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Requiem for a Preservationist

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"That was great -- a spontaneous street party," Corning says. "I'd look downstairs and you'd think there were fires and tents to the horizon."

Though his best hopes went unrealized, Corning will surely land on his feet. He won't disclose precise numbers, but he says he bought into most of his properties at distressed values, and he's selling not much past their recent peak. He's not sure what to do next except spend more time with his wife, Nina, and their two young children, Olaf, age 4, and Bjorn, age 3.

He still has some bitterness, most of it directed at West Palm Beach Mayor Daves ("He squandered all the energy here") and the director of the city's Downtown Development Authority, Bill Fountain ("If he were a banker, he'd be bankrupt").

The steam goes out of his fury quickly, though. "The what-could-have-beens suck you dry," he says. "I'm tired of running around town wearing a black hat."

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Steve Ellman

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