Developer McKinney reacts to Haiti quake

By Christine Davis | January 14, 2010 04:26PM

Developer Frank McKinney may build multimillion-dollar mansions, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty or make a statement.

At noon today, McKinney, best known for his $29 million Acqua Liana mansion in Manalapan, chained himself to his Delray Beach tree house, while it was being moved 35 feet by a 60-ton crane, to make a statement about “what’s important to fight for,” he said.

By mid-afternoon, he’d boarded a chartered plane headed to Haiti to help with disaster relief efforts after the devastating earthquake that struck Tuesday and has destroyed buildings and killed tens of thousands of people.

The chaining event had been scheduled for weeks, and was to be the culmination of an eight-year battle with the City of Delray Beach over the controversial house, which was ruled illegal by the city’s preservation commission. It was also to serve as a small fundraiser for his Caring House Project Foundation, which built 11 self-sustaining villages in Haiti, with three more underway. At least half were destroyed in the quake.

Now the efforts of the self-described publicity stunt will be directed to the ravaged Caribbean nation, still reeling under the catastrophic effects of a massive quake.

“Through the schools and orphanages, the project has touched the lives of 4,500 people,” he said.

So McKinney, who frequently invokes “compassion with action” as a personal credo, gathered together a handful of search-and-rescue experts, medical personnel and equipment, and arranged for two chartered planes to transport them to the Port au Prince airport.

“My role has been logistics,” he said. “Ours will be one of the first domestics to get in.”

Going with McKinney are a search-and-rescue team, a nurse and a doctor from Colorado, people trained in search-and rescue from Delray Beach, two Creole speaking trained search-and-rescue people from West Palm Beach and a media person.

McKinney’s volunteers will help where needed with search, superficial excavation and medical assistance. They plan to set up tents at the Port Au Prince airport, making it their home base anywhere from three days to a week. He doubts that they will get to the villages he helped build. “I think we will be mobbed at the airport,” he said.