Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Palm Beach’s own House of Seven Gables? No, it is a “Modern Pavilion” designed “in the spirit of architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen” now under construction in the South End, as photographed from WPB’s Flagler Drive. Featuring a copper roof, NanaWall system, and a driveway of cast-stone planks and grass strips, according to ARCOM minutes, this striking geometric composition is believed to be a new stateside onshore residence for Canadian mines-and-metals tycoon Stephen Dattels.
By Augustus Mayhew

Palm Beach’s Middle Road could soon undergo a considerable change with the news this past week that multi-billionaire dealmaker John Kluge had moved on from his several earthly residences to eternity. In January 2008, Kluge deeded his immense Middle Road estate, Casa Sin Nombre, to his alma mater, Columbia University, as part of his reported mega-gift. Of course, it is a perfect retreat for Columbia’s deans to wine-and-dine potential donors or the university’s cultural anthropology grad students to study island customs.

But, I would hope Palm Beach estate agents are checking their black books for friends and clients who are Columbia alums. The sharpest may already be in NYC lobbying the university’s trustees.
According to the property appraiser’s proposed 2010 appraisal, Mr. Kluge’s $25 million compound consists of five different houses/structures comprising more than 20,000-square-feet of living area on slightly more than four acres between Ocean Boulevard and South County Road. Located three doors south of the $18.5 million former Jimmy Buffet cottage, the Kluge compound includes Audita, the Mizner-designed oceanfront house built for stockbroker Alfred Kay and his wife, Elizabeth Kay, the Standard Oil heiress. I have heard various unconfirmed undocumented tales about Audita’s current historicity. But, clearly, the Kluge complex is incomparable; a boldfaced someone will have to have it, no matter the price. Nearby, Casa Nana appears to be back on the market and there are still exospheric high-end spec houses available. Nonetheless, IMO someone will want their name on Casa Sin Nombre.

Sotheby’s web site is showing Casa Bella as under contract with an asking price of $7.4 million; its Woodbridge location includes a Mar-A-Lago Club membership. Also, Elizabeth Schuler’s lake block Monterey on Pendleton at $3.45 million is also a pending sale. Otherwise, here is a look at some recent transactions, a Worth Avenue update, Testa’s latest crunch, and the ticking clock at novelist James Patterson’s Casa Ananda.

Manalapan oceanfront eco-mansion sells for $15.5 million
An artistic view illustrates Acqua Liana’s living areas with an ocean view. Photo Venture Concepts International.
Oceanfront mansion developer, author and Indiana-native Frank McKinney has sold his first certified eco-mansion, Acqua Liana, at 620 S. Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, for $15.5 million to the BALI 620 Realty Trust, Ronald S. Kochman, trustee. Pascal “Pat” Liguori, broker associate with Premier Estate Properties, represented the seller; Palm Beach broker Lawrence A. Moens, principal of Lawrence A. Moens Associates Inc., had the buyer. Once tagged at $29M, most recently reduced to 22.9M, Acqua Liana, “Water Flower,” is a seven-bedroom Tahitian-Fijian estate set on 1.6 acres from the Atlantic to the Intracoastal with 150 feet of direct ocean frontage. Acqua Liana, the area’s first triple-green certified mansion, features 15,000 square feet of living area, accessorized with solar panels, a 2,000-gallon aquarium, water floors, water walls, waterfalls, Monet-inspired water gardens, waterfront and water views, among numerous amenities.

Acqua Liana, at 620 S. Ocean Blvd, Manalapan.
According to Mr. McKinney, the president of Venture Concepts International who readers may have seen several weeks ago on the Weather Channel running the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, “This sale adds proof that the high-end market has turned the corner.” Along with creating top-of-the-market properties, he is also the author of several books, including Burst This! Frank McKinney’s Bubble-Proof Real Estate Strategies.

In case you were not one of the seven different owners since 1999 of the two-acre oceanfront estate at 1370 South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan, which Mr. McKinney bought and sold several times, is back on the market at $17.395 million with Carol Hickman at Sotheby’s with “many new improvements.” At least, try to imagine.

The Henry Mellons are on the move

Henry Stokes Mellon and Elizabeth H. Mellon have sold their Gulf Stream house at 4 Driftwood Landing to Flavia K. Milano, the glass-globe and figurine designer, for $2.625 million. Mr. and Mrs. Mellon, now of Greenville, Delaware, bought their waterfront property from Louisville’s Lyons-Brown family in 1994, as at one time the W. L. Lyons Brown family owned all of Driftwood Landing. Mr. Mellon is of the Pittsburgh Mellons as well as a great-grand of Philadelphia’s Anthony J. Drexel Paul, of the Drexel-Paul-Biddle clan. Mr. Mellon’s brother is Matthew Mellon. As you may already know, Flavia Milano took $4.2 million for her Ocean Boulevard house that was attached to the north end of Miradero, Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s Gulf Stream beach house, the subject of Robert Ganger’s book several years ago, Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s Miradero: Window on An Era. In the book, he kindly blames me for being the one who encouraged him ages ago to restore his much larger, more significant part of Miradero that his father acquired during the late 1960s.

Out Wellington way

Stadium Jumping Inc.'s Eugene Mische.
Stadium Jumping Inc., Eugene Mische, president, has sold its 13501 South Shore Blvd. commercial complex for $7.2 million to Equestrian Realty Inc, Mark J. Bellissimo, principal. The 5.2 acre retail complex contains more than 46,000-square-feet of retail and warehouse space. Stadium Jumping paid $3.75 million for the property in July 2003. With this sale, it appears Mr. Mische and his show-jump organization have decamped to the west coast of Florida, leaving most of Swellington’s future equestrian development under the watchful eye of Mr. Bellissimo and his partners.

Conrad Black property conveyed again, this time for $10 million

Thomas X. Fritsch, as secretary of Blackfield Holdings LLC, Stamford, Conn., conveyed title to 1930 South Ocean Boulevard, known as the Conrad Black house, for $10 million to LJC Holdings LLC of Media, Penn. An official at Blackfield Holdings stated they were “happy” the transaction allowed the Blacks to retain an interest in the property. What that interest is, still remains private. Local real estate sources say the property is still on the market. The property is listed with Linda A. Gary Real Estate, currently priced at www.realtor.com for $29.9 million. The property's proposed 2010 appraised assessment is $24.3 million, according to the county property tax appraiser's web site.

Released on bail from Coleman Federal Correctional facility after the U.S. Supreme Court reinterpreted laws that prosecutors used to convict him, Conrad Black has been living at 1930 South Ocean Blvd. while awaiting a Sept. 29 appeal hearing in Chicago, according to local real estate sources. Last February, Black and his wife, Canadian columnist Barbara Amiel Black, as CMB Palm Beach Property LLC, a Delaware company based in Toronto, transferred the deed for $11.6 million to Blackfield Holdings LLC, a Delaware-based company located in Stamford, Conn., in return for the cancellation of the $10 million debt plus interest, secured in a 2005 mortgage.

The Blacks bought their Palm Beach South End estate in 1997 for $9.9 million from Security Printing Ag, a Swiss corporation.

Crunch time at Testa’s
Having closed its landmark Royal Poinciana Way venue in August with a promise of re-opening in the fall, Testa’s restaurant appears to be facing foreclosure proceedings, according to published reports. Unless the Cypress Trust Company receives $7.7 million, the loan amount plus interest and fees, recent court filings mandate a late spring public sale at the courthouse to the highest bidder.

Testa’s has experienced its share of misfortune, as Royal Poinciana Way has become a North End thoroughfare, no longer the town’s Main Street destination as it was when Testa’s first opened in Palm Beach. Despite several years of attempts to upscale the street’s zoning and create an intensity of uses, such as exists on today’s Worth Avenue or Royal Palm Way, the Testa family and its supporters failed to achieve approvals. At the same time, a block north, the town approved a 40,000-square-foot Publix supermarket.

Former CIA director’s oceanfront house sold
Sophia and William Casey are seen in a photograph on a living room table at Estrella del Mar, their North End Palm Beach enclave of many years.
Bernadette Casey Smith, daughter of the late former CIA director William Casey, has sold Estrella del Mar at 1240 N. Ocean Blvd. for $6.8 million to Palm Beach residents Matthew and Tracy Smith. The Caseys’ daughter inherited the property in 2000, placing it on the market in 2007. Listed for $8.5 million, the rambling Spanish-style house is situated on nearly one acre that includes an oceanfront beach cabana, a guest house and a two-bedroom staff suite. The eclectic compound is believed to have been built in 1925 by Gene Bartholomew.

Elizabeth Cleckner and John Pangborn, associates with Corcoran Palm Beach, represented the seller, along with Mary Ann Cleckner, a referring broker with Real Property Palm Beach. Crissy Poorman, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty, represented the buyer. The buyers, Matt and Tracy Smith own several island residential properties. In 2002, they bought 437 Chilean Ave. for $3.2 million; five years later, they purchased 176 Seminole Ave. for $3.8 million.

After serving as Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, the president appointed Mr. Casey director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1981, serving until his death in 1987. His widow, Sophia, continued the family’s seasonal stays. Palm Beach has always held a special allure for former OSS and CIA intelligence officers.

Around town
Sunday morning, 8:15 a.m. The fall morning light could not be more beautiful than it is now in Palm Beach. With most of the town undergoing a makeover, the Memorial Fountain is scheduled for a major re-plumb and structural rejuvenation.
Although it has only been 80 years since Mizner designed the fountain, the restoration includes recasting and replacing the original directional equine figures. The Town Council is committing approx. $250,000 for the project while requesting $350,000 from state preservation grant funds.
The Worth Avenue enhancements are nearing completion. Here is a preview.
An entrance feature awaits final touches.
On Sunday morning, the Neiman-Saks-Findlay ocean block appears to be nearest to completion although the landscape wall in front of Saks is far from photo-ready.
High-heeled shoppers take note. The avenue’s new shell surface is not runway smooth but contains deep indents that could trip-and-fall the street’s most fashionably-spiked walkers.
The landmark clock tower will answer the puzzling question, “What time is it in Palm Beach?” If you are awed by the clock tower’s measured construction, here are the craftsmen’s precise calculations.
Along the County-to-Hibiscus block, the north side is completed while the south side awaits further attention.
Loyal shoppers have been challenged by Sidewalk Closed signs.
Always a fan of Escada’s windows, although I have never stepped inside, I would think Escada enthusiasts would not be deterred by this obstacle course.
The landscaped plaza between Chanel and Tiffany is still a work in progress.
A northerly view of the new center plaza on Hibiscus located between Tiffany and Chanel.
Adding to Worth Avenue’s new luster, the landmark Mizner apartment is undergoing a few pre-season improvements.
During reconstruction, the front-end loader has supplanted the Rolls Royce Coupe as the most familiar figure on Worth Avenue.
Air-conditioning systems line the Everglades Club’s Worth Avenue façade, putting a little chill in the air.
Final chapter: Author Patterson takes novel approach to construction deadline
Literary figure James Patterson has posted an English-only sign on Casa Ananda’s left front southeast corner: “TODAY IS SEPT. 17, 20 WORK DAYS TO FINISH DATE, OCTOBER 18.” Perhaps other Palm Beach construction sites will utilize this subtle daily reminder. This past week, a battalion of bricklayers has been at work on the two-lane circular entrance drive; a few more palettes of bricks, and finito.
As seen from the Ocean Boulevard, Casa Ananda has all the makings of a Mediterranean landscape painting. To the far left, the famous Vanderbilt-Kay spite wall is still up. When the town refused to shut down Ocean Boulevard from Vita Serena to Via Marina following the 1928 hurricane, Harold S. “Mike” Vanderbilt moved from his Mizner-designed mansion next door to Casa Ananda to Eastover, a Fatio-designed direct oceanfront in Manalapan. Raising their front yard ten feet allowed the Pattersons to turn Ocean Boulevard into a more aesthetic corniche, thus artfully, they may never see the traffic.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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