Architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison combined modernist ideas with Polynesian themes when they designed the Royal Hawaiian estates in south Palm Springs. Constructed in 1959 and 1960, the complex has 12 buildings with 40 units on five acres. Wooden tiki ornaments and other decorative details give the buildings and the grounds a tropical feel.
The 1990's recession and an aging population were the ingredients for a perfect storm. A board made an ill-informed decision to remove and discard some of the most significant structural and decorative tik-modern elements rather than restore them. As a result, the propertly fell rapidly into disarray.
I moved to the Royal Hawaiian Estates in 1999 because I saw the enormous potential in spite of the huge obstacles that lay in the way. After meeting Don Wexler personally (in his old office across the street from City Hall), I knew I had to sell the homeowners on restoration and preservation and I did excactly that.
The Royal Hawaiian Estates emerged from near condemnation to become the first Historic Residential District in the City of Palm Springs in 2010.
Three homeowners have taken advantage of the MILLS ACT, which provides tax incentives for continued restoration. Through a series of grants and private homeowner funds, we’ve been able to restore all of the Tiki-Apexes and two Fascia of the Gables. The Historic Site Preservation Board and the City Council have approved three Minor Architectural Applications to continue our restoration efforts in the future. The Royal Hawaiian Estates Historic District marker will be installed by the City of Palm Springs this year.
Mahalo and cheers,