As owner and CEO of RWB Construction Management, a full-service luxury construction company, Robert Burrage spends his days building and maintaining custom oceanfront estates. But the project he’s most likely to gush about isn’t any of his seaside stunners—it’s a modest Key West–style ranch home in West Palm Beach’s Northwood Village.
“It’s been an amazing blessing in my life,” Burrage says of what his team has coined the Silvia Project. “I build $100-million houses for a living. We have 120,000 square feet of construction and, very honestly, this is the proudest project that I’ve ever been part of.”
It all started about five years ago. Burrage, whose niece was adopted through Place of Hope, asked the faith-based organization for a way to give back. They connected him with licensed foster mom Silvia Montenegro and the opportunity to build a playset for her sons. “Robert did a backyard makeover for us and became part of our family,” Montenegro says.
Originally from Costa Rica, Montenegro moved to the United States 21 years ago. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University and now works as a quality assurance analyst for a medical software company. She moved to West Palm Beach in 2015 when she purchased her house.
Built in 1926, the home needed a lot of work. “As much of a blessing as our home was when I bought it, I knew eventually I would have to put some serious money into it, which I don’t have, or sell it and move,” Montenegro explains. “I’m a single woman raising my two boys on one modest income, so our resources have to be very well budgeted.”
In late 2020, looking to do some improvements to Montenegro’s home, Burrage met with her to ask what her family most needed. However, he found deeper issues.
“It had been here so long that the foundation of the house had opened up and the walls themselves had been completely rotted out from water and termite damage over the years,” Burrage says. “This was an unsafe structure for her and her sons.”
Moreover, the family shared one small bathroom, the home wasn’t insulated, and the air-conditioning couldn’t contend with Florida summers. “As Rob put it, ‘Some walls seemed to be held up by the plaster,’” Montenegro says.
Burrage and his team considered how they could repair the home, ultimately deciding that the best path forward was a life-changing gift: a full demolition and rebuild. They engaged architect Tom Benedict of The Benedict Group, structural engineer Bill Stoddard, and other partners to lend a hand; many have donated time, talents, equipment, and supplies free of charge. The home is currently under construction and estimated to be completed in Spring 2023.
“Our old house was home to nine foster children [and] my two legally adopted sons,” Montenegro shares. “[It was] a place where I discovered my own healing and purpose. With all of its limitations, our home has been a very special place, and I can’t wait to see what it will become now.”