Friday, May 7, 2010

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Artist Channing Hare’s portrait of a Spanish dancer graces the dining room at Casa Juanita, an authentic Palm Beach original designed for Oyster Bay swell Sterling Postley and preserved in museum condition for decades by Joe and Nancy Dryer. Designed in 1925 by Beaux-Arts architect Marion Sims Wyeth, the authentic Singer Place, now Middle Road, casa grande is being offered for seasonal lease by Fite Shavell & Associates. Before moving to Casa Juanita with his second wife, Mr. Postley became tangled in a marital quickstep, certain to have opened every Palm Beach door. His first wife, Ethel Cook, divorced him and married their brother-in-law, Ross Curran, whose wife, Elise Postley, Sterling Postley’s sister, upon her divorce, married her brother-in-law, Guernsey Curran. Thus, the former Mrs. Sterling Postley’s ex-sister-in-law became once again, her sister-in-law, as Elise Postley Curran Curran. “Love Gone Amuck in Millions” read the era’s headlines.
Island fever, Movers and shakers, Casa Juanita, plus Palm Beach under construction
by Augustus Mayhew


While waiting for court house monks to record the much-talked-about hush-hush sale of the Jimmy Buffett house at 540 South Ocean Boulevard -- He wanted $30M. It was a handshake deal. His neighbor bought it for $25 million. Did it close yet? Has it sold? The house needed work. He made the deal in a New York elevator -- I am reminded that nothing is as entertaining or as real as Palm Beach gossip.

And lately, although Palm Beach was planned as an offshore escape immune from reality, intended not as a mirror of the mainland’s rational ticktock but as a floating cloud of timeless pleasure, many of the townspeople appear to be toting pitchforks rather than golf clubs, awhirl in a constant dustup of factional huff-and-puffs.

Wasting away again in Margaritaville.
Too much free time away from the card games, bocce courts or one too many foot faults? Was there a new bartender at the Everglades Club cantina? Might it be withdrawals from the Sterling Group vs. the Theatre Guild smackdowns? Did the season’s lengthy cold spell bring on a bout of delirium? Has Palm Beach gone a bit Brazilian? However much Palm Beachers indulge their extremes, has there ever been a more Balkanized Palm Beach with as many high-pitched divisive controversies?

Among the tiffs, a clash with the PBPD, a fracas with Town Hall staff and a shutdown on the long-awaited Royal Poinciana Way plans. Meanwhile, Gerry Goldsmith’s one-vote loss in the never-ending mayoral race is headed for the Supreme Court while the town’s billionaire-in-residence of five months, La Bellucia’s owner Jeff Greene, declared himself a candidate for the US Senate. Even though his tennis court is finished and the CDO meltdown mogul’s own $15+ million mortgage is now in place, he wants nothing more than spend next season in Washington. Then, who will pay for the vanishing beachfront? And enter stage left, the newly formed Neighborhood Alliance of Palm Beach, ready to take on the south of Sloan’s Curve heavyweights. Up on North County Road, Leo and Kathryn Vecellio remain locked into Civil Case No. 502009CA040005XXXXMB, with a case file already thick as the Shanghai phonebook, as what happened at their $40+ million oceanfront dream house must have the makings for the nation’s largest residential construction case.

The $11.6 billion sandbar
The Town of Palm Beach’s projected 2010 property values declined 12 per cent from$13.2 billion to $11.6 billion, according to the county’s tax assessor’s preliminary assessments. With projected downside assessments and homeowners reluctant to welcome tax increases, the Town Council will have to make cuts.
The Town Hall’s museum quality re-restoration may be almost finished but the District Attorney’s probe into shady kickback deals behind the landmarked walls has just begun. The Town’s head of construction services was arrested on 25 criminal counts of unlawful compensation and conspiracy. Three administrative heads are on paid leave. A complete town audit has been ordered. Both the PBPD and District Attorney have said there will be more arrests.
The town’s police and fire department pension plans are under scrutiny causing a wave of staff uncertainty over budget cuts. And more than once, I have heard a former police chief, now a South End resident, may run for mayor. Just asking, how many other PB residents have been arrested lately other than Jeffrey Epstein?
Bigger is better in Palm Beach, if it is a 50,000 square-foot Publix supermarket
The tile mural along the Publix south wall will vanish, thankfully, according to some residents, if the grocery giant gains approval to build a new titanic-sized supermarket at its Midtown location. Imagine, many of the same voices who shrilled for months about Testa’s and Royal Poinciana Plaza are in the front lines advocating a mega-sized grocery store “like no where else in the world,” according to a Publix spokesperson. The ARCOM public hearing was an event. Personally, I enjoyed Annie Falk’s engaging detailed letter to the PB Daily News last Sunday describing Publix as a convenience store with shelves filled with chemical preservatives and additives. At the April 28 ARCOM meeting, I think it was Ann Pepper who pointed out that more than six months out of the year the Publix is so empty “you can shoot deer in the aisles.” Nonetheless, common sense aside, Publix has retained Town Hall’s juggernaut known for mission impossible, attorney Maura Ziska + architects Smith and Moore + landscape architect Morgan Wheelock.
Du Ponts oppose historic designation of 977 North Ocean

Despite last week’s formidable objections lodged by representatives for Genevieve du Pont and her daughter Nicole du Pont Limbocker, the Landmarks Commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the Town Council designate du Pont’s Volk-designed house at 977 North Ocean. Designed in a 1960s Bermuda style for Nicholas and Genevieve Estes DuPont, who describe it as “a fairly simple beach house,” the oceanfront house was featured in numerous national design magazines. Although revival of revival style houses are not recognized by the National Trust as landmarkable post-war styles, Palm Beach continues to locally designate these ersatz contextual houses and buildings as historic, no matter that many consider them more anomalous and anachronistic than historical. But hey, it is incomparable Palm Beach.

Here is a round-up of some of the platinum sandbar’s latest deed transfers among the movers and shakers.

Former Dodge estate oceanfront lot goes for $19.3 million
No, those are not revolving doors but 947 North Ocean Boulevard has sold again. It seems like yesterday when Playa Riente, Addison Mizner’s most magnificent oceanfront mansion, stood on this site as well as adjoining parcels. Demolished in 1956, when the town failed to give its owner Anna Dodge zoning for use as a private club or an educational or non-profit museum, even though it was contiguous with the Palm Beach Country Club, the Coral Beach Club, and further south, the Graham-Eckes School (the former Otto Kahn house).
This time, 947 North Ocean Boulevard Trust sold to 1200 South Ocean Boulevard LLC for $19.32 million. The NOB’s attorney, Richard A. Karelitz, is general counsel for the New England Patriots and its owner Robert Kraft, who paid $19.13 million five years. The buyer was represented by Tina Fanjul Associates Inc., according to associate Crista Fanjul Ryan. The 1.6-acre parcel is currently assessed for $25 million. Known lately as the Scripps property, Betty Scripps Harvey sold the Scripps house several years ago for $16 million. In 1986 Edward and Betty Scripps paid Jan Kemper $3.45 million for the house.

Nederlanders buy historic Drew-Hoffstot waterfront house for $13.5 million
A tile plaque located in Midtown Palm Beach honors Barbara Hoffstot’s contribution towards the preservation of Palm Beach.
There’s no business like the Palm Beach real estate business, if you are James M. and Charlene Nederlander. The Nederlanders paid $13.5 million for their third island villa, Sans Gene, a landmarked South County Road waterfront one-acre estate designed by Maurice Fatio, once belonging to Palm Beach’s leading historic preservationist Barbara Drew Hoffstot and her family. Mrs. Hoffstot’s father, Judge James Byron Drew, was chief justice of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court for more than twenty years; her mother was a Pittsburgh steel heiress. Barbara Hoffstot was the author of the groundbreaking “Landmark Architecture of Palm Beach,” first published in 1974 with two later editions. After what seemed an extended renovation and marketing campaign, the late 1930s Georgian Revival-styled house was most recently listed for $14.9 million by Carole Koeppel and Cristina Condon, associates with Sotheby’s International Realty. The buyer was represented by Betsy S. Green, principal of Betsy S. Green Real Estate.

Maddock Way corner lot lands $6 million
Paul L. Maddock Jr. and the Bessemer Trust Company, as trustees for a Maddock family trust, sold a large vacant lot at the corner of Maddock Way and North Lake Way in Landmark Estates for $6 million to Palm Beach residents Jeffrey and Frances Fisher. Lot #4 was the first lot sold of four vacant buildable parcels available at Landmark Estates. After several years of meetings, the Maddock family received approval to subdivide their historic Duck’s Nest-Old Bethesda Church property. The family has retained Duck’s Nest, the family’s historic homestead, and Old Bethesda Church. In October 2008 the Fishers sold 255 Clarke Avenue, Villa Loual, for $9.68 million.
South End auction believed to be a first
The east elevation of 100 Via del Lago with a foo dog perched on the pool, acquired by the house’s owner many years ago from the Middle Road estate of Mrs. Lorenzo Woodhouse. On May 22 NYC-based Concierge Auctions will conduct the first known auction of a South End property, 100 Via del Lago, owned by longtime Palm Beach resident and real estate agent Nancy Mendel. Having once priced the house at $10+ million, now tagged at $4.75M, the reserve will be $2.95M with pre-sale estimates of $3.85M to $4.35M. The four-bedroom 5,500-square-foot house built in 1982 is situated on half-acre corner lot. Mendel was quoted as, “I’m trying to consolidate my life, and I certainly don’t need two homes in Palm Beach. I do want to sell it before summer.” A non-public auction, all potential buyers must pre-register, show $100,000 to qualify and may bid by phone or a designated representative.
225 Seabreeze sold again for $6.35M

W. Ted Gossett, a broker-owner associate with Sotheby's International Realty, sold 225 Seabreeze Avenue for $6.35 million to car dealer and part-time PB resident Gene Reed.

The buyer was represented by Mary Boykin, a Sotheby's Palm Beach associate.Mr. Reed, who heads up automobile dealerships in South and North Carolina, also owns 329 Australian, bought in 2009 for $3.5 million, now offered for sale at $4 million by Mary Boykin.

225 Seabreeze was part of last summer’s cakewalk of house trading frenzy. Mr. Gossett, and a partner, Robert Abee, acquired the newly-built house last July when they swapped deeds with former Apple CEO John Sculley and his wife, Leigh Adams Sculley. Gossett and Abee “sold” 125 Wells Road to the Sculleys for $8 million; the Sculleys “sold” 225 Seabreeze to Gossett and Abee for $5.5 million, according to the recorded deeds. Then Mr. Gossett marketed the Seabreeze house for $7.65 million. Needless, there were existing mortgages to be considered as well in the arithmetic.
225 Seabreeze
Previously, the Sculleys bought 225 Seabreeze from James and Helen Rosburg for $4.5 million; then spent reportedly $4 million more building the MedRev two-story more than 7,500- sq.-ft. four bedroom house. Mr. Gossett has also been busy. In January he sold his 190 Via Palma house, formerly owned by Ivana Trump, for $3.95 million, leaving him currently with only one Palm Beach house, the former Durie Appleton house at 134 Casa Bendita that he purchased in July 2008 for $5.7 million.

Of note

The representatives for the estate of James B. Gaynor sold a condominium apartment and cabana at Two North Breakers Row, Unit N-31, for $6.89 million to Roberta Weiner. A Villa Platti resident since 2008, Mrs. Weiner’s husband Stephen Weiner is a prominent shopping mall developer. Anne Tierney Manson, Lisa Manson Degen and Christine A. Hanson, as trustees, have sold an oceanfront Dunster House condo, Unit 5B, for $2.275 million to John and Leatrice Wolf. Betty Payne has sold 208 Barton Avenue for $2.775 million. A small Midtown property, it was currently appraised for $3.4 million by the county property appraiser.

John B. Goodman.
Out and about in Wellington

The only Wellington news of substance is whether uber Houston billionaire and IPC polo patron John B. Goodman will face homicide charges following the death of a young man whose family live in Wellington. Mr. Goodman’s attorney is Roy Black, who as you may recall, ably served Rush Limbaugh and married one of his jurors from the William Kennedy Smith trial. Reportedly, one of Goodman’s polo chums, AMW’s John Walsh, is said to be well connected to every law enforcement agency in the United States. IPC’s security is also known to work courthouse security. Mr. Goodman’s Houston connections are pure gold. Last week the victim’s family filed a civil suit .Stay tuned. If it goes to trial, prepare for yet another Roy Black production.

Nevertheless, here is a recent Wellington sale of note. UES adman Martin Puris and his wife Mary Puris have sold their Golf Brook house at 11332 Long Meadow Drive house for $2.9 million, having paid $1.9 million less than five years ago. The buyers are Raymond Kassar and David Ferguson.

Casa Juanita
Marion Sims Wyeth, architect. 1925.
Offered for lease by Fite Shavell & Associates, Palm Beach

Detail, above the entrance gallery’s iron gates.
The colonnaded Romanesque portal makes for a dramatic entrance that steps up into the loggia and the central courtyard beyond. The central reception gallery makes for a play of stone, tile and ironwork flanked by gentleman’s and lady’s lounges.
Spanish houses can never be too sacred.
A vaulted axial arcade serves as a formal loggia providing entertainment areas and connecting the ground floor’s principal rooms.
Kept free from the corrosive salt breeze, the ironwork remains in superb condition.
For those who might find the elevator a struggle, to the left, the circular staircase leads to the bedrooms.
The living room ceiling has been beautifully maintained providing a counterpoint to the room’s various intimate tableaux.
The dining room measures 35 by 20 and features stenciled beams, Spanish Renaissance tables and light fixtures.
The dining room fireplace mantel.
To the left, a Roberto Domingo painting above the fireplace; to the right, a painting of a Spanish dancer by artist Rufus Dryer.
The table set for ten can comfortably accommodate sixteen.
The less formal dining area is between the dining room and the kitchen, opening up to the casual outside covered patio and courtyard.
The den-bar flooring appears to be covered with original Mizner Industries tile and, above the sofa, a jaguar trophy acquired in Ecuador.
Photographs of family and friends are placed in front of the library shelves.
If you are sitting beneath the awning, you easily feel transported to Toledo. Above the awning, wood carved Moorish-style screens cover the window openings.
Looking southeast, to the left, the living room french doors open to the pool and beyond the courtyard an awning makes for an informal loggia.
A statuesque pair stands guard over the pool.
The east façade with a small Mizner Industries fountain figure in the lower right corner.
To Joseph Frederick Dryer, with best wishes, Ronald Regan. A photo of a photo of Joe and Nancy Dryer, longtime Palm Beach residents.
Under construction
May 1 begins PB’s heavy construction season — streets teem with cement trucks, the whiff of paint sprays, the chirp of air hammers and the lilt of nail guns. At Ananda, seen above nearing completion, author James Patterson is seeking approval this month for a private 72-foot tunnel that will run beneath Ocean Boulevard connecting his cottage to the rapidly disappearing Midtown beachfront.
Here are a few landscapes of the ongoing construction ...
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.


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