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Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Land Acquisition for High-end Residential Development, Done Right

Note to the Mayor of Long Branch, NJ:  Here is how you acquire property to build high-end condos.

Eduardo Penalver

All Things Considered, December 11, 2006 ยท A trailer park just south of Palm Beach, Fla., sits on 43 of the best oceanfront acres in the state. The owners of the 488 trailers are selling, and each household is likely to receive more than $1 million.

The Atlantic-coast town of Briny Breezes, wedged between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway, is a living time-capsule of what natives call "Old Florida." The town, consisting almost entirely of mobile homes, has defied developers for nearly 70 years.

With residents whose median age is just over 70, the place has plenty of history, from a shuffleboard court and a Quonset hut to 600 feet of pristine white-sand Florida beach.

Briny Breezes' clubhouse overlooks the beach. It's the home of a swimming pool and a knitting club, card games and rocking chairs -- all of which draw "Brinies" together.

But recently, a developer sent an uninvited bid to Briny Breezes residents, proposing to buy the entire town for $500 million. That's more than a million dollars for each of the 488 mobile homes -- residents at Briny Breezes are also shareholders.

Rather than accept the proposal, the town sent it back -- and opened the bidding to other potential developers.

If $500 million for 43 acres sounds steep, keep in mind that this is Palm Beach County, whose beachfront property is some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Evidence of that can be seen just 20 miles up the road, where Donald Trump has a house on the market for $125 million.

Tuesday, residents will gather in the community hall to hear what price tag a developer is willing to put on their town. They'll then have a month to decide whether to approve the sale. The transaction would make them millionaires, even as it heralds the passing of another bit of Florida's past.

                                                                                   

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