Iconic front of the Royal Poiniciana Playhouse
Plans are in the works to renovate and reopen Palm Beach’s landmark Royal Poinciana Playhouse in 2023, ending 19 years of limbo. Massachusetts developer WS Development announced that the historic playhouse will become part of a complex that includes a 200-seat waterfront restaurant, galleries and retail space.
The 34,517-square-foot playhouse will receive a complete renovation to make Royal Poinciana Plaza a center for art, fashion and food.
The theater will seat around 400 and include a stage with a retractable backdrop wall to allow it to host outdoor waterfront events. There will be 12,000 square feet of retail and gallery space, and the restaurant will be the first on the Intracoastal Waterway open to the public.
Visitors to the cultural arts center will be able to enjoy dance, film, music and art as well as theater. The playhouse will also host educational and charitable events.
Palm Beach resident Avie Glazer, whose family owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will head up programming as the chairman of the operator WS Development has chosen for the center, Innovate Corp. He and his wife, Jill, plan to make the new Royal Poinciana Playhouse into a world-class cultural venue.
John Volk designed the Royal Poinciana in the regency style more than a half-century ago. His intent was to create a community center for the town of Palm Beach. Architectural teams from SpinaOrourke and Smith and Moore are determined to preserve the iconic details on the main façade of the theater. Visitors will see Roman statues, a distinctive curved design and decorative quoins that add aesthetic detailing to the corners. In addition, stunning new floor-to-ceiling windows will provide views of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The ground level will have an additional 7,995 square feet, along with an accessory building. The south side of the playhouse will have a covered entry, and valet parking will be available. The plans also include a new pedestrian plaza, a new trellis that will grace the restored restaurant deck and a new terrace on the seawall. Landscape designs will enhance the venue.
The renovation of the Royal Poinciana Playhouse has taken a long road. The waterside playhouse was founded 55 years ago as a production theater. In the 1960s and 1970s the theater hosted ballets, Broadway plays and musical performances. Nightly dinner and dancing took place in the Celebrity Room. The venue welcomed such entertainers as Burt Reynolds, Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason, along with political and social leaders like the Kennedys and the Duke of Windsor.
In 1979 new ownership decided to present touring shows. But the venue could not accommodate big Broadway musicals, which went to larger performing arts centers.
When the lease with Clear Channel Communications expired in 2004, the Royal Poinciana had not been updated for many years, and it fell into disrepair. Over the years the Palm Beach Theater Group tried to gain control of the playhouse, and there were attempts to replace the theater with condos.
The Up Markets division of WS Development has controlled the Royal Poinciana Playhouse since 2014 and spent years searching for the right operator before selecting Innovate.
Alexandra Clark, the vice president of asset strategy and experience for WS Development, said lessons learned from cultural arts center experts worldwide show that success is based on mixed uses to drive traffic. She is aware of the “unique synergy” of blending retail, restaurants and art, and she hopes that this combination will make the Royal Poinciana Playhouse a “magical jewel box venue.”