Sotheby’s loses home at high-profile Houses at Sagaponac to open market

By Alex Ulam | July 23, 2010 05:45PM

Keenan/Riley House at the Houses of Sagaponac (credit: Iva Filipovic Ulam)

After
three years of marketing a high-profile but unfinished Sagaponac home,
Sotheby’s International Real Estate is losing the listing to the open
market.

With the Keenen/Riley-designed house — called
Keenan/Riley House — finally completed, one quarter of the Houses at
Sagaponac has been finished. And the listing is now becoming an open
one, meaning that any brokerage is free to directly sell the property
at the end of the month, said Nilay Oza, one of the partners in
Reinhardt, O’Brien, Oza+ Company, the general contracting firm that is
building the project. And that, he added, should increase the chances
of it selling.

Moving to an open listing should also stir up interest amongst brokers, added partner Richard Reinhardt.

“Also,
there is such a glut of inventory — so other brokers go out and show
their own listings,” he said. “Moving to an open listing allows a
broker to sell the house and have the full commission.”

Sotheby’s listing broker Billy O’Neil was unavailable for comment at press time.

This past Saturday, The Real Deal
attended a party to celebrate the completion of the $3.5 million house
(see photos above), which marks the eighth of 32 homes slated for
development in the Houses of Sagaponac, purposely misspelled to
distinguish itself from the village of Sagaponack.

Oza said that two interested buyers have visited the property since the opening party.

Houses
at Sagaponac is the brainchild of Harry “Coco” Brown, a former honcho
at 20th Century Fox who later became a developer. A decade ago, Brown,
with the help of his friend, architect Richard Meier (who designed the
Richard Meier House), hired 37 prominent architects including Philip
Johnson, to design houses (some architects partnered up) at the site of
a failed 70-acre plot of land that he had purchased in the early 1990s
during the Savings and Loan crisis.

“You cannot [normally] buy
this kind of branding,” Oza said. “[Prominent architect] David Adjaye
is designing the African American History Museum on the Mall in
[Washington] D.C., and we are planning to build his house in such a
fashion that when the museum on the mall opens in 2012, his house will
open here.”

But Brown died of cancer in 2005 and his development almost died with him.

Six
years after the topping-off of its first house, Houses at Sagaponac is
still inching along towards completion. Construction is underway on a
ninth house that was designed by the recently deceased Los Angeles
architect Stephen Kanner.

The project’s new developers, a team
consisting of the contractors Jim O’Brien and Richard Reinhardt,
Northstar Realty Finance CEO David Hamamoto, and Millennium Partners
Founder Christopher Jeffries, bought the development from Brown’s
estate in 2007 and have worked to build out his vision.

Aside
from the Stephen Kanner House, which is going up on a lot near the
Keenen/Riley House, the timeline for the construction of the remaining
houses depends upon how well sales go next year, according to the
developers.

But John Keenen of Keenen/Riley, who originally
designed the house back in 2001, credits the new development team for
continuing Brown’s unconventional approach even though it is taking
years to finish the project. “This is not the kind of project that you
would design so that you could just get in and out and make a lot of
money,” he said. “It is much more thoughtful.”

The comparatively
modest-sized 3,000-square-foot Keenen/Riley House, built as a vacation
home, is comprised of two separate structures that were built out of
commonplace building materials such as cement blocks, Turkish limestone
and aluminum trim. As such, it stands in marked contrast to the
enormous shingle-style McMansions that are standard issue on the South
Fork of Long Island.

With a $3.5 million price tag, the
Keenen/Riley House is a bargain for Sagaponack, which BusinessWeek
recently listed as the most expensive small town in America — a place
where the median home sale price in 2009 was a whopping $4.42 million,
according to Zillow.com. The catch is that the homes at Houses at
Sagaponac are nestled in the woods on the unfashionable side of the
train tracks near the East Hampton airport. Still the land’s new
development team is hoping their starchitect designs and the relatively
moderate prices will trump their location.

“The brokers all have this whole stigma of north of the highway being less,” Reinhardt said.