The inside scoop on East End real estate

From rumors of the beautiful Jennifer Lopez moving into a $10 million dollar, 8,500-square-foot-mansion mansion in Water Mill to discovering the past lives of popular area brokers, we've got all the details on real estate gossip.


above and right photographs by doug young

 

After nearly 40 years, the Bulova Watchcase building in Sag Harbor
is about to start ticking again. Dating from 1861, the former factory sat vacant for three decades, a victim of falling bricks and graffiti vandalism, until Manhattan-based developer Cape Advisors bought the property for $16 million in 2006. Two years later, the firm’s controversial condo project won council approval—just in time for the recession—then remained cloaked in a tangle of scaffolding and netting that one local described as “a poor man’s Christo.” In 2011, the project got a $60 million infusion of capital from Deutsche Bank and moved full speed ahead, and now the Watchcase residences are finally open for sales.

Model apartments can be viewed by appointment, with the completion of all units slated for early summer 2014. Competition for the 64 residences is fierce: Watchcase already has a roster of more than 900 potential buyers, who have been waiting for up to five years for sales to begin.

“I’ve learned the value of persevering and believing in your vision,” Cape Advisors developer Craig Wood says of the seven-year journey. “The local businesses have been supportive from day one and see the benefit of Watchcase to the village as a whole.” The company—which worked with architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle on the exterior design, Quennell Rothschild and Partners on the landscape design, and longtime Sag Harbor resident Steven Gambrel on the interiors—endured what Wood calls an “arduous and thorough approval process.” To stem criticisms by some locals that the condominiums are unaffordable, Cape Advisors will make an approximate $2.5 million contribution to the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, which provides down payments and low-interest loans to buyers and helps purchase vacant land to create affordable housing.

“The building’s façade used to be just the wall you passed before you got to the village, but now that it has windows and transparency, it has come to life—you can really see it as part of Sag Harbor again,” says Gambrel, sitting in a third-floor model apartment with 28 windows and views down the harbor. (The fivestory structure, which was given a $40 million restoration, boasts nearly 1,000 windows in all.) “Watchcase came with so many great elements: There are the brick walls, which have a lot of weight and structure, and wooden beams riddled with history. And then the huge windows. It was our job to find materials that would warrant the weight, yet keep it fresh and light.”

Every Watchcase unit will include a private outdoor space, from balconies to terraces to gardens. “You discover the exterior spaces almost like you discover another room,” Gambrel adds. “You can walk up a staircase and suddenly be in a beautiful outdoor area with a bluestone terrace, a mahogany deck, a fire pit, and a view of the water. It’s unexpected.”

Inspired by the design of Sag Harbor’s historic sea captains’ homes, the project’s nine new-construction townhouses will offer entrances via a private underground garage. (Prices for the four- to six-bedroom homes range from $3.5 to $6 million.) “They feel lighter, the way a wood-framed structure feels lighter,” says Gambrel. “With crown moldings and more conventional room sizes, they may speak to a different audience, yet they still benefit from the services of a condominium environment.” Among the Watchcase’s amenities are a year-round heated pool enveloped by landscaped gardens, a fitness studio, a private spa, and a wine bar, as well as a doorman and concierge. Prices range from just under $1 million for a one-bedroom apartment to a hefty $10.2 million for one of the 14 penthouses—which offer high ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, and 2,500 to 3,800 square feet of living space, some with bi-level roof terraces.

So what kind of effect will luxury living at the Watchcase have on the village once known as the “Un-Hampton”? Only time will tell.

 

 


DOIN' THE HAMPTONS SHUFFLE

Shops and restaurants in the Hamptons tend to come and go, just like the ocean tides. By the look of things, 2013 is shaping up to be a storm-tossed sea. GPS out of commission? Here’s how to navigate the latest real estate comings, goings, and switcheroos.


“We couldn’t think of a more perfect Hamptons home than New York’s first English settlement”
—Dennis Turcinovic, Delmonico’s
 

Despite the intense demand for commercial space on the East End, not all available retail spots have been snapped up yet, according to Tony Cerio of Brown Harris Stevens. His listing of the former Players Club on Montauk Highway in East Hampton seems to be the open chair left after the music stopped. “Most restaurants are targeted as much as a year in advance in order to get through the permit process, licensing, and renovation for the season,” he says. “The good thing about this property is that it’s turnkey and ready to go.” Listed for $3.995 million, the restaurant also includes two houses that can be used for staff. 


Bruce Buschel’s organic-oriented Southfork Kitchen faced construction delays, a fire, and ultimately insufficient business to make it “sustainable,” with Buschel eventually opting for a permanent gone fishin’ sign. In its place is Fresh, from executive chef Todd Jacobs, who is also focusing on certified organic and locally grown ingredients and family-style service. After an interior renovation, the Paradise Café on Main Street in Sag Harbor has changed hands to become Madison & Main. Michael Gluckman and executive chef Eric Miller offer a surf-and-turf menu with local specials and raw bar selections. Just down the block, Jeff Resnick has converted the former Phao into the Cuddy, a new American gastropub that will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serve pork chops instead of pad Thai. Branching out from its Manhattan locations, the Delmonico Restaurant Group has set its sights on the former Southampton stalwart Savanna’s. “We couldn’t think of a more perfect Hamptons home than New York’s first English settlement,” says Dennis Turcinovic, owner and managing partner. In the former Nobu at the Capri Hotel, also in Southampton, ESquared Hospitality expands its BLT empire to open BLT Steak—a modern bistro/steak house that hopes to sizzle off the success of LT Burger in Sag Harbor. Caffeine fiends no longer have to tackle nerve-jangling traffic to get to Hamptons Coffee in Water Mill: A new branch has opened on auto dealer row on Montauk Highway in Southampton. On Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton, Sienna Restaurant & Ultralounge moves into the down-on-its-luck location formerly occupied by Beaumarchais. Restaurateur Jonathan Rapillo has teamed up with Tony Fortuna of T-Bar Steak & Lounge to design the menu, with the Pink Elephant nightclub reappearing in the lounge for late-night weekend action. Out in Montauk, Solé East has new competition in 360º East at Montauk Downs, which offers hilltop views, Sunday brunch, and Thursday night “Margarita Madness” with live music.

If you like to shop till you drop, then make sure you’re dropping into the current addresses of both old and brand-new boutiques around the East End. In Southampton, Pottery Barn has just opened in the old Saks Fifth Avenue building, while ladies who lunch will presumably be gorging on Aerin Lauder’s rapidly expanding home, beauty, and fashion brand, Aerin, farther south on Main Street. Fellow fashion titan Isaac Mizrahi is popping up with a small shop nearby, selling women’s fragrances, accessories, and clothing, and Canadian retailer Joe Fresh is setting down anchor on Jobs Lane with women’s, men’s, and kids’ fashion. Other new entries on Jobs Lane include Stephanie Von Watzdorf’s Figue, featuring global gypsy–meets–jet set designs, and Paris-based fashion company Paule Ka, which has launched its first bricks-and-mortar store in the U.S. Back on Main Street, Shari’s Place delivers assorted luxury fashion brands, and Theory has gotten all chummy with neighbor Helmut Lang in its new digs on the corner of Hampton Road.

In its second season, Southampton-based C. Wonder expands to a brand-new venue on Main Street in East Hampton; also expanding eastward is swimwear company Vilebrequin, with a shop-in-shop at the Linde Gallery on Newtown Lane. At the increasingly fabulous Red Horse Plaza, Tomas Maier joins the ranks of high-end decorating shops, decamping from its former base in Wainscott, where builder Michael Davis has recently erected new headquarters.

mizrahi: sha/shutterstock.com

 

 


J. LO SAYS HI

Rumors that Jennifer Lopez was looking to buy a house in Water Mill have been longstanding—HC&G even predicted it last year, getting the name of the hamlet and her new street right, though she ultimately settled on a different house from the one she had her eye on in 2012. Who knows why Jenny from the Block took so much time to make up her mind? What matters most is that the Lopez has landed.

The Bronx native has reportedly closed on a $10 million, 8,500-square-foot mansion that she will be sharing with her boyfriend, Caspar Smart, five-year-old twins, and entourage. Built in 2004, the home features eight bedrooms, seven baths, a home theater, an elevator, a Gunite pool, a sauna room, and a tennis court on three lush acres on a private, paparazzi-thwarting cul-de-sac near Mecox Bay. The discreet location must have been extra enticing to the superstar, who should be settling into her new digs just in time to celebrate her 44th birthday on July 24. In the unlikely event that she would ever run short of cash—Lopez is said to have earned more than $50 million last year—she’ll have no trouble renting out the estate, which in the past has commanded a $425,000 rental fee for the summer months. Susan Breitenbach of Corcoran had the listing.

capote meets bleckner meets…teardown?

Artist Ross Bleckner’s home in Sagaponack, once the East End retreat of author Truman Capote, is reportedly in contract for $13.2 million. In the 1960s, Capote was drawn to the privacy and hard-to-find entrance of the property, which has remained much the same over the years, although the house was added on to by Bleckner and later rebuilt after a disastrous fire. A famously social creature, Capote thought of the Hamptons as a refuge for rest and work and once referred to Sagaponack as “Kansas with a sea breeze.” But anyone who’s been in Sagaponack lately knows he’s not in Kansas anymore. Originally listed at $15 million, the four-acre spread comes with ocean access and a recently renovated 3,500-square-foot main house (featured last summer in HC&G), plus a two-bedroom guesthouse, a pool, and a 1,900-square-foot artist’s studio. Listing agent Linda Haugevik, senior vice president of Sotheby’s, says two kinds of potential buyers were right for the property: those who appreciate its rich cultural history and those who “just want it for the land and to tear down the house.”

 

 


F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Clearly he never went to an open house in the Hamptons, where people are drawn to careers in real estate with the promise of sky-high commissions and luxury German-made cars. Many area brokers, it turns out, have led fascinating past lives—tennis pro, hand model, and comedy club performer, to name a few—and often come from the ranks of fashion, finance, publishing, and the first wives’ club. The payoff of their second acts? East End real estate agents don’t merely sell the dream of the Hamptons, they live it. And what could be wrong with a second or even a third act when it involves living and working in America’s summer playground? Consider the case histories that follow, and you might be trading Wall Street for Wainscott before you know it.

Lora Nelson
CURRENT LIFE: Licensed salesperson, Town & Country

PAST LIVES: Creative director of DDB Worldwide, where she helped make Juan Valdez a household name for Colombian Coffee and also worked with clients such as Volkswagen, Chanel, Porsche, and IBM; executive producer of the movie Grey Gardens: From Documentary to Broadway

MOMENT OF REFLECTION: “In advertising I was always thinking strategically about what the client wanted. It’s the same with real estate: You have to find exactly what the customer wants. I love the Hamptons, and being away from New York doesn’t bother me one bit. I don’t miss the subway and a million people in black looking at their phones.”

Patrick McLaughlin
CURRENT LIFE: Associate broker, Douglas Elliman

PAST LIVES: Senior producer, Fox News Channel; producer of Good Day New York; producer for The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, MTV, and PBS-WNET

MOMENT OF REFLECTION: “TV is so fast-paced, and you’re managing difficult personalities, deadlines, and pressure. In real estate, no deals are easy anymore. The producer in me knows how to put the pieces together to make the deal, and the paths of people in these two worlds often cross over, which is nice.”

Noel Love
CURRENT LIFE: Licensed real estate salesperson, Saunders

PAST LIVES: Promoted talent like the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin for Motown and Polydor Records; worked with the Beatles while they were recording The White Album and helped establish Reginald Dwight (a.k.a. Elton John) in the U.S.; owned a company that worked with rock and roll greats like Aerosmith, Metallica, and Def Leppard; worked as general manager of the American Hotel and Bobby Van’s

MOMENT OF REFLECTION: “I dealt with powerful people in the music business and still keep in touch with that world. I was passionate about that business, and now I’m passionate about real estate.”

Jane Gill
CURRENT LIFE: Real estate agent, Saunders

PAST LIVES: Discovered at age 16 by Diana Vreeland, Gill modeled for Vogue and was often featured in Bruce Weber’s early surf and ski photo shoots; she later became the face of Ralph Lauren in the 1980s

MOMENT OF REFLECTION: “Working with people like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Patrick Demarchelier, and Steven Meisel, I learned to train my eye. We were always shooting in great homes and locations. Now I’ll get a call from a contact asking, ‘Can you find a house for my friend? Because you have great style.’ And I always know just the one.”


 

 


thinking inside the box

For artist Andrea Shapiro, catching the perfect wave was an initial draw to the Hamptons, as well as being part of an exceptional art community. An avid surfer, she bought a house not far from the ocean in Amagansett and rented a series of seven art studios without finding something more permanent.  She finally consulted architect Maziar Behrooz, who had done a renovation of her house, about building a studio on her property. “We came up with the idea of a shipping container,” Shapiro says, “which is both a great, sustainable way of reusing something and less expensive than building a studio from scratch.” A winding path now leads to a two-level artist’s studio with 20-foot-high ceilings, built in 2009 with two eight-by-40-foot shipping containers. “I knew Andrea’s taste went beyond the conventional when we worked on the renovation of her house a year earlier,” says Behrooz. “We wanted to explore something different, and the boxy nature of the containers lends itself to studio space. When we finished, the pictures of the studio went viral on the web, and I had so many inquiries that I decided to develop a way to pre-fab them in a factory setting.”  

In addition to shipping-container structures, Behrooz has also designed an Insta-house, which can be erected on-site in just one week (following site preparation) and starts at $100,000. Shapiro’s open-plan main house features three bedrooms, two baths, a roof deck, and an outdoor shower and sits on 1.86 acres with room for a swimming pool. The house and studio are listed with Jennifer Linick of Halstead Properties for $1.395 million.



Sherman: Tria Giovan; Reed: Mavrick/Shutterstock.com


springs eternal

While already steeped in Hamptons history, Springs is seeing a resurgence—a sort of Springs Spring. Artists including Cindy Sherman and Lou Reed, among others, have recently moved to the East Hampton enclave. As Susan Penzner of Saunders reports, “The neighborhood is just so cool. Everyone knows everyone—musicians, artists, writers. Instead of mega-mansions taking over, the area has remained as it once was.” Penzner, who is also an HC&G contributing editor, currently represents a former farm and turn-of-the-century farmhouse on Accabonac Road. Featuring a sensitive renovation by architect James Merrell, the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home sits on 1.5 acres, including a heated pool, two studios with wood-burning fireplaces, and lush gardens. “I’ve collected a lot of local artists,” says owner Eileen Roaman, referring to her art-filled walls, which display works by April Gornik, Dan Rizzie, and Robert Jakob. “It’s a small community, and when you go to dinner at a friend’s, you inevitably walk out to the host’s studio to see his or her work.” Not only does this stretch of Springs include nifty neighbors, but Louse Point and Accabonac Harbor, where locals meet for morning coffee and paddle boarding, is just a short drive away. The property is listed at $2.8 million.


curatorial nye

Penzner also represents a vastly different, art-filled home with five fireplaces, an elevator, private beach access, and a dock on the much flashier Mecox Bay in Water Mill. Its current owner, art dealer and collector Tim Nye, was drawn to the abundant white walls and natural light, all the better for showing off his array of modern art pieces, such as a limited-edition Yves Klein table in electric blue and pink. “The art feels custom-made for the house, but it was just serendipity,” Nye says. “As much as I love art, I don’t want it to dictate my life. At the beach it has to be climate- and child-friendly, too.” Not to worry: Nye’s collection doesn’t come with the sale. The listing price is $5.375 million.