Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

Villa Flora, North Ocean Boulevard. Addison Mizner, architect. 1923. Built for financier Edward Shearson and named for his wife, Flora Shea Shearson, Villa Flora's east elevation features arched Venetian windows detailed with images of Pompeii-styled wind gods.
by Augustus Mayhew
Palm Beach streets are peppered with black Phantom Dropheads, shadowy Arnages and onyx Vantages, as bridge foursomes are underway and seasonal social timetables are synchronized. The diamond cufflinks and chandelier earrings are on the dressing tables, sparkle-ready for hotel galas, courtyard soirees and club klatches. And yet, for all the flash of the resort’s fetes and tête-à-têtes, an array of mundane daytime events can often prove as entertaining as an evening spent in the meaningful preservation and advancement of dressmaking, however much these less elegant moments lack for black ties and dance music.
Lately, elected officials have struggled to set aesthetic standards for vacant Worth Avenue storefront windows and engaged in lively banter about beach erosion, distractions befitting the world's most fortunate and powerful, devised no doubt to keep them off the golf links and tennis courts. Among the town's brouhahas, the police were called to last month's Landmark's meeting when a resident became too boisterous, according to the minutes.

James Patterson.
The Mayor opined that he thought Landmarks Commission member, Charles S. Roberts, having sold author James Patterson his landmark house for more than $17 million, should not have made the motion to approve the fiction writer's proposed changes, especially since the town's consultant was disconcerted with some of them, but should have declared a conflict of interest. 

Meanwhile, as DeMille-scaled work continues at Patterson's new South Ocean digs, the author's Everglades Island house is now listed for $14.95 million, priced slightly below Everglades Island's high of $15+ million, paid several years ago for Alexander and Patricia Haig's house. The Patterson's multi-story waterfront house is repped by Betsey Hall at Fite Shavell & Associates, who sold Patterson the South Ocean Blvd. house in a private sale.
The Town Council voted tax breaks for Amado, even though Charles and Mary Munn may not recognize the house they built in 1919, and certified the Bath & Tennis Club's renovations for property tax abeyance.  In 2007, the B & T established a private non-profit foundation to fund recent improvements with donations, according to court documents.  Will the Everglades Club follow suit and establish their own private foundation to finance their discussed remodeling?  And then, there is the ongoing Royal Poinciana Plaza redevelopment, that by now has all the play-by-play of an evening with Pirandello.  “I’ve attended more than 200 meetings during the past 18 months,” said Adam Munder, during the Palm Beach Civic Association’s recent reception for architect Ann Beha and the developer, Sterling Palm Beach, as an image of melting clocks in Dali's iconic The Persistence of Memory swirled in my mind.
After the Civic Association forum, I dashed to Miami for the Book Fair, stopped in at the incomparable Bal Harbour Shops and took a pre-open tour of historic Hialeah Park.  Once, among the world’s most beautiful showplaces; now, in a state of structural and aesthetic distress, as Hialeah Park's owner races to restore the venue's grandeur as it preps to open for the first time in nearly a decade with quarter horse racing on November 28.  Hialeah’s magnificent clubhouse, grandstands and landscape were designed in 1930 for owner Joseph Widener in a French Renaissance-Moderne style drawn from the Hippodrome de Longchamp by architect Lester Geisler, one of Addison Mizner’s associates.  But, whether the sport of kings can be revived remains uncertain.
Hialeah Park, Derby Day, 7 March 1931. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
But, before we go off to the races, here are some of the latest real estate goings-on in Greater Palm Beach. Note, at the low end, the Madoffs' lakeside holiday house still awaits the right buyer; at the high end, the El Bravo spec house and the South Ocean Blvd. spec chateau could both be bought for somewhere around $100 million.

Kluge associate sells Manalapan oceanfront for $6.8 million

Stuart Subotnick, former president and CEO of MetroMedia and a longtime associate of John Kluge’s, with his wife, Anita Subotnick, sold their 1.5 acre Manalapan oceanfront estate for $6.8 million to 1260 Manalapan Properties LLC, a Delray Beach-based company owned by Tonio G. B. Arcaini. Mr. Arcaini heads up an international food additive company based in Wiesbaden and Monte Carlo. Mr. Arcaini’s house in Gulf Stream is on the market for $12.5 million. Previously in Palm Beach, Mr. and Mrs. Subotnick owned 702 North County Road, known as The Reef and designed by Maurice Fatio, selling it in 2007 for $32 million to Stephen Ross, founder and president of The Related Company.

Former US ambassador to UK buys in Lost Tree

Henry and Dorothy Kreuzman
sold their 11050 Turtle Beach Road condominium in nearby Lost Tree Village to Philip and Linda Lader for $2.55 million. Chairman of the WPP Group, an international media concern, Mr. Lader served as President Clinton’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James (1997-2001). The Laders were the organizers of Renaissance Weekends, a think tank networking retreat. Mrs. Lader is the current president of the Renaissance Institute.

Drs. Henry and Marsha Laufer
Laufers add $6 million lot to Manalapan property

East Setauket, New York, residents, Henry and Marsha Laufer, who six months ago paid $12.8 million for 1740 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan, have bought the adjacent vacant ocean-to-waterway lot for $6 million from 1760 S Ocean LLC, a company managed by Stewart A. Satter. Mr. Satter paid $4.9 million for the lot in 2007. Mr. Laufer, a former university mathematician, is the chief scientist at Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund management company that “adheres to mathematical and statistical methods.”

Greenwich resident pays $1.4M for Bradley Place condo

Edward W. Plaut, of Greenwich, Conn., paid $1.47 million for a Lake Towers condo at 250 Bradley Place from James A. Pappas, who paid $1.65 million for the unit in 2005. Mr. Pappas has renovated and sold several Palm Beach properties.

DC Kalorama residents pay $3.3M for Seabreeze Avenue house

Stanley and Elaine Cohen
sold 249 Seabreeze Avenue to Gerald and Edith Schaefer, D.C. residents, for $3.3 million, according to the deed filed November 19. Listed for $3.995 million, the Cohens paid $2.55 million for the two-story four bedroom 4,000-sq.-ft. newly-built house in 2001.

Wellington equestrian property sells

In two separate transactions, Ellen Van Dyke Holtgers sold 15050 Garden Point Lane, located in Wellington's Palm Beach Point area, for $7.32 million and as Holtgers Wellington Properties LLC sold a separate vacant parcel for $1.68 million, to Double H Farms LLC, a Delaware company based in Ridgefield, Conn. Double H Farms is owned by Hunter Harrison, CEO of the Canadian National Railway. In Connecticut, Double H Farms features 87 acres with historic state-of-the-art facilities, two barns and indoor and outdoor training facilities, among other amenities. Holtgers, and her husband, Ansgar Holtgers, have bought and sold numerous Wellington properties during the past several years, including 3560 Ambassador Drive, bought for $3.6M and sold for $4.4M to Mark Bellissimo.

Schiff and Ramos pay $3.69 million for North End house

Michael J. Ramos and his wife, Ashley R. Schiff, bought 232 Tradewind Drive in PB's North End for $3.692 million from Taja Realty Trust, a Massachusetts-based company, according to the deed filed November 23. Schiff and Ramos financed the transaction with a Bank of New York Mellon $1.1 million ARM mortgage at 5.5% for ten years. The four bedroom 5,600-sq.-ft. British West Indies-style house featured glass tile baths and spa, coffered ceilings, onyx master bath surfaces and a poolside master suite. In October, First Bank of Palm Beaches had filed a notice of foreclosure on the property according to court documents. In January 2005, the property sold for $3.75 million and reportedly been recently listed for $5.95 million.

221 Royal Palm Way available at foreclosure auction
The 221 Royal Palm Way office complex located at the corner of Royal Palm Way and South County Road, an acre of prime Palm Beach appraised for $12M and mortgaged for $20+M, sound familiar, will be sold at auction November 23 unless Robert V. Matthews and his company, Royal County LLC, fork over the cash, according to the ruling issued Oct. 20 in Palm Beach Circuit Court. Foreclosure sounds like another wise strategic move for the former New Haven entrepreneur. Other projects by Matthews in New Haven, Nantucket and Palm Beach have also been foreclosed in recent months.
Palm Beach Civic Association hosts Royal Poinciana Plaza reception

The Palm Beach Civic Association's recent forum on the controversial Royal Poinciana Plaza redevelopment attracted more than 225 residents who were treated to a computer-animated tour and graphic presentation by the project's renowned architect, Ann Beha, and the developer, Sterling Palm Beach. "Are you ready to take this to the Supreme Court?" asked one gracious opposing Palm Beacher.
The front row was reserved for the developer, Sterling Palm Beach, led by Brian Kosoy, clutching a water bottle, as Ann Beha, awaits her introduction.
Ann Beha addresses the audience, assuring listeners that she was interested in making things "more beautiful ... very, very elegant," and described the former Royal Poinciana Hotel as a "very gala hotel."
Left, Sterling Group partner, Lee Munder, shares a word with William Matthews, whose great-grandfather, Henry Flagler, is regarded as Florida's greatest developer. Mike Brown is the Civic Association's communications director. Formed in 1944, the PBCA's mission is dedicated "to protect and enhance the special quality of life in Palm Beach." Stephen L. Brown is the group's CEO and Chairman with Garrison duPont Lickle, Secretary-Treasurer.
Adam Munder and Royall Victor III.
Etonella Christlieb, standing to the right, chats with some of the congregants who came to hear the latest chapter on the Royal Poinciana Plaza development.
A Palm Beach audience member enjoys reading The Shiny Sheet during the meeting.
Matt Smith and architect Ann Beha, who spoke of Palm Beach as "a garden."
The Civic Association's forum was held in the Guild Room, situated on the north side of The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, originally designed in the Gothic style by Hiss & Weeks in 1925.
Just outside the Guild Room, a plaque acknowledges the first First Ladies of Palm Beach. First organized in 1889, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church was the first Protestant church in southeast Florida.
Built in 1894 in a Romanesque style, Old Bethesda Church still stands along North Lake Way. Deconsecrated, it is the home of Leigh and Mimi McMakin.
Miami's Book Fair International

Admittedly not having been to Miami's celebrated Book Fair International in more than a decade, I was not prepared for the crowds. So, took a snap or two and fled to the Bal Harbour Shops. Leaving the Book Fair to C-Span, I missed Friday night's "Evening with Orhan Pamuk," where I read more than one thousand devotees attended.
Having always found Florida's past imperfect, adrift with conflicting accounts, lost records and discrepancies of every form, I am sure this booth was doing a brisk business.
Bal Harbour shops celebrate 40th anniversary

Between New York and Dubai, PB aside, I wonder if there is another spot that rivals Bal Harbour shops sublime understated ambience. The Stanley Whitman family, Bal Harbour's creator and owner for the past forty years, have developed one of the world's most exclusive venues, with plantings as lush as anything I've seen at Fairchild Tropical Garden, well-fed sumo-scaled koi aswim in the ponds and unrivaled shopping and dining.
Miami Book Fair cofounder, Mitch Kaplan, has an outlet of his Books and Books empire at Bal Harbour.
Art Basel Miami Beach returns
The images of photographer Lewis Hines, who spent time as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, are featured as part of the Margulies Collection's new exhibit, "100 Years of Photography,1909-2009."
Once again, international aesthetes will convene in Miami Beach during the first week of December for Art Basel, where more than 250 galleries will showcase the world's premier artworks and when the area's noted local collectors will also limelight their acquisitions, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection, among them. With its new show opened November 18, the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse exhibit includes: Miro & Noguchi: Masters of Surrealist Sculpture, George Segal's Depression Bread Line and Sculpture & Video: New Additions.
George Segal's bronze cast sculpture, Depression Bread Line, was commissioned by the federal government for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C..
A warehouse located in Miami's arts district offers a showcase for Martin Z. Margulies' collection of contemporary art.
The gamble to save historic Hialeah Park begins November 28
After the loss of its prime seasonal racing dates during the 1970s to nearby Gulf Stream Park propelled Hialeah Park's economic collapse, the Brunetti family finally closed the historic venue nearly a decade ago. And now, the park's fate rests on whether the state will expand the Seminoles gambling empire or permit Hialeah additional racing dates and turf racing, as well as the expansion of its gaming venue with a new hotel, slot machines and poker. As the fate of Pimlico also remains in limbo, some wonder whether horse racing remains a viable industry.

First opened in 1925, Hialeah Park was transformed into "the world's greatest race track," by its second owner, Joseph Widener, who bought the 200-acre park in 1930 and spent $2 million creating one of the racing world's renowned international showplaces and architectural landmarks. Designed by Palm Beach architect Lester W. Geisler, who Widener sent to Longchamp and Deauville for design inspiration, the track became the Palm Beach winter colony's favorite haunt during racing season. Turfman Col. E. R. Bradley was one of Widener's partners. The annual Flamingo Ball was chaired by many of the island's grand dames. Special trains took Palm Beachers directly to the track.
A view of Hialeah track following the Hurricane of 1926 before Joseph Widener bought it and turned its clubhouse, grandstands and grounds into a Mediterranean-styled showplace.
Hialeah Park's south Clubhouse Entrance is being prepped for the November 28 open. The legendary Turf Club is on the third level's southeast corner. The Widener Fountain is in the center of the circular drive.
With a full restoration taking years and costing perhaps as much as $100 million, Hialeah Park's once noble north entrance will not be ready for this year's meet, its articulate sweeping French Moderne facade intact, however distressed, and perhaps, structurally compromised.
A look at yesterday's Hialeah Park with Sir Winston Churchill behind the binoculars and bettors making their way to the ticket windows.
Ogden Phipps, Sr. (1908-2002) & Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, Jr. (1940-), at Hialeah, 1974. Photo by Leo Frutkoff. Mrs. Michael Phipps at Hialeah. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Daily News.
Today and yesterday, cascades of bougainvillea highlight Hialeah's grand staircases.
A view of a second level southwest terrace that will be open to the public.
A view from the terrace looking northwest.
The floors and ironwork in the south clubhouse are being refinished.
The Turf Club will be open.
The Turf Club windows.
The betting windows are being readied.
The Flamingo Fountain is being restored.
Hundreds of Hialeah's iconic pink flamingos will be on live-view throughout the facility from their Audubon-protected habitat.
The stained-glass windows are being restored.
A colorful flamingo stained-glass window is one of several artful touches.
The Citation fountain is being restored.
Sunset at the Everglades Club, Palm Beach
Overlooking the lakeside croquet court, the Everglades Club's sublime historic silhouette contrasts with the anomalous, more institutional-looking retractable roof enclosure of the Orange Gardens.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew
Historic postcards courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

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