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Opportunity Zone: A Superyacht Marina, Adjacent Luxury Apartment Development

The federal government's Opportunity Zones program is offering a tax break to a marina for superyachts and adjacent planned development in West Palm Beach, Florida.
November 15, 2019, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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West Palm Beach, Florida
Lewington Productions

Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Kyle Edwards report on how the Rybovich superyacht marina, located in West Palm Beach, Florida, just up the coast from Mar-a-Lago, came to be designated as an Opportunity Zone, and who stands to benefit from the designation.

Rybovich owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the Waste Management and Blockbuster video billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., has long planned to build luxury apartment towers on the site, part of a development dubbed Marina Village.

Those planned towers, and the superyacht marina itself, are now in an area designated as an opportunity zone under President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax code overhaul, qualifying them for a tax break program that is supposed to help the poor.

Former Florida Governor Rick Scott "bestowed the tax break on the marina after a direct appeal from Huizenga Jr.," according to the article. "The state of Florida, based on an analysis of unemployment and poverty rates, had not originally intended to pick the census tract containing the superyacht marina for the program. But those plans changed in response to Huizenga’s lobbying…"

The article includes documentation of the process by which the marina and surrounding parcels won the Opportunity Zone designation.  

Since its creation in the GOP tax reform bill of 2017, the Opportunity Zones program has faced repeated criticism for tax breaks delivered to wealthy land owners and developers in wealthy zip codes, seemingly far removed from the stated purpose of the program to deliver investment to economically distressed parts of the country.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, November 14, 2019 in ProPublica
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