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Gems of the Ocean

How do you sell houses north of the highway for $3 million? Hire every name-brand architect alive.

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The idea behind the Houses at Sagaponac is an interesting if kooky one—a suburban development for people who’d never otherwise live in one. Several years ago, tired of the McMansions filling up the potato fields, developer Coco Brown enlisted a boldface team of architects to develop his 100-acre tract near Bridgehampton. He quickly signed up Richard Meier, Philip Johnson, Zaha Hadid, Michael Graves, Jacquelin Robertson, and François de Menil, among others, to build 34 houses on lots of about three acres. Ideally, they’d create a community of art-savvy buyers who were willing to live on the wrong side of the highway—and irritatingly close to East Hampton’s airport—in exchange for name-brand architecture and perks like a private park. Spec houses, yes, but hardly your usual spec houses.

“It’s hysterical to think we are pioneers,” says Heide Banks, a self-help author who, with her husband, a real-estate consultant and painter, were the first to sign up. They’re trading their house in Bridgehampton for a $2.95 million home designed by Gisue and Mojgan Hariri. “Some of our A-list friends say, ‘Wow, north of the highway!’ ” she says. “But this is a whole new experience and I’m looking forward to it.” Three more buyers have since signed on, even though the earlier ones will have to endure construction in their backyards for a few years. Two more houses are done and remain unsold: Annabelle Selldorf’s $2.58 million three-bedroom, and a $1.75 million house built by Stan Allen (Princeton’s dean of architecture). Seven more will likely be offered this spring.

“The buyers are definitely interested in architecture, but they also get the community concept,” says Tom MacNiven of the Corcoran Group, the project’s broker. “I would call them collectors.” And they’re willing to pay a premium, which Jay Flagg of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Southampton office pegs at $500,000—bringing the prices more or less into south-of-the-highway range. “I’m trying to get a good mix of people,” Brown adds. That’s one reason only houses near completion are being sold: “People can become a pain when you pre-sell,” he admits. “They want this kind of doorknob. It becomes a hassle.” As for the air traffic overhead, Brown’s optimistic: “We haven’t had much noise recently, compared to a year ago.”


Movers
Checks, Please
We’d love to see the kitchens in these houses, even though—or perhaps because—their owners, both top restaurateurs, probably never eat at home. The former Japanese Olympic wrestler and Benihana magnate Rocky Aoki has put his four-story townhouse at 232 East 63rd Street on the market for $5.2 million with brokers Jed and Cory Garfield, whose family owns a townhouse firm. The 5,000-square-foot house has its own two-car garage, though the real draw is Aoki’s noted collection of slot machines, which presumably aren’t included in the sale. Aoki (father of actress-model Devon) also owns a condo in Olympic Tower, and a source says they may buy another in the same building.

Downtown, restaurateur Jonathan Morr (BondSt, Indochine, APT, Republic) has bought a $1.3 million penthouse at 13 Gramercy Park South. The 1,100-square-foot apartment has a 1,700-square-foot private roof deck. “I am planning a major garden situation,” says Morr, who also owns Miami’s Townhouse hotel and is opening a new hotel in Mexico. “I planted as much as I could before winter.” Previously, he lived in a Union Square loft, and now he’s hotel-hopping until his renovation is done. d.s.



Same Space, Different Place
Completion Costs
When it comes to lofts, sheer space is said to be the chief draw. But at the Atalanta, the Tribeca building where Harvey Keitel is living, two sales prove that a top-notch renovation is more than a grace note. The sixteenth floor, which is not just raw but “rubble—no one ever lived in it,” according to broker Elaine Schweninger, is in contract for $6.5 million, the full asking price. Two floors below, an identical space that’s fully finished (sauna and steam shower, two kitchens, bamboo floors) is priced at $10.25 million—a premium of 58 percent. “It took two years to build out,” says broker Stephen Kotler, adding that the seller “spent in excess of $3 million.” So if he gets his price, he clears nearly an extra million bucks. Seems worth the trouble.

25 North Moore Street, Sixteenth Floor
The facts: 6,939-square-foot loft.
Asking price: $6.5 million.
Charges and taxes: $9,091.
Broker: Elaine Schweninger and D. Craig Liddle, Douglas Elliman.


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