Palm Beach International Raceway Won’t Be Demolished Just Yet

The developer has been temporarily barred from moving forward with its plan to build warehouses on the property.

byKristin V. ShawApr 21, 2022 12:54 PM
Palm Beach International Raceway Won’t Be Demolished Just Yet
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Last fall, Portman Industrial's bid to buy Palm Beach International Raceway was selected, and the company's intentions to raze the track and replace it with expansive warehouses made headlines. Locals and nationwide racing fans alike have been fighting for the complex, which includes a 2.2-mile racecourse and a drag strip, even as it looked set for the history books like we reported a few weeks back. Now, though, the Palm Beach County Zoning Commission has voted to block the development plans, preventing Portman from doing much of anything in the immediate future.

As reported by OnGardens, the zoning commission unanimously took issue with a handful of variances that were proposed by Portman. Because of this, the firm is seeking a five-month delay rather than partake in the currently scheduled April 28 hearing.

Development can't push forward in the meantime, and Portman has two options. It can either face the commission again on Sept. 22 with a plan that features no variances from the original or submit a new, reworked scheme to be heard a second time on the same date. In order to take the latter route, Portman would have to submit the plan in a hurry.

It's important to note that this isn't an outright victory for the racetrack as it sits; PBIR's last day is still slated for April 23. However, it won't be demolished any time soon, which has given support groups a sliver of hope.

The motorsport community is pushing would-be buyer Formula Race Promotions, who was outbid by Portman, in the fight to save the racetrack formerly known as Moroso Motorsports Park. A petition to generate public interest has nearly 15,000 signatures at present, and FRP has been promoting it. SavePalmBeachRaceway.com proposes that the raceway could still hold its own as a “world-class sports and entertainment facility” and includes big-name backers like the musician Pitbull.

Reportedly costing $1.5 million to build in 1964, the track facility has been the site of SCCA national and regional events along with concerts from legends like Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Sly & The Family Stone, and Jefferson Airplane throughout the years. Located west of Jupiter, Florida, and northwest of West Palm Beach, the land where Palm Beach International Raceway sits is valuable real estate.

"This is a legendary track in a prime location,” CEO of McLaren Racing Zak Brown says on the petition site. “This facility has a great history, and it would be a shame to see it go."

According to WTVX News in Palm Beach, Formula Race Promotions offered to buy the raceway for $55 million last August. The amount of the contract with Portman Holdings was not disclosed, but commercial real estate broker Rebel Cook told OnGardens that industrial land could be going for as much as $1 million an acre currently. That brings the value of the Palm Beach International Raceway to between $105 million and $174 million. Portman also claims it will bring 1,500 new jobs to the area, which may or may not be more than what it could attract as a raceway and event facility, according to the petition.

"[This facility will] generate local tourism dollars benefiting hotels, restaurants, and small businesses," the petition continues. "Additionally, the venue will attract and host one-of-a-kind charity events and provide automotive and technology students educational opportunities. These opportunities will attract more talent, create jobs and increase local purchasing power."

The racetrack's historical significance is unquestionable, and there's also the risk of drivers taking their speed to the streets, a point Florida law enforcement officers have raised concerns over already. The future remains murky for Palm Beach International Raceway as an active motorsport venue, but this development stands as an unexpected but welcome delay for what might be its inevitable end. Either way, expect one heckuva party come Saturday as racers send it off with a "Last Lap" celebration.

Got a tip or want to talk about a local raceway you love? Comment below or send me a note: kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.