with plans to extend the line later to Miami. But in February 2011, shortly after Crist left office, his successor, Gov. Rick Scott, rejected the $2.4 billion in federal funds to build the high-speed rail. Scott doubted that the line would attract as many riders as its planners claimed, and said that Florida would be on the hook for any cost overruns. “The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” he told reporters.

A little more than a year later, in March 2012, All Aboard Florida first revealed its plans to build the Orlando-to-Miami line without public money. “This privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail service will be running in 2014, at no risk to Florida taxpayers,” its materials said at the time.

But soon after All Aboard Florida unveiled its project, it became clear that state support would be needed, even if that didn’t come in the form of a direct subsidy.

Almost immediately, the railroad started negotiating with Florida for the right to build its Orlando extension along a state highway. FDOT provided the Orlando airport with $159 million in grants and $52 million in loans to build a new station that will service Brightline trains once they start running. All Aboard Florida pitched in $10 million to build the station and will pay $2.8 million a year in rent, plus per-passenger fees, to the airport.

(David Kidd)

Scott supported the All Aboard Florida bid. “All Aboard is a 100 percent private venture. There is no state money involved,” the governor said in 2014. (The fact-checking service PolitiFact has rated that statement “mostly false,” because of the state and federal benefits All Aboard Florida has already received.)

All Aboard Florida has enjoyed good relationships with the Scott administration. Adam Hollingsworth, a campaign adviser to Scott and the governor’s chief of staff from 2012 to 2014, worked as an executive at one of All Aboard Florida’s sister companies after the campaign and prior to becoming Scott’s top aide.

According to a 2016 New York Times report, Hollingsworth was involved in Scott’s decision to reject the Obama stimulus money for high-speed rail, and he pushed the governor to support the Brightline concept. Hollingsworth also helped introduce the governor to Wes Edens, a co-founder of Fortress Investment Group, the owner of All Aboard Florida.

Once Hollingsworth became Scott’s chief of staff, he recused himself from matters involving the railroad. But Fortress still worked closely with the Scott administration. That was evident when the company asked the Florida Development Finance Corporation, a nonprofit arm of the state, to issue $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds on its behalf. The “private activity bonds” allow private developers to pay off their debt at lower rates, because the proceeds from those bonds are exempt from federal income taxes.

The board ultimately gave the company permission to sell the bonds. The only problem was, the company couldn’t find enough people to buy them.

All Aboard Florida says it has already spent $2 billion to improve its freight lines, add a second track along its existing route, build stations, and buy trains and other equipment. But it’s also looking for long-term financing to cover the remaining cost of the project. That has not been an easy sell.

Originally, the company applied for a $1.6 billion loan from the federal government that would allow it to borrow money at the same interest rate as the federal government does. But getting a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan can be difficult because of mandated environmental reviews, hefty upfront costs and a notoriously slow application process.

In congressional testimony last summer, Mike Reininger, the former CEO of Brightline and now the executive director of Florida East Coast Industries, its immediate owner, said the federal environmental review process was too cumbersome and that RRIF and other infrastructure financing programs “suffer from opaque and complex rules which discourage pursuit of these options and render them underutilized.”

Whatever the reason, All Aboard Florida walked away from its application for the federal railroad loan, after it spent two years going through the environmental review process. The Federal Railroad Administration issued a final environmental impact statement for the entire Miami-to-Orlando route, one step away from final federal approval, before All Aboard Florida opted instead to pursue another financing mechanism: the private activity bonds.

The company tried several times to find buyers for the bonds. In August 2015, it offered a 6 percent interest rate for the entire $1.75 billion. When that didn’t work, it raised the rate a month later to 7.5 percent. It tried a third time in October, keeping the rate at 7.5 percent but offering better terms for buyers. A fourth revision in November also yielded no results.

The attempted sales did, however, trigger federal lawsuits by two Treasure Coast counties that Brightline trains would pass through — but not stop in — between West Palm Beach and Orlando. After more than a year, Indian River and Martin counties cleared a major legal hurdle to challenge the company’s ability to issue the bonds. All Aboard Florida short-circuited the lawsuit by changing its financing plan yet again. It told the court it would break up its bond offerings to match the phases of the project. For now, it would seek to sell only $600 million in bonds to cover the costs of its Miami-to-West Palm Beach segment. At some time in the future, it would look to sell the remaining $1.15 billion to finance the extension to Orlando. Practically, this meant that there would be no bonds for the improvements in the Treasure Coast counties, which negated their lawsuit. The judge dismissed the suit last May.

But the lawsuit did reveal how tenuous the company’s plans were for financing its second phase. In one of his rulings, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper concluded in 2016 that All Aboard Florida had almost no choice but to sell private activity bonds to pay for the Orlando expansion. That approach “is not the current financing plan for the project — it appears to be the only financing plan,” he wrote, relying in part on proprietary business information that he kept under seal. All Aboard Florida told federal regulators that the tax-exempt bonds were the “linchpin for completing our project,” the judge noted.

One reason Cooper made his comment was that Fortress, the ultimate owner of Brightline, was itself in financial trouble. Its market capitalization shrank by more than half just in the time the lawsuit was pending. Other potential sources of finances also posed problems. For example, a company lawyer said in court that Brightline could not afford to pay interest rates of 12 percent for corporate debt for the entire project, the rate a plaintiff’s expert said would be necessary to fund it privately. Plus, the federal railroad loan seemed to be off the table, because the company stopped pursuing it.

Since Cooper made that ruling, though, many aspects of the railroad’s situation have changed. First, a Japanese telecommunications giant, SoftBank, announced last February that it would buy Fortress for $3.3 billion, a significant markup from its market value. (The sale was finalized late last year.) In July, Brightline applied again for an RRIF loan, asking for $3.7 billion.

Once completed, Brightline will run from the Orlando airport to downtown Miami. (Brightline)

Then, in October, the company got the Florida development board’s permission to issue $600 million in private activity bonds to help pay off debts it incurred building the South Florida portion of Brightline, in particular $504 million for a high-interest loan it took out in 2014 and a separate $98 million debt to the manufacturer from which it bought its five trains.

Fitch Ratings gave Brightline bonds a BB- rating, which is three notches below investment grade. The agency’s analysts were concerned about whether there would be enough demand for Brightline’s services and, if so, how quickly it would ramp up. Part of Brightline’s problem is that there are no projects to compare it to. This is the first one of its kind in decades. “Seeing demand even relatively close to All Aboard Florida’s forecasts in an area like southeast Florida, which has this auto focus, would show there is a market for this sort of rail and that there is potential for other city pairs for high-speed rail,” says Stacey Mawson of Fitch. But the proof doesn’t yet exist.

In December, the Federal Railroad Administration finally issued its long-delayed record of decision for the entire project, the final administrative step of its environmental review, which allowed the project to go forward.

On balance, the most recent developments seem to have put All Aboard Florida in a better position than it was in a year ago. The best news for the company is that the first Brightline trains began service last month between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and it’s likely the cheerfully colored trains will be rolling into Miami soon. What’s a lot less clear is when — or even if — they’ll make it to Orlando, where, at the airport, a soaring, modern intermodal center, built with public money, nears completion and awaits its first privately funded train.

*This story has been updated from the original version, which appears in the February issue of Governing’s print magazine.

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PALM BEACH DIVORCE: Worth Avenue Real Estate Empire Hangs In The Balance!

Burt and Lovey Handelsman: 67 years of marriage going down the drain! (via Facebook)

WEST PALM BEACH — Burt Handelsman and Lucille “Lovey” Handelsman—aged 90 and 89 respectively—are responsible for one of South Florida’s most enduring real estate empires with valuable properties in—among other places—Delray Beach, Key West and Palm Beach, including in the upscale Worth Avenue district.

Now, that substantial empire is set to be fractured, as their divorce proceedings commenced Monday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, prompted by Lovey’s filing.

The Handelsmans were married for over 67 years.

The couple came from modest beginnings and launched their real estate empire from their kitchen table in the 1950s, with Lovey on the typewriter and Burt taking an arts-and-crafts approach to framing investment opportunities, pasting photos of properties over Lovey’s typed descriptions.

Now, though, Lovey has accused Burt of carrying on an affair with 62-year-old Jane Rankin, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who worked with them on business matters. Despite Lovey’s insistence, Burt would not discontinue the relationship, and became verbally abusive.

Burt denied Lovey’s various allegations, though their children have sided with Lovey. (Burt since referred to the kids in a deposition as “those three people.”) Lovey and the kids went to court and successfully removed Burt from the management of about two dozen of the family properties. Together with his lawyer mistress, Burt produced an agreement from 2002 providing that his children could not strip him of his management powers. The document, however, proved to be a laughable forgery cobbled together from a separate 2000 agreement, complete with correction fluid and no history of use from anyone in the family.

Subsequently, in November, Scott Suskauer, the judge on the case, ruled that Burt and Rankin committed a “fraud on the court” via the false document debacle.

“Burt now admits that Rankin’s portion of their coordinated story was materially inaccurate … (supporting) the court’s conclusion that the entire tale was an intentional fraud on the court,” Suskauer wrote.

The judge urged the Handelsmans and the kids to resolve their differences and address the business empire without the court’s involvement, though the feud has simply become too bitter to resolve any other way.

The vitriol even spread to the parties’ attorneys.

“Burt is a classic megalomaniac,” wrote Jeff Fisher, who represents the children.

“The adult children hope to see Burt crumble,” accused Burt’s attorney, Alan Kluger.

As it happens, there’s a lot to fight about, even laying aside the personal drama. The Handelsmans’ real estate holdings were valued last year at $750 million at the onset of their legal battles, with $160 million of that in Palm Beach County alone.

The divorce would guarantee Lovey 50% of the couple’s assets, but if she dies before the divorce is finalized, her children could receive less than 30%, a real concern given her advanced age. The family fears that its disenfranchised patriarch would favor his mistress in his own estate planning documents.

“The wife implores the court … to pronounce the parties’ marriage is irretrievably broken in order to assure the Wife her equitable distribution will not be jeopardized by any untimely death or illness,” wrote Joel Weissman, Lovey’s attorney.

So far, Suskauer has not seen fit to grant the request.

The business affairs are especially complicated since the parties can’t agree on values and ownership is mixed between Burt, Lovey and the children in many instances.

But and his legal team have put forth the argument that he is entitled to a greater share than Lovey since he was primarily in the driver’s seat with respect to growing the business. Fisher countered by comparison to University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Miami Heat basketball coach Eric Spoelstra.

“If Nick Saban or Eric Spoelstra claimed that a championship victory was solely the result of their great coaching and had nothing to do with their ‘team,’ they would be the subject of scorn and ridicule and probably fired,” Fisher asserted. “Burt Handelsman shamelessly claims that the entire empire is his creation giving no credit to the decades of work by his wife, children and in-laws.”

It appears that Suskauer, despite his best efforts to make peace, will have his work cut out for him.

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South Florida real estate projects in the pipeline for the week of Jan. 19 – South Florida Business Journal

Magic City Innovation District aims to attract entertainment technology firms

The Magic City Innovation District could transform a 17-acre section of Miami’s Little Haiti into a hub for entertainment technology, shopping and new residents.

Developers plan to spend $1.36 billion on the project at 6300 N.E. Fourth Ave. under a proposed special area plan. The team is a partnership between Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberté, the founder and creative force behind Cirque du Soleil; Tony Cho of Miami brokerage and development firm Metro 1; Bob Zangrillo of Miami venture capital firm Dragon Global; and Miami-based Plaza Equity Partners.

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Gladwell & Patterson at ‘Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show,’ West Palm Beach

GUSTAVE LOISEAU L’Yonne à Auxerre Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 19¾” x 25½” / 50cm x 65cm

Gladwell & Patterson exhibits at “Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show,” West Palm Beach.

The “Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show” includes a series of beautiful and vibrant landscapes near Auxerre, by Gustave Loiseau. The artist will form the focus of the Post-Impressionist Collection of paintings. On display are the works of Alfred Sisley, Georges Robin, Alexandre Jacob, Gustave Loiseau and Salvador Dali among the other notable Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists.

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