Austin Corbett’s father used to wake him up at 6 a.m. every Sunday for breakfast at the Hawaiian Inn’s waterfront restaurant.
They watched the sun rise over the ocean, ate their steak and eggs and walked downstairs to the beach for the day. Other times, he and his friends would walk to the Hawaiian from Lake Worth Beach, rent surfboards from the concession stand built into the sea wall, or rent snorkels and explore the reefs 50 feet offshore.
“This is where it all was,” said Corbett, standing in the motel’s parking lot at daybreak Wednesday, as he oversaw the building’s demolition. “It puts you in tears.”
The Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn at 3550 S. Ocean Blvd., once a favorite hangout known as the Hawaiian Inn, bit the dust Wednesday morning.
The heavy metal bucket of a Volvo track hoe excavator smashed through the red-tiled roof, stucco walls and wood frame of the beachfront section of the building, which since 1964 served generations of tourists and local families. The rest will come down around the first of the year, after reconstruction of the sea wall.
In a spot that until recent years remained one of the few on the barrier island for an economical meal and drink, the work by AlliedBean Demolition and Craft Construction clears the way for an 8-story, ultra-modern condo with 30 3,000-square-foot units that sell for roughly $1,000 a foot — or $3 million, on average.
All the units will have ocean views and some will have views of both the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, said Gary Cohen, a principal of developer 3550 Palm Beach Holdings LLC, which bought the 1.1-acre property in 2012 for $8.25 million.
Construction is scheduled to start in May or June and should be completed within 14 to 16 months after that, he said. The money behind the project is a “very private” family fund based in New York, he said.
The hotel was originally called the Palm Beach Hawaiian Ocean Inn. Its faux-Polynesian, swept-up roof is a low-slung standout among the taller, blockier condominiums that line South Ocean.
The previous owners, Kosova Realty Corp., wanted to raze the 58-room hotel and its Tides Bar & Grille and build a 14-story condominium hotel. They offered to build the town a public safety building and new town hall — the current town hall is directly across the street — but the proposal never won town or state approval and Kosova filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The old hotel had a measure of fame in its day, or at least enough to draw an odd combination of B-list celebs through its doors.
Tiny Tim, a singer and ukulele player who rose to fame on the 60s comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, stayed there for a week. Anchorman Chet Huntley booked a room when he was doing a story on AIDS in Belle Glade, after his Huntley-Brinkley Report days were over.
Former New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre spent time there with his family years ago when he managed the Atlanta Braves.
It also held a place in the hearts of longtime locals like Boynton Beach-born demo-man Corbett, who noted poignantly that he’d torn down another local favorite spot, John G’s, at Lake Worth Beach, a few years ago.
“There’s nothing left around here,” Corbett said as he watched a worker spray water into the open maw of the Hawaiian to keep the dust down. “They’re all gone.”
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