- By Darrell Hofheinz Daily News Real Estate Writer
Tropin bought the house at 1565 N. Ocean Way for a recorded $23.7 million in June from communications billionaire George Lindemann and his wife, Frayda. He already owned the house next door to the north — at 1695 N. Ocean Way — and so plans to use the former Lindemann property’s 3.4 acres as landscaped open space.
The land gives more breathing room to Tropin’s narrow lot, which measured 2.7 acres with about 110 feet of beachfront. The longtime Palm Beacher now has about 280 feet of oceanfront. His property is several lots south of the inlet at the north tip of the island.
But while members of the Architectural Commission late last month were pleased to see so much green space, they weren’t as happy with proposed renovations to transform the south side of the house into the house’s main facade. The change is needed, Tropin told them, to better accommodate a revised entrance driveway — using part of the south lot — that will lead to a new motor court.
The additional land transformed the property from a home “into an estate,” Tropin told commissioners at their Jan. 24 meeting.
Tropin’s consulting architect, Gene Pandula, picked up on that theme.
“We have the opportunity to open up the two properties and have them talk to each other,” Pandula said. “All of the rooms now have the opportunity to have ocean views.”
The plan also moves the front door from its west-facing orientation around the corner to face south.
After reviewing revisions to plans first presented in December, commissioners on Jan. 24 voted 5-2 to defer the architectural portion of the project until February. But they approved the landscape and hardscape design by Lombardi Design.
Tropin used a revocable trust to pay $43.7 million for his house, furnished, in 2016. Developed on speculation by Palm Beacher Pat Carney, it had never been lived in when he bought it. At the time, the sale was the most expensive spec house ever to change hands new in Palm Beach. The West Indies-style home has five bedrooms, with another four in its free-standing guesthouse. In all, the residence has about 24,000 square feet of living space, inside and out.
‘Preserving that green space’
Although Tropin originally planned to use only a portion of the former Lindemann property for landscaping and the rest as a “buildable lot,” he said, those plans changed. That was because, in part, he saw how the land could provide dramatic ocean views to the south, he said.
“The reason I did this was I fell in love with the property and wanted to make that house as successful as it could be,” Tropin said, “while preserving that green space for the good of the community as a whole.”
A major sticking point for some commissioners, however, are the different styles of windows on the south facade, especially three in a stair-step arrangement that bring light into the main staircase.
The overall problem, the majority of commissioners agreed, was that the south side of the house was never designed to greet visitors and lacks the architectural orderliness exhibited by the home’s other facades.
“Something has to be done with that center section,” said Commissioner Robert N. Garrison. “It doesn’t fit with anything on the rest of the house.”
Garrison’s view was echoed by colleagues including John David Corey, an alternate commissioner. Corey and Alternative Commissioner Betsy Shiverick cast votes because Commissioner Bob Vila didn’t attend the meeting and Vice Chairman Ann Vanneck was sitting in for an absent Chairman Richard Sammons.
The south side, Corey said, “doesn’t have a harmony. It doesn’t have a grace. This facade very much feels like a facade … that was never meant to be seen.”
Commissioner Michael Small, who lives nearby, also said the project could be improved. “It can be made more impressive than what it is,” Small said.
‘Make it more estate-like’
But Tropin countered that a major renovation would be prohibitively costly because it also would entail overhauling some of the interiors. “It’s a big capital expense,” he said, adding that he likes the way natural light currently enters the house.
The house’s layout includes first- and second-floor master suites, a media room, a gym, wine storage and a club room with a pub. There also are two swimming pools and a 12-car garage.
Shiverick joined Commissioner Maisie Grace in voting against the deferral. During the meeting, Shiverick seemed to sympathize with Tropin.
“The purpose is to make it more estate-like,” she said. “Let’s focus on the landscape and the driveway. Let’s not focus on the windows.”
Reached Friday, Pandula said he is taking the commissioner’s comments about the windows “very seriously.” The architect of record for the project is Carlos Martin, who designed the house for Carney. It was built by Woolems Inc.
Vanneck proposed making the new front porch grander, which she said could provide more of a focal point for the south facade and possibly take attention off the windows.
“I’m just trying to get you (to) where Mr. Tropin’s guests come up and say, ‘Ahh.’ We’re not yet to ‘ahh.’”
In last summer’s sale, Tropin bought the former Lindemann house using a Delaware-registered limited liability company. Because of that state’s strict corporate-privacy laws, his identity remained cloaked until the renovation project appeared before the commission.
Tropin’s house and the former Lindemann property both face a sizable federally protected beach parcel beyond the dune line.
Tropin founded and is chairman of Graham Capital Management, an employee-owned hedge-fund based in Rowayton, Conn.
Last April, he sold his former house at 100 El Bravo Way in the Estate Section for a recorded $20.38 million.