- Darrell Hofheinz Daily News Real Estate Writer
Palm Beach officials have given a thumbs-up to the design of an oceanfront mansion planned for one of three vacant lots carved from the 6.3-acre estate President Donald Trump sold to a Russian billionaire for a record-setting $95 million nearly a decade ago.
The Architectural Commission Wednesday approved for the lot at 515 N. Ocean Blvd. a six-bedroom house with two-bedroom guest quarters and a total of about 18,500 square feet of living space, inside and out, including its partial basement. The house on the subdivision’s southern lot won the board’s unanimous approval during its initial review — a rarity in Palm Beach for projects of its size.
A quick approval wasn’t in the cards, however, for a contemporary-style house proposed for another lot in the subdivision — 535 N. County Road. That lot— the northernmost of the three — is owned by a company affiliated with homebuilder and developer Mark Pulte of Mark Timothy Inc. in Boca Raton. Commissioners were sharply critical of its size and design and demanded revisions, unanimously deferring the project for further review in January.
In October, a Pulte-controlled company paid $37 million for the lot at No. 535. The seller was a company affiliated with Russian fertilizer magnate and investor Dmitry Rybolovlev, which sold both lots within the past year.
Last year, Rybolovlev’s representatives won town approval to raze the 25-year-old mansion Trump sold him in 2008, a pre-recession deal that set what was then a U.S. record for a residential sale. The sale remains Palm Beach’s largest single seller/single buyer residential real estate deal.
It’s unclear who exactly is behind the ownership at No. 515. A year ago, Rybolovlev’s ownership company sold the 2.35-acre parcel for $34.34 million, courthouse records show. The buyers’ identity has remained cloaked behind a trust.
The house approved for No. 515 was designed by Bridges, Marsh & Associates and will face 188 feet of beachfront. The property shares a border with Louwana, the landmarked oceanfront home of celebrity surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife, Lisa.
Architect Mark Marsh told the architectural board his clients requested “a sense of arrival” in one’s approach to the house and asked him to showcase the ocean views. In a phone interview, Marsh said the architecture doesn’t fall under one style. “It’s more of a contemporary look with a traditional theme and classical elements,” he said, noting the simple columns and stylized cornices.
With limestone accents, the exterior will be clad in light-gray stucco accented by windows with mahogany frames painted charcoal gray.
Marsh set the entrance to the house at the end of a winding driveway that ends at an entrance portico connected by a pergola to other parts of the house. From the portico, one would enter the home and look straight through the main rooms the ocean.
“There’s such a nice sense of arrival,” said Commissioner Alexander Ives. “I wish more people were thinking that way.”
An expansive lawn “cascades down to the ocean,” Marsh said, while on the opposite side, the floor plan wraps around an area designed for outdoor living with a pool and a pavilion.
“The desire of the owners is to be able to live as open and casually (as possible),” Marsh said.
The board was impressed with the architecture and the landscape designed by Nievera Williams Landscape Architecture.
“To me, this is exactly what an estate house should look like,” said Alternate Commissioner John David Corey. “The house respects where it is — it fits very well into the neighborhood.”
Commissioner Bob Vila said he had jotted down one word on the front of his review packet: “Elegant,” he wrote.
“The more I look at it, the more I like it,” Vila said. “For a mansion, it’s livable.”
At 535 N. County Road
But Vila wasn’t as enthusiastic when he reviewed the house, guesthouse and staff quarters architect William “Bill” Boyle of Boyle Architecture PLLC designed for Pulte’s 2-acre lot. He said parts of the design appeared too heavy, while Chairman Richard Sammons was dismayed by the house’s “gargantuan” scale. The house, basement and outbuildings measure nearly 27,468 total square feet.
The architect’s inspiration for the shape of the buildings — a series of forms with sharp geometric angles — came from the work of Dutch modern artist Piet Mondrian, Boyle said. The artist’s paintings are famous for their interconnected rectangles and squares defined by black lines with color blocks.
The house’s design featured strong vertical and horizontal lines along with “steps, overhangs and square pools” to echo Mondrian’s work, Boyle said. Some of the house’s exterior would be clad in travertine.
Corey and other commissioners questioned whether the contemporary style would fit in with neighboring estate homes.
“Let’s address the elephant in the room: Is this house ‘excessively dissimilar’?” Corey asked, using the legal term that commissioners can cite to deny projects.
Corey said a case might be made for that determination. Commissioner Michael B. Small and Vice Chairwoman Ann L. Vanneck were more blunt, stating the design looked excessively dissimilar to them.
But Ives and fellow commissioner Robert N. Garrison took a more moderate view. Garrison noted that estate-size lots can handle larger, contemporary-style houses that won’t necessarily be seen from the road.
Rybolovlev’s company apparently still owns the middle lot, No. 525, in the subdivision.
At the same meeting, a revised design for another contemporary-style house designed for a lakeside lot at 446 N. Lake Way — also owned by a Pulte-related company — was deferred for the third time. Commissioners expressed their dissatisfaction with the design and asked for major changes.