West Palm plans to pick up and move apartments

Gardenia Building

316 Gardenia St., West Palm Beach

Usually people travel to hotels and not the other way around.

But West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency hopes to acquire a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia St. downtown and move it a mile northwest to 801 Fourth St., where it would be part of a bed and breakfast hotel.

It’s all part of the agency’s effort to revive the Northwest neighborhood by attracting African-American tourism, playing off the historic Alice Moore home, the Storm of ’28 site and the Sunset Lounge, where Ellington and Basie once played.

CRA officials say the owners of a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia were considering razing the 94-year-old structure to develop the land. Meanwhile the former Moore home, at 801 Fourth, was being considered for use as a bed and breakfast for cultural tourists, but with only three rooms wasn’t big enough.

So, provided a deal can be worked out with the Gardenia owners, the CRA wants to move the Gardenia building to Fourth Street, since its additional 12 rooms would make the B&B more viable.

The CRA would require that the owners, the Johnson family, pay for the move, which could cost about $200,000, CRA Executive Director Jon Ward said. The city would not close on the deal until after the building was tented — it’s infested with bees — and until after it survived the move intact, he said.

Renovations are expected to cost between $900,000 and $1.2 million, plus $250,000 already set aside in the budget for foundation work and repairs.

Ward said the move could take place within 90 days, and would take a day to complete. “I think it would be fun to watch,” he said.

The commissioners approved the project unanimously Monday.