The Testa family received permission from the Architectural Commission on Wednesday to demolish the restaurant, gas station, Via Testa retail shops and other buildings on its 1.3-acre property along Royal Poinciana Way and Sunset Avenue.
As is commonly the case in Palm Beach, the road to this point has been an ordeal, with ARCOM and the other preservationists being the usual complicating factors. (For far sorrier exhibitions of this process, you can view this or even this.)
Testa’s is truly an old Palm Beach landmark; my grandparents ate there, it was a favourite of theirs and the family in general. They starting coming to South Florida in the 1930’s during my grandfather’s aviation career, then took the yacht south in the 1940’s and finally moved to Palm Beach in the 1950’s. We followed suit fifty years ago next month.
Above: my grandfather’s yacht at the Palm Beach Municipal Marina, 1948. The top photo has the Flagler Bridge in the background. Taking that would be a straight shot to Testa’s. The bridge too is being replaced now after the usual Palm Beach ordeal.
The basic problem is that commercial property in one era doesn’t always work in another, and so the Testa family has had a tug of war over upgrading their property. (Personally I think the nearby Royal Poinciana Plaza is better suited for contemporary use as is, but that hasn’t prevented a stink over its redevelopment too).
The good news is that the Testa family is still doing the developing. Seeing an old landmark go is sad (and an all to common occurrence in South Florida) but hopefully the family will redevelop well and help move forward this part of Palm Beach’s retail space.