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When times get tough, the wealthy serve pigs-in-a-blanket at cocktail parties. Actually, those little bite-size wieners were the only hint of scaling back at a recent hoity-toity elbow-rubbing event at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. You know the manse. Oh wait. Most of you commoners have probably never set foot inside this exclusive private club.
Quick lesson for the peasants: Mar-a-Lago is a mini-Alhambra that cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post commissioned in the Twenties. To re-create a Moorish palace, she imported three boatloads of Dorian stone from Genoa for the exteriors, and ripped black and white marble from a castle in Cuba for the floors. The ceilings are painted gold. Sprawling Persian rugs adorn the outdoor patio. In short, Mar-a-Lago just might be the most ostentatious place in the entire state of Florida. It was also once Donald Trump's private abode.
Members of the Hialeah-based Developers and Builders Alliance recently gathered at the estate to discuss fantasy architecture and how to get richer. Under enormous crystal chandeliers, they talked beachfront property in Costa Rica, shopping malls in Cairo, and, of course, how it's just the right time to invest in South Florida.
"All you have to do is observe the lifestyle we have here," Brickell-based developer Evangeline Gouletas gushed. "International buyers have been to the great cities of the world. You can't buy land like this anywhere else."
Gouletas has heard the economy is sagging. She chortled while recounting the tale of a housekeeper who bought a $5 million unit and then asked for her deposit back. If only Gouletas had a zillion dollars to bargain-shop in this "soft" real estate market!
Real estate consultant Michael Cannon, also of Miami, pooh-poohed all of those headlines about the weak housing market. "I'm guessing that only 25 percent of foreclosure filings actually end up in foreclosure sales."