Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Built in 1939, the late Frances Archbold Hufty house on Island Road, where she lived for more than 70 years, is reportedly under contract. “Living here is absolutely marvelous, and to think, we watched it all being built,” Hufty told me during a 2009 interview for a story on the history of Everglades Island.
On Palm Beach, price drops drive sales volume
By Augustus Mayhew

Since real estate agents and the local press are describing the recent flurry of $5-$10-$20 million residential sales as a “comeback” and a “recovery,” don’t waste your breath recalling just a few seasons past when properties were selling in the $40-$60-$90 million range. Seasonal disconnect is one of Palm Beach’s enduring charms. Then, add to this upside-down/down-side up economics a steady influx of phantom LLC buyers who believe the purchase of Palm Beach property is a covert operation. Where else can hedge fund croupiers and Wall Street CEOs count on movie-star treatment? After meditating on these variables, it becomes easy to see how the Palm Beach real estate market reflects the same sense of illusion displayed by so many of its imaginative facades.

And while many of the previous high high-end properties are already mortgaged beyond current appraised levels, the ongoing sales wave appears to be refueling the island’s prolific teardown and renovation market. Worth Avenue and Royal Poinciana Way may be zoned commercial but Palm Beach’s actual retail industrial district spirals within its hard hat residential enclaves. Yes, more Taj Mahals are in the planning stages, turning Palm Beach streets into a cacophony of nail guns and air hammers. As even before the first Sherle Wagner fixture was installed, Palm Beachers were entranced by paint samples and fabric swatches.

A waterfront Wyeth-designed “Venetian palace” at 181 Clarendon Avenue asking $12.9 million has sold for $11.7 million, according to the deed filed Thursday afternoon.
Sotheby’s has posted an Under Contract notice on their web site for an oceanfront at 1472 South Ocean Blvd, asking $31 million, and a lakefront at 181 Clarendon Avenue, asking $12.9 million. After being on the market for several years, boxing impresario Don King and Deborah King, as PR for the Estate of Henrietta King, sold 900-920 Ocean Boulevard, two adjacent oceanfront estates in Manalapan, for $15.9 million.

In 1999, King and his late wife Henrietta King, whose friend talk-show host Oprah Winfrey was one of the Kings’ houseguests, paid $14.3 million for both properties. Judi Flom has sold the 330 South Ocean Boulevard apartment that she and her late husband, noted NYC attorney Joseph H. Flom, paid $2.65 million in February 2010 for $2.7 million. The buyer was Chicago investment banker T. Kimball Brooker.

But, there may be a silver lining, a new benchmark for Palm Beach’s slippery sliding scale of asking and selling prices. Columbia University has listed Casa Sin Nombre, the late John Kluge’s Midtown 4+ acre compound that does include the Mizner-designed landmark named Audita, for $59 million, making those listed $20-$30-$40 million ocean and lake fronts now appear to be more of a bargain. It even gives hope someone might plunk down $70 + million for the colossal spec chateau at 1220 South Ocean Boulevard, recently shored up by a secondary mortgage from former Canadian-now-Bahamian David Kosoy’s Nassau-based New Providence Capital Management, according to court records.

As PBers are aware, Mr. Kosoy is a principal with the Sterling Company, the entity attempting to gain approvals for their controversial redo for the locally-landmarked Royal Poinciana Plaza, including a request to demolish the Royal Poinciana Playhouse. Kosoy’s New Providence has also extended a $1.2 million mortgage to Richard Power’s new Spoonbill digs in Manalapan. Richard Power sold his 125 Via del Lago house to GEH LLC, a company linked to Clinton Group hedge fund titan George E. Hall.

Just months earlier, the Halls, through another LLC, reportedly snapped up 190 Via Palma for $3.9 million, now being offered by Sotheby’s for $4.6 million. In other Kosoy-related transactions, Brian and Andrea Kosoy recently closed on 437 Chilean Avenue, paying $3.2 million, financed by a $2.4 million mortgage from Lydian Private Bank, to Matt and Tracy Smith for the property the Smiths paid $3.2 million for in 2002. The Smiths had already moved on to 1240 North Ocean Boulevard where bulldozers have leveled Estrella del Mar, the former beach house owned by CIA chief William Casey.

The Moens factor
Corcoran broker Paulette Koch and Sotheby’s agent Cris Condon have an impressive market share but the Lawrence A. Moens Associates Inc. real estate office, located next door to the Sparkle Shoe Repair Shop on Sunrise Avenue, is the undeniable epicenter for the ongoing quake of real estate sales. Mr. Moens remains the recognized go-to broker for most billionaires in need of high-end Palm Beach pads. Unlike the more bigger-is-better sales appeal offered by Corcoran and Sotheby’s, Moens has no web site and does not allow himself to be photographed, perhaps reflecting the same deep cover he affords many of his clients. Most recently, Moens had both listing and selling end, or one side of the deals, for more than $130 million in Palm Beach sales, among them: a $22M Blossom Estate lot, the current record-setting $29M sale of the oceanfront Berwind estate, the $12M oceanfront lot at 1071 NOB, Izzy Asper’s $26M Canterbury Lane oceanfront, Conrad Black’s $23M oceanfront at 1930 SOB, the $11M Wackenhut sale at 930 SOB, the Reef Road $6M oceanfront, 101 El Mirasol oceanfront for $12M, and 326 Via Linda, a North End lakefront for $10.9M.

El Mirasol oceanfront estate sells for $12.5 million

In 1991 Joseph and Norma Saul paid $3.2 million for the two-story four-bedroom 1960's-styled house at 101 El Mirasol. Recently, trustees for the estate of the late Norma G. Saul sold 101 El Mirasol, with 113 feet of direct ocean frontage for $12.5 million to J-Palm, a Delaware-based LLC linked to NYC’s Jacobson Family Investments, according to court filings. Having previously been clients with several accounts listed with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Jacobson Family Investment principals include Mitchell Jacobson and Marjorie Gershwind, the children of the late Sidney and Bernice Jacobson. In 2004, Marjorie Gershwind, a Great Neck resident, paid $4.8 million for an oceanfront penthouse apartment at Kirkland House, 101 Worth Avenue.

17 Middle Road sold for $4.15 million
Jane Foster sold an approx. 5,000-sq.-ft two story 1930s house at 17 Middle Road for $4.15 million to Lee Kellogg Sudrian and Cynthia Kellogg. Previously, the buyers, Sudrian and Kellogg, had sold their 4th floor co-op apartment at The Villas, 425 Worth Avenue, for $2.95 million to Rhonda and C. Howard Wilkins, Washington DC, residents. A former ambassador to The Netherlands, Mr. Wilkins has been associated with the Pizza Hut comfort food chain.
Armed US Marshalls secure El Bravo Way estate
252 El Bravo Way, façade. Having occupied their South End landmark mansion rent-free for several years during a contentious bankruptcy ordeal, Jeffrey Prosser and Dawn Prosser reportedly were seen leaving their Palm Beach refuge the evening before armed US Marshalls entered the house, changed the locks, and took possession of the house. According U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald’s order, the U.S. Marshals Service was to evict the Prossers and should be “held harmless against any liabilities, losses or damages that might be sustained in connection with this action.” Although the Prossers appealed the sale of a house, believed to have been acquired through ill-gotten gains according to court documents, James P. Carroll, as the court-appointed Chapter 7 trustee, sold the property for $6.9 million to Palm Beach residents Jeffrey Fisher and his wife Frances Fisher. The Fishers were acknowledged as the highest bidders for the Volk & Maass-designed Mediterranean-style house. The Prossers’ whereabouts remain unknown.
The Conrad Black House, the next chapter

Conrad and Barbara Black, Palm Beach’s most distinguished Canadian intellectuals, appear to have sold what was their refuge while Lord Black awaits re-sentencing. LJC Property Holdings LLC has sold 1930 S. Ocean Blvd. for $23.1 million to an entity named 1930 South Ocean Boulevard Trust. As you may recall LJC Property Holdings, Jeffrey Lehman, principal, took title last year for the $10 million + mortgage amount on the property held by another entity named Blackfield Holdings. Subsequently, LJC extended a lease-option agreement to Lakeside Capital, a Marshall Islands corporation whose president is Dan Colson, a former Hollinger COO and close associate of Conrad Black’s. Toronto attorney Stanley Freedman’s office at the Bay Adelaide Centre is listed as Lakeside Capital’s North American contact. Upon the sale to the 1930 SOB trust, the lease option with the Marshall Islands company was terminated, according to court records.

Wackenhut-owned company pays $11.5 million for 930 South Ocean Boulevard
930 South Ocean Boulevard. Ocean Boulevard elevation. A company associated with NYC’s Steve and Linda Horn has sold one of their two landmarked houses located on Via Bellaria for $11.5 million to an LLC affiliated with Richard R. Wackenhut. The Horns bought the house for $9.45 million in 2005. Clad with coral key stone and designed by Treanor & Fatio, the distinctive Italian Renaissance-style house features a classic loggia, pecky cypress ceilings, and a hard-to-find basement. A Turtle Beach Construction Company sign has already been planted in front of the house.
930 South Ocean Boulevard, Via Bellaria entrance. Richard Wackenhut heads up G4S Solutions-North America, located on Wackenhut Drive in PBG, a security company originally founded for the most part by his late father George Wackenhut. At the time of the elder Wackenhut’s death in 2003, the Washington Post speculated on the rumors the former FBI agent was actually running a CIA-front company. The Wackenhut family’s Coral Gable Estates mansion resembled a medieval castle, reportedly wired with infrared and laser sensors, closed-circuit television monitors, and photo-cell surveillance. During the 1980s, George Wackenhut became the nation’s second-largest private prison operator when he launched a subsidiary to design and manage worldwide correction facilities. With Casa Eleda across the street priced in excess of $20 million, the new owner of 930 South Ocean appears to have made a considerable deal.
17,000-sq.-ft. + oceanfront planned for North End
The S-monogram gates at 947 North Ocean Boulevard are leftover from when the property was owned by Betty and Edward Scripps. Today, noted Pennsylvania “period house” architect Peter Zimmerman is in the midst of gaining approvals for a new 17,000-sq.-ft. + oceanfront British Colonial-styled house to be built on two lots that sold last year for $19+ million. The house is being designed for an LLC linked to the same mailing address utilized by Philadelphia Phillies co-owner and billionaire pipe tobacco titan John Middleton. Several years ago the Middleton family’s Prince Albert cigar concern was acquired by the Altria Group, Phillip Morris’ parent company, for more than $2 billion, according to published accounts. Yes, the house will include a spacious basement and a tennis loggia.
Former Miss America sells Peruvian Avenue house

Long time DC-NYC-PB resident Yolande Betbeze Fox sold her Midtown house at 156 Peruvian Avenue for $875,000 to James and Emily Clifford. Seaside National Bank & Trust provided the financing. Crowned Miss America in 1951, Fox ‘Miss Alabama' caused a bit of a stir when after winning she refused to be photographed in a bathing suit, causing pageant sponsor Catalina to withdraw and start-up the rival Miss USA pageant. Fox donated her royal tiara and scepter to the Smithsonian Museum. Fox’s landmark DC residence at 3017 N Street was previously owned by Jacqueline Kennedy who bought it following President Kennedy’s death.

1090 North Lake Way changes approved
1090 North Lake Way LLC, a company linked through public records to NYC hedge fund savant and Robin Hood Foundation founding board member Glenn Dubin, has received approval to make alterations and changes, including the replacement of cast stone with marble applications. In December, 1090 NLW LLC paid $12.375 million to Marvin H. Schur for the lakefront property. In February, Glenn Dubin, described by the NYO as a “legendary moneyman,” sold his 1010 Fifth Avenue apartment for $13.75 million.
In NYC, Mr. Dubin’s purchase of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue from David Koch for $30 million is often mentioned. Built in 1999, the 1090 North Lake Way house was designed by the Greenvale, New York architectural firm of Mojo-Stumer Associates.
Greenwich couple sell Via del Mar waterfront
215 Via del Mar, entrance gates. Walter and Nancy Raquet have sold their more than 15,000-sq.-ft. house with 200 feet of lake frontage at 215 Via Del Mar for $19.5 million to Kenneth W. and Claudia J. Silverman, Watchung, New Jersey residents. The Raquets had made considerable additions to the property. The seller, Walter Raquet, is chairman of WR Group Holdings, a CT-based hedge fund-related firm. Kenneth Silverman heads The Silverman Group, a private equity company.
215 Via del Mar, motor court.
Greenwich billionaire snaps up Blossom Estate parcel
Just when you thought tout Greenwich had already arrived in Palm Beach, billionaire Thomas Peterffy has snapped up Blossom Estates lots 7 & 8, a vacant lakeside approx. 5.8 acre parcel on Billionaire's Row, where else, for $22.66 million, according to recent recorded court documents. The Smith & Moore architectural firm has planted a sign on the south end of the property. Attorney Ronald S. Kochman, as trustee of the 1255 South Ocean Boulevard Realty Trust, sold the parcel to a revocable trust established by Peterffy in 2007. As you may recall, this was the must-have parcel that fashion designer Reed Krakoff had commissioned architect Richard Meier to design one of his Florida houses. Instead, in December 2009 Krakoff took $10.6 million for the property, with broker magnate Lawrence A. Moens handling the deal as well as a co-buyer with an undisclosed partner, that five years earlier Krakoff had sewn up for $9.4 million from an LLC headed by co-president Lin Castre Gosman. Gosman will soon be finishing up her two years of house arrest, still to be followed by another year of supervised parole, following her 2009 conviction and sentencing on multiple felony fraud counts. Since 2000, the scenic lots with panoramic views of the Bingham Island bird sanctuary have been graced by at least five different owners, according to court records
Billionaire Row oceanfront sold in Blossom Estates
The estate of Charles Graham Berwind Jr. has sold 40 Blossom Way for $29.15 million to The 40 Blossom Way Trust.
Washington DC brokers on the move, again
DC real estate agents William F. X. Moody and Dana Landry paid $8.9 million to Judith Doctor for 3 Pelican Lane, a lake front property next door to the one they sold in 2008 to Wilbur L. Ross Jr. for $13.2 million. The transaction was financed by a $3.75 million Northern Trust first mortgage and a $750,000 mortgage held by the seller. A few blocks away, two other DC brokers affiliated with Moody and Landry’s firm, Washington Fine Properties, Marc P. Schappell and Thomas B. Anderson bought Cox newspaper scion Daniel J. Mahoney III’s house at 234 El Brillo Way for $4.475 million. Northern Trust financed the deal with a $3 million mortgage.
Vizcaya lots sold, again
Yesterday $14.5 million; today $8.65 million. A New Jersey developer who paid $14 million for two adjacent lakeside lots on Via Vizcaya has apparently sold them for nearly $6 million less than what he paid in 2006, according to the recorded deeds. In two separate transactions, two Delaware-based LLCs with the same South Burlington, VT addresses bought 12 Via Vizcaya with 108 feet of waterfront for $3.9 million and 235 Via Vizcaya with 155 feet of water frontage for $4.75 million. The buyer’s companies share the same VT address as businesses associated with Green Mountain Coffee CEO Robert P. Stiller. Mr. Stiller, the onetime head of EZ Wider Rolling Paper company, recently acquired a stake in Krispy Kreme.
105 Clarendon Avenue adjusts price
105 Clarendon, a stately Marion Sims Wyeth-designed oceanfront villa on more than 2 acres, has been re-priced at $27.9 million, according to Corcoran broker Paulette Koch’s web site. Built for the Clarence Jones’, Mr. Jones was the first president of the Everglades Club who died before the house was finished, the estate belonged to Jean Flagler Matthews, Henry Flagler’s granddaughter, for several decades. During the early 1960s, the mansion made international headlines when King Saud of Saudi Arabia leased the estate for several weeks.
Initially priced at $34 million, 105 Clarendon’s provenance is one of Palm Beach’s most historically-significant enclaves.
Frances Archbold Hufty house under contract
The Island Road waterfront house built for the late Standard Oil scion Frances Archbold Hufty has sold, according to the Sotheby’s web site. The property with more than 190-feet of waterfront was priced at $7.75 million.
The bay window affords a southerly view of the Intracoastal Waterway basin. “We bought the lot because it was the only spot we could find where you got sunlight all day long,” recalled Frances Hufty, when I asked her how she happened to build on Island Road.
To the north, Frances and Page Hufty’s house has spectacular views of the Everglades Club golf course.
Coming Soon ! A 17,000 sq. ft. spec house on Antigua Lane’s lakefront
Although opposed by several neighbors, one asked for “understated elegance,” ARCOM approved a more than 15,000-sq-ft. spec house to be built along the lakefront at Antigua Lane. Among its numerous amenities, the house will feature a garage capable of housing car collections.
Architect Alfred Browning Parker (1916-2011)
Manus House, 144 Wells Road, Palm Beach. Alfred Browning Parker, architect. Photo courtesy of Jane Manus and Ninotchka Manus.
Prolific architect Alfred Browning Parker lived to see every one of his Palm Beach houses demolished. In 2008, as the last of his houses on the island, the Manus House on Wells Road, neared extinction, he played an active role in trying to save it or salvage elements of it. This at the vibrant age of 92. Al Parker, whose distinguished career spanned seven decades, died recently in Gainesville. At the time of his death, Mr. Parker was a practicing architect, an emeritus professor at the University of Florida School of Architecture, and was expected to speak at a luncheon in Miami Beach hosted by the Dade Heritage Trust. In 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright recommended Mr. Parker to become an American Institute of Architects Fellow. As his distinctive Tropical Modernist style flourished, House Beautiful magazine introduced his work nationally, including his houses in its influential Pace Setter series. His own Coconut Grove residence, called Woodsong, was ranked as one of the top 10 houses in the world by Wallpaper magazine. In 1965, he wrote You and Architecture — A Practical Guide to the Best in Architecture, where he formulated many of his environmental building concepts that are essentially the basis for today’s green architecture movement.
The Joseph Mass house, 760 Island Drive. Alfred Browning Parker, architect. Demolished. Although one of the most architecturally significant houses ever built on Palm Beach, the Mass House, as well as Al Parker’s work, are never included in any history of Palm Beach buildings.
In September 2008, the University of Florida celebrated Parker’s 92nd birthday with a retrospective exhibition of his work. It was a memorable evening. I had last seen him thirty years earlier when friends commissioned him to design an addition to their home. Mr. Parker believed the two key ingredients to good architecture were “it must be useful and beautiful.” In 2010, the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award. Although Al Parker was best-known for his Coral Gables-Coconut Grove commissions, Palm Beach was the setting for some of his most-refined residential designs including the Abe Leo Cohen house, 1070 N. Lake Way; a house for developer Michael Burrows, 1275 S. Ocean Blvd.; the Adele and Allen Manus house, 144 Wells Road; and for Joseph Mass, 760 Island Drive, his famous 30-60-90 house.

Here is a look at the two houses that replaced Al Parker’s Manus House on Wells Road.
What’s New?
A North Lake Way house nears completion.
Final touch-ups are underway at this South End oceanfront.
333 Peruvian Avenue is one of the few additions to the street during the past forty years.
A Midtown classic undergoes a few updates.
A South End Bermuda is being prepped for a new wall.
Kelly Klein’s new Ibis Isle waterfront features the design work of NYC’s 1100: Architect whose principals David Piscuskas and Juergen Riehm are interviewed at this NYSD HOUSE feature. Klein acquired the lot last year but only recently sold her Wellington condo at Oak Tree Villas for $750,000 to Little Creek Investments. Canadian show-jumping champion Eric A. Lamaze is Little Creek’s principal, according to state records. Recently ranked the world’s leading rider, Mr. Lamaze won last week’s prestigious Grand Prix of Rome equestrian event.
Phipps Plaza property settles for less
Phipps Plaza, South County Road entrance. Lamont B. P. Harris has sold a residential property at 235 Phipps Plaza for $1.6 million to NYC residents Craig F. Starr and Chris B. Flynn. JPMorgan Chase provided the buyers a $1.2 million mortgage. According to court records, Mr. Harris purchased the 1920s two-story 2,700-sq.-ft. property in 2007 for $2.3 million.
Nightingale Trail Modern finds new owner
244 Nightingale Trail. One of my favorite designs attributed in part to architect Byron Simonson who had designed a similar spectacular lakefront house, now demolished. On a street where teardowns might predominate, it appears the present owner is renovating the house. Talbott Maxey sold 244 Nightingale Trail for $1.525 million to David Baumann and his wife Henriette Meran. In 2003, Maxey paid $1.375 million, according to the property appraiser’s web site.
Peter and Marion Madoff exit Palm Beach
Marion and Peter Madoff sold their South End residence at 200 Algoma Road to a land trust for $5.5 million. The sale was financed by a $3 million Bank of America ARM mortgage. The Madoff’s Old Westbury residence is believed to be still on the market. In 2001, the Madoffs paid $3.7 million for the Wyeth-designed house, using Bernard Madoff’s office at 885 Third Avenue as their primary address.
Oceanfront Fatio undergoing museum-quality renovation
The Palmeiral Trust, a company linked by the property appraiser’s web site to Massachusetts grocery-chain heir Frances Irene Demoulas Kettenbach, is in the midst of a commendable restoration of 801 South County Road, the 2.75 acre landmark Fatio estate recently sold for $16.8 million. The house, known as Palmeiral, was designed for the daughter of General Motors founder William Durant. With 23,188 square feet of living area, the house has had several illustrious owners including . Leon Mandel, the Chicago department store heir, and German publishing tycoon Siegfried Otto. Previously, Michael Kettenbach, as the Cielo Madera Land Trust, had acquired 1020 South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan for $10.4 million, where plans were approved for a 23,000-sq.-ft. + Mediterranean house designed by architect Daniel Menard, according to the Town of Manalapan minutes.
Creating the Palm Beach style
A Midtown waterfront house is under construction.
North End vision
Architect Peter Marino’s artful additions are too scarce reminders of when Palm Beach was an incomparable showcase for exceptional style.

Photographs by Augustus Mayhew

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