Thursday, March 12, 2009

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

A watercolor rendering of the lakeside elevation for a new 26,000-sq.-ft. Palm Beach house designed last year by the renowned Robert A. M. Stern Architects that was granted a one-year project approval extension at the February ARCOM meeting.
by Augustus Mayhew

A two-acre high-tech oceanfront estate sold for more than $16 million below its original asking price to a high-energy LA personality. An Olympic medalist has moved on from his Wellington property. A $2.6 million Midtown Ocean Towers penthouse and a $1.9 million Bahama Lane house overlooking the Palm Beach Country Club are reportedly under contract. There was an estate sale in the North End and Francois and Laurence Duffar closed on their Midtown penthouse at 330 Cocoanut Row for $2 million. Also, if there is room for just one more listing, Sotheby’s associate Cristina Condon is marketing an $11.6 million waterfront house in Regents Park, designed by and built for Clarence Mack, who developed Regents Park and Parc Monceau in 1960. And then, some snapshots of unbuilt Palm Beach as owners and their representatives seek approvals at a recent ARCOM meeting.

The Palm Beach area’s first major oceanfront sale in months has closed in nearby Delray Beach, twelve miles south of Worth Avenue, where Corcoran associate, Candace Friis, listed and sold 801 South Ocean Boulevard, a contemporary 13,000-sq.-ft., seven-bedroom house with 225 feet of ocean frontage, guest house, a must-have 8-car air-conditioned garage and tennis court for $11.6 million, according to the recorded warranty deed, with the buyer believed to have paid closing costs and purchased furnishings. Last year Friis listed the house at $17.5 million after a previous broker had listed it for $28 million three years ago. William and Nancy Swaney, the sellers who built the highly-customized estate in 1998, had already moved to their new house in the Village of Golf at the time of the sale.
Russell Weiner's Hollywood Hills house which sold for $8 million (asking was $14 million).
According to court documents, the buyer, Russell Weiner, of Los Angeles, took title as a trustee for the Russell Weiner Revocable Trust. Mr. Weiner is the CEO of Rockstar energy drink company and the son of conservative talkmeister, author and personality Michael Savage, whose real name is Michael Weiner. Russell Weiner recently sold his Hollywood Hills house for $8 million, asking was $14 million, according to the Los Angeles Times, and has several other properties still on the LA market.

To the west in Wellington, McLain Ward, noted equestrian, Brewster, NY, resident and a 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medal winner sold his Saddle Trails Park property for $3 million to Hofmann Properties LLC of Salt Lake City. Last weekend, Ward won the prestigious CN CSIO Grand Prix at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

The estate of Diana Wing Davie closed on Mrs. Davie’s Windsor Court residence in PB’s North End for $3.54 million to the Sanda K. Lambert Revocable Trust. Ms. Lambert is a Washington, D. C. attorney. The late Mrs. Davie, known as Dysie, purchased the four-bedroom house in 1993 for $1.8 million with her husband, the late sportsman Edward T. Bedford Davie, grandson of Standard Oil director, Edward T. Bedford.


Residential scale models are no small matter in Palm Beach, sometimes expected whether for new construction or additions.
Gone are the days when Palm Beach’s Art Jury, made up of the town’s leading architects, were the arbiters of taste. Today, instead of Mizner sketching a plan on the back of a napkin and having it stamped within hours, authorization has evolved into a timeless maze of boards and commissions where a building’s every square inch is scrutinized and every leaf is subject to approval.

In 1930 when the Palm Beach Town Council asked Garden Club president Marion McKinlock to nominate the residents to form the town’s first planning board, she selected three members of the Garden Club, an organization some consider responsible for much of Palm Beach’s scenic aesthetic. But now, the review process is dominated by professional experts and attorneys.
A watercolor sketch of the Silvers-Rubenstein house illustrates the east elevation and entrance with its rusticated limestone base, window surrounds and cornice details, as seen from South Ocean Blvd.
Eighteen years after Robert A. M. Stern wrote the introduction to the book, Palm Beach Houses (Rizzoli, 1991), the prominent New York architect’s firm is in the process of building its first Palm Beach house, the Silvers-Rubenstein residence at 1906 South Ocean Boulevard. Mr. Stern’s Florida portfolio consists of resorts at Disney World, a Seaside house, libraries in Jacksonville and Miami Beach, a hospital in Celebration and residence halls at Florida Southern College, a campus that includes the largest ensemble of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings.

For Palm Beach, Mr. Stern’s classically-inspired oceanfront house, first approved last year, would join those already built by other New York contemporaries, Mark Ferguson, Thierry W. Despont and Peter Marino, among them, as well as architects from earlier eras, Marion Sims Wyeth and Maurice Fatio.
A detailed drawing for the façade, its scale and symmetry reminiscent of the grandeur found in Maurice Fatio’s Palm Beach houses.
Laurie S. Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein, founders of the Sci-Fi Channel and Hollywood Media (Nasdaq:HOLL), purchased 1906 South Ocean Boulevard in 2003 for $8.5 million from golfer Raymond Floyd; who had bought it from Howard Gittis.

Two years later, the media couple whose R&S Investments owns, acquired the adjacent property to the north for $6.6 million. The existing houses on both properties were demolished. The 1.7 acre adjacent parcel is currently for sale with the Fite-Shavell office for $25,000,000 and is being marketed as the only vacant ocean-to-lake parcel available in Palm Beach. Currently, Silvers and Rubenstein live in an 8,000-sq.-ft. house on the golf course at the St. Andrews Country Club in western Boca Raton where they have lived since 1987.
1906 South Ocean Blvd.’s west elevation overlooking Lake Worth features rusticated limestone details with finely-detailed wrought-iron balconies and railings.
The Silvers-Rubenstein house will feature a spacious entry leading into an oval 39 x 19 stair hall that opens to the west onto a 50-foot gallery overlooking a 50 x 39 courtyard flanked by the 24 x 38 living room to the south and the 24 x 24 dining room to the north. Off the kitchen, the circular breakfast area overlooks the northeast garden.

These formal living spaces open to an elevated terrace overlooking the pool, parterres, gardens, tapis vert, topiary alee and Lake Worth. The second-story south wing master suite has the requisite his-and-hers dressing areas, closets and baths with the north wing accommodating children’s rooms, with a “nanny” room between them.
A landscape sketch outline for 1906 South Ocean Boulevard looking from east to west showing the main house separated from the garage and ancillary building by the garden, terrace and pool.
Color sketches for the north and south elevations of 1906 South Ocean Boulevard.
Affiliated with Robert A. M. Stern Architects LLP since 1978 and a partner with the firm, Roger H. Seifter AIA represented the firm in Palm Beach. Maura Ziska, representing the Silvers-Rubenstein house, is a principal with Kochman & Ziska PLC, the firm most associated with Palm Beach’s largest residential sales closings, popular as well with high-end residential homeowners needing approvals for zoning, variances, construction or renovation. Ms. Ziska is a familiar figure at Town Hall.
New York modernist architect Andrew Gordon and his partner, Christopher Browne, have plans for a 21st-century house in the town’s North End, as designed by Ft. Lauderdale architect Graham Geralds. First approved last year despite objections from the neighbors, the owners requested a one-year extension of the approval.
Curt O’Rourke, a project architect with the Oliver Design Group, also known as Oliver Glidden Spina & Partners, carries a model for a new three-story 14,000-sq.-ft. office building at 204-210 Royal Palm Way.
The 204-210 Royal Palm Way model at the February ARCOM meeting with the changes made following a December meeting where ARCOM members expressed concern about the tower and whether the building should be styled with more Mediterranean features.
Designed by Harvey and Clarke in 1925, Palm Beach Town Hall is currently undergoing an extensive renovation and restoration by Bridges, Marsh & Associates.
The W. S. Farish house in Gulf Stream is under contract, asking was $11.95 million, following a $2 million reduction, for the nearly two-acre estate with 177 ft. of ocean frontage.

In Midtown, Dallas-based F. G. Howard Jr. Enterprises Inc. sold 209 Seaspray Avenue for $3.9 million to David M. Oneglia and Raymond R. Oneglia, as trustees for the Raymond R. Oneglia Spray Trust. Owners of several area properties, the Oneglia family is affiliated with O & G Industries, the Torrington, Connecticut construction company. Historically-designated, the Seaspray house was sold for $1.96 million in 2005 by the estate of Polly Earl, who for many years served as executive director for the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

With Russian fertilizer titan Dmitry Rybolovlev rumored to have undergone a crippling rublectomy caused by a cash flow pinch, the IKEA truck may not be making a delivery anytime soon to 515 North County Road, the six-acre oceanfront estate that he purchased seven months ago from Donald Trump for $95 million.

Nonetheless, society anthropologist, Shannon Donnelly, reports in her Shiny Sheet column that the Douglas-Williams-Wrightsman-Wexner-Gosman-Trump-Rybolovlev property may be/soon be/might already be on the market. Palm Beach being Palm Beach, an offshore Neverland between the Bermuda Triangle and Disney World, could the listing be in a Lawrence Moens vest pocket, a Jim McCann back pocket or in one of Paulette Koch or Cristina Condon's clutch bags?

Photographs by Augustus Mayhew. Graphic materials courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP.

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