The Preservation Foundation

Royal Poinciana Op-Ed by Executive Director John Ripley
Posted Date 11/11/2007

Landmarking Royal Poinciana Plaza would give the Playhouse the stability it needs

By JOHN RIPLEY
Special to the Daily News

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Forty years from now, will you recognize what Palm Beach will look like? The Royal Poinciana Plaza and Playhouse are icons of the Town of Palm Beach, and are instantly recognizable to long-time residents and occasional visitors to the island. The question of their architectural merit has been reviewed exhaustively by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the commission voted unanimously to landmark the plaza. Not only was the vote unanimous, but the commissioners stated that the plaza met all four criteria for landmarking, only one of which is needed for the designation. The landmarks process does not prohibit change in design, and all of us want the best for the plaza space. Since we know the Playhouse must remain a performing arts venue per the 1979 agreement, designating the plaza a landmark will provide the one thing that property lacks at the moment: stability.

The issue now sits with the Town Council to accept the recommendation of the Landmarks Commission to landmark the plaza, or overturn the recommendation and watch 50 years and almost 11 acres of history in our town change forever. As a town, we have bent over backward to appease and mollify the owner of the plaza, while he has displayed his contempt for the town in the council chambers and filed one lawsuit after another against us. Most recently, the town agreed to delay their landmarking decision in order to get input from the Royal Poinciana Visioning Study, only to have the owner attempt to auction the entire contents of the theater one week later.

I am proud to have been appointed to the steering committee of the Royal Poinciana Visioning Study, and I believe that stability for the plaza is what we need, not input from planners.

Knowing the future of the plaza will allow the visioning study to work properly, instead of getting all of us bogged down in what might happen. Forty years from now, I hope to recognize Palm Beach by seeing a restored plaza and Playhouse along the beautiful corridor that is Royal Poinciana Way.

Mr. Ripley is executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

The op-ed can also be found at the Palm Becah Daily News webpage by clicking here.