Thursday, April 1, 2010

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Nuestro Paradiso, “Our Paradise,” was reportedly modeled from a Czech castle when it was designed during the late 1920s by Julius Jacobs, one of Addison Mizner’s principal designers.
by Augustus Mayhew

The history of Palm Beach houses can be as much a chronicle of fortune as misfortune; among them, Nuestro Paradiso at 860 South Ocean Boulevard is a prime illustration. Described as Mediterranean Gothic, the eclectic oceanfront was built for the Woolworth syndicate’s notable sheet music exec Ellis Z. Nutting. Earlier, you may recall that in 1907, Mr. Nutting, according to lore, was first to introduce a Woolworth’s lunch counter offering a soda fountain and snacks. During the 1930s, railroad titan Robert Young and his wife, Anita O’Keeffe Young, spent several seasons at Nuestro Paradiso before moving to The Towers, a North End Mizner-designed oceanfront.

J.J. and Janet Cafaro.
It was at The Towers that Mr. Young took his own life, prompting Mrs. Young to demolish the house and build Montsorrel, “Mountain of Sorrow,” where her contractor committed suicide. Meanwhile, back at Nuestro Paradiso, after a series of owners including Elie Synodinos and Steve Stavro, the Macedonian Canadian grocery store magnate, the house underwent an extensive renovation beginning in 2000 by a partnership formed between the late Harcourt Sylvester and the late William Elias.

At the same time, Sylvester and Elias bought Amado, planning an equally massive renovation for the landmarked Charles Munn property. Unfortunately, Mr. Sylvester and Mr. Elias were crunched by years of setbacks with both projects. Seven years later, John J. Cafaro paid $16 million for Nuestro Paradiso in November 2007. Last week, Mr. Cafaro, a prominent Youngstown, Ohio shopping mall tycoon, was jailed at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Facility; he was later released on bond with electronic GPS monitoring. 

Having already served 15-months probation over his 2002 guilty plea for bribery charges involving convicted felon US Rep. James A. Traficant, Mr. Cafaro awaits a June 8 sentencing after he pleaded guilty to the most recent charge surrounding false statements he made to federal authorities about campaign contributions to his daughter, Capri Cafaro, D-32, the minority leader of the Ohio state senate. Newspaper editorials are calling for Mr. Cafaro to be jailed; sentencing guidelines call for six months in prison and probation. Nuestro Paradiso is presently owned by the John J. Cafaro Family Trust.
Nuestro Paradiso features a 14,000-sq.-ft. main house, underground garage, tennis court, pool, beach house, and what appears to be a unique gambrel-shaped roof covering the mansion’s central rooms. Reportedly, the house’s melodramatic double staircase was featured in the film Tony Rome, a 1960’s Frank Sinatra epic.
With Malcolm Glazer’s La Bellucia selling for $24 million last December and Darcie Glazer Kassewitz’s purchase of 850 South County for $20 million last week, albeit a private sale, Palm Beach’s real estate agents should think about a testimonial for the Glazer family and their role in sustaining the resort’s mansion market and keeping price levels credible. Just don’t invite any of Glazer’s Manchester United football fans. But, not all closings have been upside as the PB market rolls on with a smidge of foreclosure filings and underwater sales.

Seven months later, the former Madoff winter residence at 410 North Lake Way is still up at $7.25 million. The good news is that Conrad and Barbara Black’s house is still available. Although on-and-off the market for several years, it is being marketed now as a “New Listing,” with Blackfield Holdings LLC as owner, a fund/subsidiary held by Plainfield Asset Management. This week Lord Black reassured his Canadian Post readers that indeed he still had control over the Palm Beach house.

Malcolm Glazer.
And, even more recently, the NYP and WSJ reported Plainfield had fled Greenwich and set up a new tent in Stamford to restructure whatever is left of their investment funds. In an episode of CNBC’s American Greed profiling faux papal confidante Rafaello Follieri, the show credited Plainfield Asset Management with advancing $$$$$ to NYC’s most fabled Renaissance con artist.

As the season ends here are some sales of note before the real off-season buyers arrive.

850 South County Road compound sells for $20.5 million in private sale

In 2000 Malcolm Glazer’s company bought 1200 South Ocean Boulevard, La Bellucia, for $14 million, a property once owned by Ailsa Mellon Bruce for more than 30 years; in March 2010, Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, Mr. Glazer’s daughter, and her husband Joel Kassewitz bought 850 South County Road for $20 million from the estate of the late Isabel Uppercu Collier Read, the widow of Miles Collier, had bought the property form the estate of Mrs. Mellon-Bruce in 1979.

As you may recall, the Glazers sold La Bellucia for $24 million to Jeff and Mei Greene, making for last year’s top ticket; now, so far, the Glazer-Kassewitzes hold the 2010 record. Because the secluded approx. three-acre estate with more than 215 feet of waterfront and more than 10,000-sq.-ft. main house was not on the market, it is difficult to assume that anyone else will pay $20 million again for a lakefront property, although there are still a few parcels that could become subdivisions. 

The lakefront’s price king, Henry Kravis, has probably not lost any sleep having paid $50 million several years ago. But, with several other Glazer family members in town, perhaps anxious to up the stakes in their Florida homestead, Palm Beach realtors may want to reposition the Glazers’ approx. $100 million stake in Palm Beach real estate. Mrs. Read’s sons, Miles C. Collier and Barron G. Collier II, a Palm Beach resident, were the co-trustees who sold the property, recently appraised at nearly $15.5 million.

Daniel and Ellen Crown.
Gregory K. Weadock, a Brown Harris Stevens Palm Beach agent, was the sole broker for the transaction. In 1942, Isabel Uppercu married Miles Collier, a former WW II OSS officer and the youngest son of Barron G. Collier, the namesake of Florida’s Collier County who beginning in 1911 amassed more than one million acres developing it into a destination. Following Miles Collier’s death in 1954 at WPB’s Good Samaritan Hospital, five years later Mrs. Collier married William A. Read Jr. Known as one of Florida’s most generous philanthropists, after Mrs. Read died in February 2008, a memorial luncheon was given in her honor at the Everglades Club.

NYC’s Daniel and Ellen Crown score Springsteen pad in Greater Wellington

Wellington equestrienne teen, Jessica Springsteen, is down to only one Wellington house since her parents, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, recently sold one of their two adjacent Equestrian Club Estate properties in Wellington. The New Jersey rock star’s Stone Hill Trust sold 3561 Ambassador Road for $2.95 million to Daniel M. and Ellen Podell Crown, New York and Connecticut residents.  Although the realtor declined comment due to confidentiality agreements, the property was listed for $3.95 million, according to several other sources. In June 2008, Springsteen bought 3561 Ambassador Road for $3.1 million; the following September, Springsteen’s Stone Hill Trust closed on the adjacent house, 3581 Ambassador Road, for $4.6 million, purchasing it from William S. Farish Jr. and Kelly Farish. The Crowns are active with several NYC and CT concerns. A Chicago native, Daniel Crown’s family is listed as #208 on the 2010 Forbes 400 list, with an estimated worth of $4.1 billion.

Major Alley unit goes for $1.2 million to BVI interest
Following Addison Mizner’s design for Via Mizner and Via Parigi, architect Howard Major designed an innovative Bermuda-styled residential enclave of attached houses on Peruvian Avenue. Katherine D. W. Findlay, of Hobe Sound, has sold a 920-sq.-ft attached interior unit at 417 Peruvian for $1.2 million to Cathedral Estates Ltd., a Tortola BVI company.
Major Alley’s units are connected by shared patio and courtyard walls and separated by a sidewalk. Parking is to the east of the building.
Midtown house goes upside down $1 million
Ann T. Downey  sold 309 Chapel Hill Road for $4.35 million to Robert G. Dettmer and his wife, Patricia Dettmer, of Greenwich, Connecticut, according to the warranty deed filed March 24, $1 million less the recorded price three years ago. Listed for $5.95 million with Jim McCann, associate with The Corcoran Group, the cul-de-sac property sold in Jan 2007 for $5.35 million. Situated adjacent to the Royal Poinciana Chapel, the five bedroom, more than 4,000-sq.-ft. house was recently renovated.
Golfer Greg Norman’s first ex lands North End lot

The same week golfer Greg Norman relisted his Jupiter Island house on the market for $65 million, the Great White Shark’s first former wife, Laura Andrassy, paid $3.25 million for a vacant parcel at 167 Dunbar Road, $500,000 less than the selling price in July 2008. 167 Dunbar LLC sold the building site nearly 18 months after purchasing it from the Claude Dimick Reese estate; then, demolishing the Reese house. Listed for $3.9 million by Paula Wittmann at Fite Shavell and sold by Toni Hollis, also a Fite Shavell associate, a 6,345 sq.-ft. two-story Bermuda house designed by Smith & Moore had been approved for the site, according to the ARCOM minutes. Following her divorce from golfer Greg Norman, Ms. Andrassy purchased a 4,000-sq.-ft. attached house at 161 Main Street for $3.95 million. Reportedly, Ms. Andrassy has also acquired $4.5 million and $7.5 million properties in Southampton.

North End lakefront sells for $5 million
A North End lakefront property acquired through a real estate land trust for $10 in 2007, having previously sold in 2001 for $6.3 million, has been sold again. This time it closed for $5 million, according to the recorded warranty deed. Valerie J. Winchester, a Clarke Avenue resident, sold 1500 Lake Court for $5 million to Robert Holuba, c/o Stanson Corporation of Kearny, New Jersey. With an accentuated port cochere, this 6,000-sq.-ft. North End house features an eclectic two-story façade.
With an accentuated port cochere, this 6,000-sq.-ft. North End house features an eclectic two-story façade.
Palm Beach Modern: The Sun and Surf’s Garden Club restaurant
Located on Sunrise Avenue directly behind the Joseph Urban-designed Paramount Theatre and across from the Green’s Pharmacy parking lot, the restaurant at the Sun and Surf condominium is an exuberant example of Midcentury Modernism in Palm Beach.
Part of the agreement that allowed the Sun & Surf’s Garden Club restaurant to open to the public in 1983, was a provision that public should not be made aware that it was open to them. Because it is situated in a residentially-zoned area, the establishment is not permitted to have a sign and is prohibited from advertising. Now called, The Eggsotic Bistro at the Sun & Surf’s Garden Club, the restaurant has become one of those Palm Beach anomalies, much like the island’s arcane town-serving law that gives an added twist to doing business in Palm Beach.

Set back from the street framed by a low hedge, the exhilarating Midcentury Modern-designed covert eatery is now under the direction of Chef Leonardo Espin, who owns another Eggsotic Bistro in West Palm Beach.
To the left, the Sun and Surf condominiums overlook the Garden Club restaurant’s patio.
The Sun & Surf Club began in 1931 as a private beach club with cabanas housed within a Mizner-designed mansion built for Leonard Replogle.  At first, the club was exclusively for the guests at the Alba/Biltmore and Whitehall hotels, though there was also an ongoing tempest about the number of cabanas at the club.

Then, when the Mizner house, as well as several other historic houses were demolished along Sunset and Sunrise Avenues, today’s Sun & Surf was built as luxury rental apartments on six oceanfront acres designed by Palm Beach architect Eugene Lawrence and built by Jack Resnick & Sons during the mid-1960s.
The V-shaped windows complement the angled planters below.
Originally, the complex featured a complex of restaurants along the ocean side. Voisin’s of New York, owned by Hy Uchitel, obtained the first franchise, featuring a French-styled salon, a Polynesian Bamboo Room, the Monte Carlo Party Room, a Coffee Shop, and the Voisinette Lounge. Palm Beach artist Phillip Read designed the murals. Within a year after opening, Mr. Uchitel sued the Sun & Surf’s developers claiming he thought the restaurant was public and could be advertised; later, settling out of court. But, the law was changed after there were complaints about excessive traffic and noise. Thus, the Town Council grandfathered the existing restaurants, including the Monegasque at the President condominium, but stipulated they must be “operated solely for the convenience of guests” and were prohibited from advertising.

Yes, breakfast is OK at Hamburger Heaven and Green’s and the Bentleys and Quattroportes still crowd Cucina, but for a change of pace, experience the real Palm Beach, at a restaurant that doesn’t exist.
The Eggsotic Bistro at the Sun & Surf Garden Club.
Palm Sunday in Palm Beach
An inflatable rabbit holding a colored Easter egg patiently waits in the rumble seat of a 1931 Model A Deluxe Coupe parked on County Road, as the owner, Nick Kindred, attended Palm Sunday services at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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