Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

322 Clarke Avenue, south elevation. One of Palm Beach's most charming eclectic Midtown estates is on the market for the first time in more than 15 years, listed at $10.895 million by Thor Brown, an agent at Fite-Shavell & Associates. Designed by Marion Sims Wyeth with later additions by Jeffery Smith, the property affords more than 7,000-square-foot living area along with a guest house, pool pavilion, loggia, pergola, greenhouse, and extensive gardens. Once known as Villa Filliponi, the designated local landmark offers an incomparable provenance and setting.
Palm Beach binge
By Augustus Mayhew

After a hiatus from the whirlwind of deals, Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette has returned with the caveat that however many countless transactions there may be considerably fewer buyers, much like Wall Street, paying considerably less than the previous decade’s peak prices. According to several published reports, various LLCs  affiliated with NYC notables Randall Smith and his wife Barbara Stovall Smith apparently satisfied an insatiable appetite to own mid-level Palm Beach houses, acquiring at least seven addresses for more than $22 million. 

The portfolio includes: 206 Seaspray, 286 Orange Grove, 209 List, 124 Cocoanut Row, 315 Seabreeze,126 Casa Bendita, 235 Dunbar, and 301 Brazilian. On September 17, a reported Smith-related LLC flipped 126 Bendita for $7.45 million; according to the recorded prices, $2 million more than the $5.3 million the NYC-based LLC paid in June 2013. Add to the mix, Howard Stern, Ken Griffin, and the former ambassador to Romania, and my abacus jammed at well over $200 million, without factoring the $42 million sale of the spec 24,000 square-foot faux French chateau once tagged at $74 million, or the other several hundred sales during the past twelve months. 

Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis.
Council President David Rosow.
Claudia and Nelson Peltz.
On-site construction trailers are trending as the town’s juggernaut of spec builders, architects, and set designers quick-step behind the bulldozers, making sure all that spare change does not end up at post office boxes or router numbers in BVI, Grand Bahamas, or the grander Grand Cayman.

On the more recent aesthetic side, Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis gained approval for their architect Jeffery Smith to install two sculpture pavilions on the grounds of their 700 North Lake Way cottage. Down 1520 South Ocean Boulevard, south of the old Joseph Widener place, ARCOM approved Wall Street whiz Chris Shumway’s additions and alterations designed by NYC-based Peter Pennoyer Architects. Shumway paid $18 million for 1520 SOB in December 2012, taking title to the hedge fund hideaway as Il Sogno PB LLC. Last looks! ARCOM’s recent approved demolitions include: 325 Garden, 340 Garden, and 333 Brazilian. 

Along with these latest updates, there are issues shuffling around town that get in the way of golf, tennis, and the next few deals of bridge and poker. The Palm Beach Daily News is suing the Town of Palm Beach for not making public Council President David Rosow’s e-mails while he was acting as an intermediary during the last round of twists-and-turns over the fate of the Royal Poinciana Playhouse. 

Having spent my youthful years backstage on numerous productions at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, working with James Riley (Jim’s father was a town councilman and Bessemer’s managing director), I am well aware of the jewel box theatre’s locational, structural, functional and economic obsolescence, albeit, regarded then by the actors as one of the nation’s most beautiful theater interiors attended by one of the most uncontrollable indescribable audiences.

Then, what about the stir on Coral Lane over a Brazilian Modern house? The enlivening hedge materials down at Thomas Peterffy’s lakefront cottage might be the solution. If concerns about the vanishing coastline or the lakeside dredging project are not enough to drive you to a microphone at a Town Council meeting, the PUD for Royal Poinciana Way has still not been approved; some say, it faces years of litigation.

And, in case you are still euphoric from the hype about sales volumes and escalating prices, the proposed 2013 property tax bills are up and out. If approved, Nelson and Claudia Peltz will cede their Number One residential spot to PBH LLC and Black Calabash Holdings LLC, companies reportedly associated with Ken Griffin, principal of Chicago's Citadel Investment Group, when they write a check for $1.9 million for the four Blossom Way properties.

But first, time to say Cheerio! to Worth Avenue’s peers of the realm.

225 Worth Avenue sold for record $28.1 million to Burt Handlesman

225 Worth Avenue, home to Brooks Brothers and Juicy Couture, has sold for a record $28.1 million (approx. $2,800 psf), to Love is Next Door LLC, one of the corporations presided over by Burt Handlesman, according to the recorded deed recorded.  Already Worth Avenue’s most prominent monopolist, Handelsman also probably owns more of the town’s commercial buildings than anyone else. In February 1990, the seller, P/A Florida Associates, acquired the nearly 10,000 square-foot building when it paid a dizzying $13.55 million in a reported sale-leaseback deal with the Ohio-based Limited Company.  According to available US records and unconfirmed UK archival Internet links, P/A Florida Associates is the fictitious dba name for a 50/50 partnership entity registered 23 years ago by The Portman Estate and Sableknight, representing some of London’s oldest, wealthiest, and most aristocratic families.
225 Worth Avenue. Before housing Brooks Brothers, the west part of the building was an addition to the adjacent Ta-boo restaurant before later becoming, among numerous ventures, a chocolate shop, a jeweler, and a Hawaiian shirt boutique. A UK partnership formed in the US by Sableknight and The Portman Estate acquired the building 23 years from the Ohio-based Limited Company.
Namtrop Florida Properties is a company owned by The Portman Estate one of London’s largest landlords. On its website, The Portman Estate lists the Palm Beach property among its holdings. According to The Times, the Portman Estate has 128 beneficiaries, known to be “fiercely private and sensitive to publicity.”  Sableknight NY is a Delaware-registered New York-based company, quite possibly a subsidiary of UK’s Sableknight Ltd, the more than £150 million holding company owned by the Astor family trust, currently headed by Lord Astor, John Jacob Astor VIII. Records show P/A Florida Associates directors based in the UK have also served as directors for companies owned by the Astor’s Sableknight Ltd. and The Portman Estate.

Established in central London during the mid-16th century, The Portman Estate consists of a 110-acre district of shops, offices and homes centered in the Marylebone area that includes The Cumberland Hotel. Originally spanning 270 acres that extended from Oxford Street to Regents Canal, the northern part of the estate was sold during the 1950s to pay estate taxes following the death of the seventh Viscount Portman in 1948.

The 10th Viscount Portman
Christopher Edward Berkeley Portman, the 10th Viscount Portman, is the titular head of the family's various property holdings that include the 2,000-acre Portman Burley Estate, a 3,000-acre Herefordshire Estate, a 17,000-acre farm in New South Wales, Australia, vacation property on Antigua, as well as commercial properties in New York, Connecticut, and Palm Beach, until the sale of the Worth Avenue building. For many years, Hugh Seaborn was chief executive of The Portman Estate. Although the family does not publish its asset values, The Portman Estate's holdings are said to be in excess of $3 billion USD.

In 1980, following the Astor family's sale of The Observer newspaper to the Atlantic-Richfield Company, The Observer Partners Ltd changed its name to Sableknight Ltd. When P/A Florida Associates bought the Worth Avenue building, its UK directors were Philip Rocher, representing the Portman Estate, and Desmond Roger Wingate Harrison, 100 Park Lane, London, a former executive for the Astor family at The Observer.  They were joined by US directors affiliated with the Howe & Addington firm in New York. 

The NYC firm later merged with Wiggin and Dana LLP whose associates, Joseph DiSanto, Bruce Hood and Andrew J. Pal,  and affiliate Victoria Management Corporation, managed the Palm Beach property at the time of sale along with London-based Robin S. Broadhurst, a former trustee for Sableknight Ltd and Grosvenor Estates.  Currently, Broadhurst is chairman of Grainger plc, a UK-based real estate company with more than £2 billion in property assets.  The deed was conveyed by Andrew J. Pal, as vice-president of Sableknight New York, the venture's managing partner.
Brooks Brothers. 225 Worth Avenue. According to various reports, Brooks Brothers has an existing long term lease at its present location.
Juicy Couture. Founded in 1995, fashion-forward Juicy Couture is now owned by Liz Claiborne. Published reports indicated there were more than 100 bidders for the property.
Northern Trust extends $165 million mortgage to properties reportedly associated with Ken Griffin

Companies reported by several sources associated with Ken Griffin, principal of the Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group, have acquired a $165 million mortgage from Northern Trust on a bundle of properties located in South Beach and Palm Beach. Northern Trust valued The Setai and Blossom Way-Palm Beach residential Florida holdings at $195 million. The mortgage documents were executed by Gerald Beeson, Griffin's COO at Citadel, who acted as manager of KP Holdings, sole member of PBH LLC and Black Calabash Family Holdings, owners of record for the Palm Beach properties.

Citadel's Ken Griffin.
Dmitry Rybolovlev.
Chicago-based Blossom Way owner dethrones Peltz as PB's top 2013 residential property tax payer

Probably the most rewarding perk of having a Palm Beach address is the annual notification of the property's assessed value and proposed property tax. For a privileged few, it must feel like lighting a cigar on Christmas morning.

The town's new Number One residential taxpayer is the owner of the four Blossom Way properties reportedly associated with hedge fund titan Ken Griffin, who heads up the Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group, when he writes a check for $1.914 million for the oceanfront enclave acquired for $130 million. The runner-up position in the exclusive Million Dollar Tax Club belongs to Nelson and Claudia Peltz whose $89 million assessed value generated a $1.6 million tax bill for their 13-acre enclave at 542-548 North County Road.

Joining Griffin and the Mogul of Montsorrel in the club is County Road Property LLC, most often reported as fertilizer kingpin Dmitry Rybolovlev’s haunt at Maison d’Amitie where a $67.8 million assessed value is costing $1.236 million. Sydell Miller is certain to be tapped for next year’s membership. The $53 million assessed value on her 1415 South Ocean Blvd. cottage sets her back a little short at $963,746.  

Nearby, Dwight Schar may have paid $90 +/- million way back when for Ron Perelman’s Casa Apava at 1300 South Ocean Blvd. but his most recent $47.6 million assessed value means Schar only needs to cover $861,000. Victor Vargas’ White Sea Holdings may have paid $68.5 million to George and Frayda Lindemann for their estate but the current assessed value of $42.6 million means the Venezuelan polo patron only needs to convert enough bolivar fuertes to pay $846,000.

Next door, John and Margaret Thornton paid Sidney Kimmel $81.5 million (or was it $77.5 million?) for 1236 South Ocean. Five years later, the oceanfront enclave has an assessed value of $42.6 million, making their annual civic contribution in the vicinity of $770,000.

Up at the old Otto Kahn house (Oheka III, fka Graham-Eckes School), the Cohen family will be writing a check for $668,000, although according to a recent The New York Times article, “Perelman’s Daughter Leads a  Nasty Legal Brawl,” they may be preoccupied with more pressing matters. Barbara Picower’s tax bill is a mere $572,000 for her 1410 South Ocean Blvd. hideaway, about as far from the big house as one can imagine from the Picower’s previous properties at La Palma or the Residences at Sloan’s Curve. 
50 Blossom Way. At the August 28 meeting, ARCOM approved the request by Jeffery W. Smith Architectural Group, PBH LLC's architect, for the demolition of the 14,000-square-foot Charles Harrison Pawley house built in 1985 at 50 Blossom Way. PBH LLC paid $37.95 million to sellers Walter and Mary Anne McPhail for an existing 14,000-square-foot house five-bedroom house sited on more than two oceanfront acres. In 2000, the McPhails paid $13,000,000 for the property. Three historic specimen trees will remain on the west side of the lot. For the adjacent two-acre vacant lot at 40 Blossom Way, the former Berwind estate, PBH LLC paid $41.65 million, having previously sold in 2011 for $29.1 million.
The Bolton family properties at 20 Blossom Way and 30 Blossom Way sold for $50 million to Black Calabash Holdings LLC, c/o the Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group. The oceanfront parcel, pictured above, sold for $35.7 million. The 1.4 acre parcel west of the oceanfront property, 20 Blossom Way, closed at $14.3 million.
Along South Ocean Boulevard
1720 South Ocean Boulevard, east elevation. Jerome Glazer has sold a 4,800-square-feet ocean view villa at Parc Monceau for $5.35 million to the Ruby S. Rinker Revocable Trust. In May 1998, Glazer paid $1.7 million for the four-bedroom-five bath one-story house designed and built in 1959 by developer Clarence Mack. Last May, Rinker sold her oceanfront estate at 1840 South Ocean Blvd. for $23.5 million.
1255 South Ocean Boulevard, under construction. The bamboo adds a much-needed far-flung exotic ambience along South Ocean Boulevard. Ficus hedge owners take note.
South End
Left: Via Vizcaya. There can never be too many coconut palms on Palm Beach. For my night table reading, I have been perusing Nut Culture, a late 19th-century publication by the US Department of Pomology. Nut Culture details the provenance, cultivation, and inventory of coconut palms on Palm Beach before and after the legendary Providencia shipwreck's Caribbean coconuts washed ashore. The shipwreck took root as the raison d'être for the town's name. However, two years earlier, Coconut Grove had already been established, a settlement sharing Lake Worth's existing abundance of palm trees.

Right: 270 El Bravo Way. Having paid $9 million for a lakefront property, Gary and Teri Schottenstein demolished the existing Henry Harding-designed house, telling The Palm Beach Daily News, they would be building " … a home I believe Palm Beach will be proud of."
270 El Bravo. Gary and Teri Schottenstein's proposed two-story 11,450 square-foot-house and surrounding hardscape, pool, and fire pit have caused some aesthetic concerns. According to the recent ARCOM minutes, a neighbor's representative described the Ohio-Florida developer's project as " ... very large, very ornate … more of a hotel-sized house ... with its long run on the north side, in danger of looking like a planned community in Wellington." Stay tuned, ARCOM has deferred for "substantial restudy."
Will Everglades Island ever be finished?

On most week days during the past several years, Ford F-150s filled with hard hat workers outnumber residents coming and going on Everglades Island, a once composed Midtown enclave north of the jet path and south of Worth Avenue's bustle. Just when you think the last air-powered nail gun has been packed away, the Cushing Demolition trucks roll in, signaling yet another few years of clang and clutter.
320 Island Road offers a playful mix of architectural elements.
320 Island Road.
330 Island Road. Next door, work at the old Archbold-Hufty house appears to be at a standstill.
330 Island Road. Designated a local landmark, the Fatio-designed house had been undergoing alterations and additions.
The long-awaited Del Frisco's Grille is likely opening soon at the Royal Poinciana Plaza, along with other new spots like The Meat Market, Bricktop's, and the SurfSide Diner. I'm not sure any of these spots will offer vichyssoise or a McCarty's cheeseburger. The town's councilmen have asked restaurants to be more town-serving by making available preferred reservations for 33480 residents.
A lakefront more than 16,000-square-foot spec house at 445 Antigua Lane is not currently on the market but may be listed in the fall at the $30 million level, according to a published report by Darrell Hofheinz, real estate editor at The Palm Beach Daily News.
North End
Painters apply finishing touches to a house on Indian Road.
302 Caribbean Road. After acquiring the former Mottola cottage for $6.5 million, Muffie and Stephen Murray added two adjacent properties to the south along Mediterranean Road before demolishing them and beginning an extensive makeover of the main house built in 2008 A.D.
1480 North Lake Way.
1480 North Lake Way.
1380 North Lake Way. Another Patrick Carney – Mark Pulte venture, who sold their Manalapan project in March to self-help expert and media personality Tony Robbins for $24.75 million.
1237 North Ocean Way. Upon the sale of former CIA director William Casey's Estrella del Mar for $6.8 million, the new owners demolished the existing house and replaced it with a Hamptonesque Revival adaptation.
1070 North Ocean Boulevard. Coming Soon! Daniele and Vahan Gureghian's 20,000-square-foot "dream house," described as a "French-style Monte Carlo estate."
970 North Ocean Boulevard. The Middleton Cottage, as some call it, nears completion.
589 North Ocean Boulevard. After almost four years of contentious litigation, Vecellio vs. Swanson, de Santis, et al, awaits a judge's decision.
Playa Riente fragments found on Clarke Avenue

Villa Loual was built during the 1920s heyday for Louise and Al Feltman whose fortune was amassed from Coney Island real estate where the Feltman family was often credited with introducing the hot dog into American cuisine. The Volk-designed unelaborated Spanish-style two-story house on Clarke Avenue once featured a roof garden.

During a more recent renovation sometime in the past few decades, an owner introduced architectural fragments from Playa Riente, Addison Mizner's mammoth mansion that Anna Dodge demolished in the mid-1950s after years of contentious litigation with the Town of Palm Beach. Of interest, the Ferdinand (F) and Isabel (I) cast concrete stones that formed a rooftop parapet around the cloistered garden.

Here is a look around.
A cast concrete plaque from Mizner Industries, likely installed atop a doorway that has been re-set atop a wrought-iron gate.
The pool is the backyard's centerpiece, surrounded by the guesthouse, ramada, loggia, and tap room.
The guest house entrance features column surrounds and details from Playa Riente.
Many of the salvaged elements were manufactured at Mizner's Bunker Road factory.
Several hundred Ferdinand and Isabel monogram stones lined the cloistered garden walls at Playa Riente.
Columns from an arcade at Playa Riente were installed on an ancillary building's west elevation.
Midtown Wyeth mansion offered for $10.895 million

Across the street from Villa Loual, a Marion Sims Wyeth-designed estate has found its way on to the market after fifteen years with the same owner. Stepping into the courtyard at 322 Clarke Avenue was like traveling back to the 1920s when so many places offered the signature Palm Beach formula for timeless pleasure, both a private sublime hideaway and a perfect party setting. It reminded me of an interview with Paris Singer I recently read. When Singer returned to Palm Beach following a weekend in late March 1918 as a guest at Charles Deering's and his brother James Deering's estates in South Miami, he announced plans that his lakeside clubhouse on Worth Avenue would be built in the Old World style, as if it had always been there for centuries.

Thus, Singer instructed his architect Addison Mizner, who accompanied him to the Deerings' estates, to create the ambience that today composes the legendary Everglades Club. Much like Wyeth's bijou house along Golfview Road or Middle Road that he designed for Singer's development company, the architect's Clarke Avenue has lost none of the magic that put Palm Beach on the map.

For further information about 322 Clarke Avenue, contact: Thor Brown, Fite-Shavell & Associates, tbrown@fiteshavell.com.
Set on the estate's southeast corner, the greenhouse was as enchanting as the main house.
With a spacious motor court along Clarke Avenue, the property has a three-car garage accessed from the alley. The arched entranceway was a later addition to the Wyeth-designed façade.
The arched entrance feature was added in 1990. Niche, entrance way.
The two-story living room is trimmed with detailed pecky-cypress beams.
Living room, fireplace plaque.
The beamed entertainment area flanks the more formal living room.
A downstairs den.
The first-floor east-west axis hall. The second-story balcony overlooking the living room.
The main house has several Moorish and Miznereque lanterns.
A Moorish-style lantern.
A staircase chandelier.
The second-story master bedroom wing overlooks the patio courtyard.
As seen from the pool pavilion, the U-shaped house forms an open central courtyard.
The southeast corner of the main house with the enclosed tiled balcony was a later addition.
Architectural fragment.
Courtyard fountain.
A pergola extending from the main house towards the east garden.
A view of the pergola from the garden.
Spectacular! The palms are the tallest thinnest palms I have seen.
East elevation, as seen from the garden.
An orchid in bloom.
The garden path leads to the greenhouse.
Greenhouse, entrance doors.
The greenhouse was filled with orchids.
Prepped and equipped for the serious orchidist.
As I was leaving, I noticed the railing lining the hedge along Clarke Avenue looked much like the that once framed Playa Riente along North Ocean Boulevard.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.