Construction underway on long-vacant Chilean Avenue home in Palm Beach

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After years of neglect followed by a lengthy battle to save it, the landmarked home at 323 Chilean Ave. is finally getting a facelift.

Work began last month on the 1920’s-era Mediterranean Revival-style home, which will be partially demolished as part of a renovation plan approved in November by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

A new addition also is planned for the two-story structure, while its footprint will be shifted on the quarter-acre lot.

The new addition and other changes will add about 1,300 square feet to the home for a total of 5,286 square feet, according to the renovation plans. The property includes a main house and two-story guest house with garage.

More:Elevation project moving forward on Addison Mizner-designed home following legal dispute

It will be remodeled as a single-family home, after a previous owner converted it into five apartment homes.

“The addition they’re doing will create a much more graciously sized home than it originally was,” said Amanda Skier, executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, which fought to save the home from demolition. “It will correct a lot of changes that were made when it was converted into an apartment building.”

The home, whose architect is unknown but is believed to have been Addison Mizner, Skier said, has been at the center of a lengthy battle between its previous owners and the town over whether it should be demolished or preserved.

In 2018, the landmarks board narrowly approved the owners’ request to demolish the house, then reversed itself when an independent engineer determined it was salvageable. 

A year later, the owners, Mark and Nancy Gilbert, replaced the house’s wood shingle roof after being fined by the town for allowing the dwelling to deteriorate. 

The Gilberts listed it for sale for $3.5 million after failing to win the board’s approval of their plan to raze the house and replicate it on a different spot on the lot to accommodate a second-floor addition and an attached two-floor garage.

The house has been vacant at least since the Gilberts bought it in 2015 for $2.3 million.

It came before the landmarks board in November after a contract purchaser — later revealed to be Boca Raton-based custom home builder Courchene Development — agreed to buy it pending town approval of renovation plans.

The 1920s-era, landmarked home at 323 Chilean Ave., as shown in this rendering, will be remodeled to include a new two-story addition,
Terracotta barrel tile roofing, new impact-rated exterior doors and windows, and a new swimming pool. Work began last month and is expected to be complete in about a year.

Landmarks commissioners unanimously agreed to the plans, with two changes: that the new owner retain a sleeping porch on the front (south-facing) façade, and that the new owner not alter the historical roofline.

Courchene Development Corporation purchased the home in January for $2.6 million, according to county records.

“We are so delighted to see a developer step forward and be willing to take on this project,” Skier said. “This home is another preservation success story.”

Plans call for raising the elevation of the house from 3.7 feet to 7 feet; pouring a new concrete foundation; moving the house 5 feet toward the front of the lot, which faces south, and 2.4 feet east to allow for a wider driveway at the west property line; partial demolition of the first and second floors at the north elevation; and a new two-story addition at the north and east elevation, including a new one-story loggia. 

Terracotta barrel tile roofing would replace the wood shingles. Plans also call for new insulated, impact-rated exterior doors and windows; a new swimming pool; and converting the first-floor guest house to a garage; and reconditioning the second floor guest suite.

“We’re going to add on to the house a little bit to make it more comfortable,” said Dinyar Wadia of Wadia Associates, the project’s architect. “It will look exactly like the original, which was compromised by somebody many years ago. The owner is excited to get the  house back to how Mizner designed it.”

The home was lifted and moved late last month as work got underway. 

Construction is expected to take about a year to complete, Wadia said.

jwagner@pbdailynews.com

@JRWagner5

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