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JFK bunker on Peanut Island to close indefinitely on Sunday

Posted at 8:14 PM, Oct 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-22 20:54:52-05

A cultural icon in Palm Beach County is shutting its doors indefinitely.

The John F. Kennedy bunker used by the president during the Cold War, will close to the public on Sunday as a battle continues on who will run the historic landmark.

It's rich with history but soon to be put on pause.

"It could be one of the tourism meccas in South Florida," said Manuel Almira, director of the Port of Palm Beach.

WPTV got one last tour of the John F. Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island before it closes to the public on Sunday.

"This is actually where he would have run the free world from," said Anthony Miller, who runs the Maritime Museum and bunker on the island through his company, Maritime Business. "It's a great piece of history, so we hope it continues that way in the future."

The Port of Palm Beach was in a longtime lease with Maritime Business, which runs the Kennedy Bunker, boathouse and Coast Guard building.

After years of disagreements and concerns over the current condition of the property, the lease is not being renewed when it expires October 31. 

"It doesn't help anyone to have it closed indefinitely, there is a great sense of urgency to try and reopen it but we cannot reopen it until we know exactly what needs to be done and fix it," said Almira.

Almira hopes to partner with the county on a new lease.

"They own the other two thirds of the island. We own the southern one third, it compliments the entire destination," he said.

But that can’t happen until a safety assessment of the area is done by the county.

"They know where there code violations have been so it's an issue of how we're going to get everything back up in code," said Almira.

Luckily, everything you see inside the bunker will be preserved. Miller plans to open a special exhibit at the Palm Beach Maritime Museum in Currie Park with the help of the Kennedy family.

He even brought in special camera operators to capture images of the bunker as it stands now to be implemented into a new virtual reality exhibit at the museum. A local company called Immersive Spaces conducted a 3D walkthrough scan of the bunker to capture a 3D image of the space so that museum patrons can use a virtual reality headset to view the bunker as it existed with the artifacts inside.

"I'm looking forward to being able to have some exhibits in Currie Park where it's a little easier for people to come and visit. You don't have to get a boat and go over there," he said.

The Port commission says they’re also willing to invest even more money into the museum. They've already spent $20,000 on a feasibility study.

"So that gives you an indication how much we're willing to participate, and again, having this facility open to the public as fast as we possibly can," said Almira.

It's unknown how long the bunker and surrounding facilities will be closed.

The bunker museum is open Saturday and Sunday until 4 p.m. No reservations are required.

The ferry from Riviera Beach takes off every 20 minutes.

Click here for information on ticket prices and boat transportation to the island.