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The Grand Estate Is Getting Grander

By Jeff Snook
Boca Raton Magazine, April 2003

The sales executive threw her arm out as if she was introducing royalty, waved her hand backward like a magic wand and gushed, “Now this,” she said, “this grand staircase is what gives this house drama!”
The winding steps of the Bel Lido Castle in Highland Beach were plenty dramatic all right, an eloquent passage from plush privacy upstairs to a world of entertainment and splendid living downstairs. That is, unless you choose to ignore the staircase and hop on the main elevator next to the butler’s pantry.
“People will see this staircase and envision their daughter walking down it while getting married;” says Gayl Hackett, Gordon Homes’ vice president of sales. “Can’t you just picture it?”
For $4.5 million, you not only can picture it too, but experience those steps every day—not to mention the 8,002 square feet of living space, a four-car garage, five bed­rooms, 7 1/2 baths, a “hers” walk-in closet big enough for a Dolphins practice (26 feet long), a library, loft, 450-square-foot media room, wine room, two fireplaces, two wet bars, 75-foot deepwater dock, a master bath larger than most YMCA locker rooms, and don’t forget the …  drama.
The Bel Lido, like eight others in Gordon Estates’ Waterfront Collection ranging from $1.5 million to the prized $7 million Casa Serena at 155 S.E. Spanish Trail, has more of it than a Broadway play.
“If you are spending that type of money,” Hackett says, “you expect more than just an average home.”
And that’s what developers continue to create in our area—from the breathtaking to the simply spectacular. They are anything but your average digs, featuring such life-is-great amenities as home theaters, air-conditioned garages, elevators, 30-inch marble and more wet bars than your nearest yacht club.
These new mega mansions with multimillion-dollar price tags are sprouting up from Broward to north Palm Beach County and from the Atlantic to the Turnpike, despite doom-and-gloom economic forecasts.
“Boca Raton is kind of unique in the country,” says Steven Solomon, with Premier Estate Properties, and sales director at the luxurious Le Rivage development in Boca. “Even though the economy is not as strong as it once was, we still have global demand. We’re not dependent on a small segment of people who want to live in Boca?’
Home prices in Palm Beach County have jumped 48.7 percent over the past five years, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Broward County’s home prices have increased 13 percent over the past year, ranking 13th nationally, while Palm Beach is right behind at 12.5 percent.
This is due in large part to the new estate homes that are somewhat unique to our part of the state. While sales have slowed in most parts of the country in the past year—despite declining interest rates—South Florida is still building multimillion-dollar estate homes at a good clip.
Falling interest rates have little effect on people paying more than $1 million for a home, points out Andrew Turzak, also with Premier Estate Properties, “because these are the type of buyers who are used to putting down half, if not paying cash. And they’re not for investments. ... These are the properties that make life that much better for the wealthy.”
Beverly Knight of Ocean Estate Properties agrees. “The economy really doesn’t affect what we do. If somebody is worth $500 million and trying to buy a $10 million house, it is all relative. They’re all cash deals anyway. If they like it, they’ll buy it,” she says.
“The $200,000-$800,000 homes are selling and so is the high-end stuff of over $5 million” says builder Rick Pfendler of National Custom Homes. “The $1 million to $2.5 million range
is very soft right now?”
Sales agent Steve Gerken of Highland Beach Realty says any large estate will sell right now, “if they are positioned correctly price-wise and geographically. ... Right now, there is a big appetite for anything direct Intracoastal?”
His company currently boasts a listing for a seven-bedroom, seven full and two half-bath custom estate home on deep water with Intra­coastal access and a 90-foot boat dock, gourmet kitchen and a lavish master suite for $3.35 million.
Even though our market is saturated with seven-figure-priced homes, the bigger and even more expensive estates are what people love to talk about or, better yet, tour.
One of the most elegant new homes in Boca is at 750 Lake Drive on Lake Boca Raton. This 16,000-square-foot estate has a 62-foot-long pool (one of the largest private poo1s in Florida), a guesthouse and 150 feet of dockage. Built by Bill Szymanski, it includes seven bedrooms, eight full and two half baths, and lists for $14.9 million.
“It’s a gorgeous location,” Realtor Carroll Hahn of Limited Edition International Realty says. “There’s marble everywhere, inside and out, and breathtaking views.”
Ocean Estate Properties (Bill and Beverly Knight) is developing three mansions on Highland Beach highlighting spectacular ocean views, and these aren’t your average estate homes.
Casa Sol Risa, was scheduled for completion in January, and was list­ing at a pre-completion price of $11.9 million; Casa Oceana, which recently broke ground, has a pre-construction tag at $10.9 million.
Not enough for you? The Casa Bella Riente at 3621 S. Ocean goes for a whopping $15.9 million! That’s a pre-completion price, of course. But that’s what a whopping 204 feet of ocean frontage in Highland Beach goes for these days. There’s room to move, too, with 12,056 square feet. There are five bedrooms, including an Oceanside “VIP Suite” and sec­ond-floor master, seven full and three half bathrooms, a putting green, a huge outdoor loggia and Hawaiian fire pit for pig roasts.
But the views are what will sell the Casa Bella Riente; at 23 feet above sea level, it features more than 30 windows overlooking the ocean.
“Two-hundred feet of ocean frontage, that’s what is unique” Beverly Knight says. “Every single bedroom faces the ocean, except for the staff bedroom. The ocean is in your face in every room. You feel like you are on a ship when you are in your bedroom?”
Knight says the Casa Bella Riente, which means “House on Beautiful Beach” should be finished by March.
If you don’t want to spend that much, but want plenty of luxury, Pender’s National Custom Homes has homes listing for $5.8 and $5.6 million in the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, totaling 7,300 and 6,800 square feet, respectively.
“My houses are maxed out with features,” he says. “The big thing now is the outside porch with fireplaces, TVs and barbecues. You can live out there if you want to?”
The nationally known Toll Brothers have developed estate homes at Mizner Country Club and Frenchman’s Reserve, on Alternate AlA about a mile north of PGA Boulevard, starting at $2 million.
National Custom Homes, Tuscan-Harvey and Courchene Development Group also built estates at Mizner Country Club, which features the 42,000-square-foot Grande Clubhouse: The Palazzo. Most of Toll Brothers’ homes include domed ceilings and such amenities as outdoor fireplaces.
At Mizner, all of the custom models in the Del Prado custom home enclave were to be completed by Feb. 27. The custom homes in the Capri enclave recently were finished. At Frenchman’s Reserve, the Homes by Jones’ San Gabriel model was due to be completed in January.
Steven Charlse and Steven Watt, who created the masterpiece 16,000-square-foot Dream Home 2000 at Quail West, are developing the Grand Estates at the Oaks on Clint Moore Road just east of U.S. 441. The 28 estates range from $l.5-$2.5 million. The two-story Cristal, at 6,524 square feet, includes six bedrooms, seven full and two half baths, and a four-car garage. Three models were scheduled for completion in February.
“I would label them ‘highly amenitized’ if there is such a word;” Charlse says. “We’ve gone the extra step everywhere, from commercial ranges, Sub-Zero refrigerators, upgraded glass that doesn’t require shutters?’
For the equestrians, there’s Equus, developed by Allen Levine and Stan Schultz. It is surrounded by country ambiance and 5 1/2 miles of meandering horse trails, as well as the Equus Equestrian Center, which includes 100 stalls.
Le Rivage, developed by Robert Schmier and Douglas Feurring, and built by Paramount Building Corp. and National Custom Homes, includes 18 lakefront homes selling for about $2-$4 million. Features include sweeping staircases, 25-foot-high glass walls with water views, oversized back yards, expensive finishes like cast-stone and marble, and the newest toys in estates: theaters with stadium-style seating.
The smallest home in Le Rivage, at Lyons and Clint Moore roads in Boca, is about 4,900 square feet under air, but the lots can accommo­date houses up to 10,000 square feet.
As boaters know, South Florida offers a wealth of home sites. At Harbour Isles (near PGA and Prosperity Farms), 103 of the 105 homes are along the North Palm Beach Waterway, deepwater canals, or the
Intracoastal. The San Remo ($3.78 million furnished, two stories and 5,775 square feet) has five bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths, a loft, elevator, library and gourmet-island kitchen.
The best feature for boaters at Harbour Isles is a dock large enough for an 80-foot yacht. “The architecture of Harbour Isles is as distinct as its natural setting, a tranquil village of Mediterranean estates;” says Norman Keeling, project manager. “The home sites include deepwater berths ideal for creating a private dock?”
Ocean Cove, 22 homes of Old World Mediterranean architecture being developed by J.H. Norman, is on the Intracoastal north of the nature preserve in the heart of Highland Beach. The prime models are the Aruba ($1.58 million) and the Bonaire (1.65 million).
There’s also Blue Water, at 2601 N. Ocean in Boca. A creation of New Century Companies (J.P. DiMisa), Blue Water’s pre-construction prices, offered until Feb. 15, were $l.65-$2.3 million. The Martinique next to AlA has three stories and 6,537 total square feet.
Ironwood Properties is developing what owner Cary Glickstein calls “Old Florida” in Ocean Hammock: 10 lots near $1.6 million each between Gulf Stream and Delray. The attached units with identical floor plans (5,414 square feet) border Pelican Lane and AlA.
Remarkably, you can even spend seven figures for a townhouse in our area. Porten Companies’ The Estuary, near George Bush Boulevard on the west side of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach, offers three-bed­room town homes for up to $1.3 million. Of the 104 units (featuring Old World architecture), the crown jewel is The Vespucci, which includes a mahogany-finish elevator and nice water views.
So, if you want to spend a piddling $1 million or a more substantial $15 million, if you want to live on the Atlantic or out west, in a mansion or an extravagant townhouse, our area has a new home waiting for you.
“We’re in a unique area ... the saving grace in our market is our trop­ical weather and accommodations for large vessels;” says Gerken, the Highland Beach Realtor. “People with money want to live here, and they don’t want to live in a shack?”


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