Mar-a-Lago’s journey to ‘Winter White House’

Mar.March 13, 2017 01:00 PM

Thanks to Trump’s presidency, the storied Mar-a-Lago, long a fixture of Palm Beach society, is now the focus of international attention.

Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post left her Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, to the U.S. government in her 1973 will in the hopes it would serve as a “Winter White House.” Though the property’s prohibitive maintenance cost meant the gift was not accepted, Post’s wish has been fulfilled nevertheless thanks to the election of Donald Trump, the property’s owner, as president.

There have been other local contenders for the Winter White House title. The 1920s-era beachfront 1-acre complex at 1095 North Ocean was once the winter residence for the Kennedy family. The home was sold for $7 million in 1995 to the Castle family, represented by Paulette Koch. Ned Monell of Sotheby’s International held the listing. And last June, Koch sold the erstwhile home of Elmer Bobst, lifelong friend and advisor to Richard Nixon, at 1055 North Ocean for $13 million. According to Koch, the home had an entire “Nixon Wing,” where he stayed during his visits.

It appears President Trump will do far more than just winter at Mar-a-Lago: Barely a month into his presidency, he has already played a round of golf there with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since his inauguration, dues for the club at Mar-a-Lago have doubled to $200,000 a year.

As for real estate in the surrounding area, Palm Beach sports some of the most expensive homes in Florida, and indeed the entire country: Though the priciest listing in the state is currently a $195 million estate in Manalapan, Palm Beach generally fetches higher prices and has far more estate-size properties with heritage listings than any other part of the peninsula.

“I’d love to say we were seeing a Trump bump,” Dana Koch, who now works alongside his mother, Paulette, at Corcoran, told The Real Deal. “The last 45 days, properties have been flying, the market has picked up — but we are always busiest in January, February and March.”

“Trump bump” or no, the president and his associates have certainly

made a mark on nearby real estate. Here’s a look, starting with the property history of 1100 South Ocean Boulevard, Mar-a-Lago itself.

1. 1100 South Ocean Boulevard

In December 1985, Donald Trump, unable to combine his condos at The Breakers and wanting a larger home, acquired the house on the property for $5 million, according to public documents, and paid another $3 million for the included antiques. Houston developer Cerf Stanford Ross, who planned eight smaller subdivisions on the lot, had failed to close on his $14 million offer from 1984, according to the Sun Sentinel. Previously the house sat unoccupied for 12 years, though it was listed for $28 million at one point. In 1980, the vacant beachfront slice of the parcel had sold for $348,000 to Jack Massey, the late American venture capitalist who bought Kentucky Fried Chicken from Colonel Sanders. Trump bought that lot at asking price, $2 million, nearly double its appraised value at the time, bringing the total purchase price of the estate to $10 million. Trump later sued the appraiser to save roughly $100,000 in property taxes. He also bought two neighboring houses in 1993, one at 1094 South Ocean Drive and one at 124 Woodbridge Road, and owns a third vacant lot adjacent to his club.

2 & 3. 1125 S. Ocean Boulevard & 160 Woodbridge Road

The closest beachfront neighbor to Mar-a-Lago is also Donald’s closest sibling, Maryanne Barry Trump. She is a retired federal judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and was appointed by President Clinton in 1999. Maryanne first started buying Mar-a-Lago-adjacent real estate in 2001: She bought a $1.75 million house on Woodbridge Road from the late Ron Woods and purchased the neighboring house from her brother Donald for $1.7 million the following year. She razed both houses, combined the lots and built a Tuscan home at 160 Woodbridge Road, which was then transferred to her son, David Desmond, in 2005. She bought a a beachfront home in Palm Beach to serve as her own dwelling in 2004 at 1125 South Ocean Boulevard from Alyne Massey, widow of Jack Massey, for $11.5 million.

In 2015, Desmond sold his home to attorneys Lawrence Rolnick and wife Kimberly Sorrentino for $8.9 million; included in the deal was a gate with private access to Mar-a-Lago. Christian Angle of Christian Angle Realty held the listing, and Gal Kol of Boca Raton Executive Realty represented the buyer.

4. 515 North County Road

Three years after health-care magnate Abraham Gosman declared bankruptcy, he was liquidating his assets and had to sell his home, Maison de L’Amitie. That year, Donald Trump purchased the 6.2-acre oceanfront estate for $41 million at a courthouse auction. Four years later, the property sold to Russian oligarch and fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a record $95 million — the largest single-buyer real estate transaction in Palm Beach to date. Broker Lawrence Moens represented Trump, while Carol Digges of Brown Harris Stevens represented Rybolovlev. In 2016, Palm Beach’s architectural commission approved plans to raze the house and subdivide the lot, which has a total of 475 feet of waterfront. The first of the three vacant lots sold in November for a recorded $34.4 million before it even listed. The offering prices for the other two lots are $39.8 and $38.9 million.

5. 328 El Vedado Road

Wilbur Ross is not just a Trump cabinet member, he’s also a longtime friend and neighbor. In 2004, Ross paid roughly $5 million for a house on El Vedado Road, on the Intracoastal Waterway, according to public records. In 2008, Ross wanted to expand his view of the waterway and paid $13.2 million in an off-market sale for the neighbor’s house at 1 Pelican Lane. He has now combined the lots, and uses the second home as a guest house. Ross has another $2.2 million, 3,320-square-foot-home at 210 Onondaga Avenue several miles north, which he bought in 2013 and keeps as a spare home.

6 & 7. 102 Jungle Road & 190 Via Palma

In 1994, in the wake of her
divorce from husband Donald, Ivana Trump bought a $4.4 million house in the estate section of Palm Beach. The Addison Mizner design, dubbed Concha Marina, has 174 feet of beachfront and sits just a half mile north of Mar-a-Lago. Twenty years later, in 2014, Ivana used the same broker her ex-husband used to list his North County Road property, Lawrence Moens, to sell her landmarked home for $16.6 million to fashion designer Tomas Maier — $2.3 million below asking price. Sotheby’s International Realty agent Jean Lembcke represented the buyer. Ivana bought a second house, at 190 Via Palma, in 1999, which she named Solo Mio (“mine alone” in Italian) and then sold it in 2004.

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