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Palm Beach homes: Renovated house in Estate Section on the market for $16.9 million

Richard Kurtz bought his 1926-era Spanish-style home designed by noted society architect Howard Major 10 years ago. An investor in multi-family residential properties as well as founder and chief executive officer of the Kamson Corp., he has accumulated thousands of apartments in five Northeast states since the 1970s, and he’s adept at improving properties.

As such, he was well prepared to tackle the house at 235 Banyan Road in Palm Beach’s Estate Section.

“I renovated it in the last two years,” Richard Kurtz says. “I redid all the bathrooms — all new from A to Z. I took off the old kitchen, which was very small, and put one in three-and-a-half times larger.”

Because the house is a town landmark, the Landmarks Preservation Commission must grant permission if any exterior walls are altered.

“It took over a year to get permission, and it has turned out very beautifully,” Kurtz says.

Now, however, he’s ready to move into a home on the ocean that’s he’s also redone; but he feels bittersweet about leaving Banyan Road.

“It’s a charming, warm, lovely home,” he says. “I have mixed feelings about moving.”

But he has made up his mind to sell, and the seven-bedroom, eight-and-a-half-bath house — with 6,603 square feet of living space, inside and out — is being offered for sale. Broker Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate holds the listing and has the property priced at $16.9 million.

The house stands on a double lot on the north side of the street in the lake block, six streets south of the Everglades Golf Course. Because of the way Major positioned the house, Kurtz says, the property feels larger than it is.

“It looks like an acre, because the home is brilliantly laid out, utilizing every inch of the property,” he says.

The floor plan is laid out in an “L,” with the longest wing running parallel to the road. One enters the house from the motor court on the east side. West of the entry is an expansive foyer that Kurtz uses as a sunroom. Farther west are the living room and an office.

North of the foyer are the dining room, a study with a wet bar and accommodations for household staff. To the north of the staff quarters are the kitchen and family room.

Upstairs, the master suite is above the living areas. The suite comprises the master bedroom, a marble-appointed bathroom, a sitting area and a dressing area.

Over the dining room and study area are two guest-bedroom suites, and in the third-floor tower is a bedroom suite with views of the Intracoastal Waterway, one lot to the west.

On the north side of the courtyard is a detached three-car garage with a second-floor guest area that includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area and a living room.

The stucco home with tile roof has noteworthy features typical of its era — decorative tile; marble and wood floors; vaulted ceilings; French doors topped with fanlights; and a gracefully curved staircase with railings of wrought iron and brass. The house has high ceilings throughout and 16-inch-thick walls.

Other features include the carved-wood door surround in the sunroom, the pecky-cypress paneling in the living room and office, the tiled walls in the dining room, and the fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom.

The new kitchen and family room pick up the bright and open feeling of the original rooms.

“The kitchen — in walnut, white wood and chrome — is very unusual,” Kurtz says, noting that the marble countertops and the state-of-the-art appliances.

Windows and doors are fitted with impact-resistant glass. The house also has has an elevator, and most of the plumbing and electrical systems, as well as some parts of the roof, are new, Kurtz says.

The landscaping had been put in place by the previous owner, the late Dr. Wynne “Didi” S. Ballinger, an avid preservationist who founded the Horticulture Society of South Florida. She was the widow of the late Robert I. Ballinger Jr., for whom the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach named its annual historic-preservation award.

While Kurt redid the pool and its surrounding patio, he left the gardens as they were. “They are quite beautiful,” he says. “I have two terraces — north by the pool and the south terrace — and both are very beautiful and comfortable. I have two golden retrievers and they enjoy both of them every day.”

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Despite price cut to $12.9M, West Palm Beach mansion would set record

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The current price tag for the newly built estate would shatter the record price for a single-family home in West Palm Beach, which now stands at $5.02 million.

Even after a $600,000 price cut, a West Palm Beach mansion is on the market with a list price that would far surpass the city’s record sale.

The newly built estate at 2914 Washington Road went on the market in 2017 for $13.5 million, while it was still under construction. The mansion was completed in September, and in late March, the seller cut the price to $12.9 million.

If the house along the Intracoastal Waterway fetches anywhere near that amount, it will shatter the record price for a single-family home in West Palm Beach. The current high-water mark is $5.02 million, the sum paid in October for a house at 5615 S. Flagler Drive.

The 9,634-square-foot manse on Washington Road was developed by The Aquantis Group. It features six bedrooms, a two-story living room, a library, a wine vault, an elevator and, in something of a head scratcher, seven fireplaces.

The house is listed by Burt Minkoff and Ashley McIntosh of Douglas Elliman.

Palm Beach County’s luxury real estate market is sending mixed signals.

The condo market is shattering records. Last month, a full floor at The Bristol, the waterfront condo tower in West Palm Beach, sold for $42.6 million. That sale far eclipsed The Bristol’s previous high-water market of $17.6 million.

The Bristol’s total sales have reached $100 million. The 291-foot-tall tower boasts private elevators and other perks.

The VistaBlue condo on Singer Island in Riviera Beach also has sold well, attracting buyers such as billionaire Joe Mansueto, who founded Morningstar, Inc., and football coach Bret Bielema, who is currently a consultant with the New England Patriots.

However, many high-dollar mansions have been languishing. In one high-profile example, the Ziff estate in Manalapan has been for sale since 2015. It was first marketed off the multiple listing service, then went on the MLS for $195 million in early 2016. It’s now on the market for $137.5 million.

In Palm Beach, a never-lived in mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. has been for sale since 2015. It went on the market for $84 million. It’s now priced at $59.9 million.

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Cartoonistry: West Palm Beach finally ‘looking down’ on Palm Beach?

By David Willson / Special to the Daily News

In 1981, Palm Beach real estate developer Robert Armour began construction of the Plaza condominium on the waterfront of downtown West Palm Beach. Armour had a strong conviction that the area had grown enough to warrant a luxury high-rise condominium that would attract big money buyers from the island.

The twin 32-story towers were an ambitious project that, at the time, was the largest real estate development in West Palm Beach history. Unfortunately, despite a slick marketing campaign with the slogan, “The only address in Florida that gives you a reason to look down on Palm Beach,” Armour’s convictions proved wrong.

Construction of the first tower was interrupted when the bank stopped funding due to poor sales. Armour had to secure additional investors before the bank would agree to proceed further. But sales continued to lag and shortly after the Plaza condominium was opened in October 1985, the bank foreclosed.

Along came Donald Trump and Lee Iacocca a few months later and scooped up the unsold units at auction. After restructuring some apartments and amenities, the newly rebranded Trump Plaza had it grand opening in November 1986. Trump planned to sell the more than 200 remaining units within a year and a half. That didn’t happen either.

While Armour had counted on Palm Beach buyers, Trump probably looked to attract wealthy New York transplants. Local real estate agents were complaining that the units were overpriced at $275,000 to $960,000, but Trump planned to further increase prices 15 to 20 percent.

In mid-1990, the condominium remained only 50 percent occupied when Trump’s entire real estate empire came under fire from creditors. In an agreement with the bank, more than 120 unsold condos were unloaded in two separate auctions for roughly half their original price.

A couple of years later, the Trump Plaza sign was removed from the building. But condo owners feared further devaluation of their property, so they voted to restore it. While Trump no longer had an interest in the property, he graciously offered to pay for the reinstallation. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke a little fun at the whole thing with my Feb. 13, 1994 Palm Beach Daily News editorial cartoon.

Truth is, the Trump Plaza turned out to be a great building and is doing quite nicely now. It was just a building that was ahead of its time. And that time has apparently arrived.

The Bristol, a 69-unit ultra-luxury condominium adjacent to the Royal Park Bridge, is reportedly almost sold out as it nears completion. Its average unit is 4,500 sq. ft. and runs roughly $10 million. Palm Beacher Sydell Miller recently purchased the entire unfinished 24th floor for $42.56 million. Another 25-story, 83-unit luxury condo, La Clara, has just been announced nearby at 1515 S. Flagler Drive. Its 1,500 to more than 3,000 sq. ft. units will start at $2 million. It was quite a different story than 40 years ago!

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