Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is Beverly Park Gettin' a New Über-Modern Manse?

Nestled high in the mountains above Beverly Hills, Los Angeles's most famous, guard-gated enclave—that would be Beverly Park, children—is divided in two sections. In the larger and more well-known north section, the extra-wide streets are pin drop silent and lined with walled, gated and heavily-fortified multi-acre estates anchored by positively steroidal mansions. In the smaller, lesser known southern section, accessible through a separate but also guard-gated security check point, the slightly less wide but no less silent streets are lined with walled, gated, and heavily-fortified multi-acre estates with, generally speaking, slightly less gargantuan mansions.

Along with a couple Middle Eastern potentates, several billionaire financiers, and a handful of power house real estate developers, current residents of Beverly Park include a bevy of (clearly very rich) entertainment industry veterans like Reba McEntire, Sylvester Stallone, Denzel Washington, Jami Gertz, Eddie Murphy, Sumner Redstone, Paul Resier, and—one of the community's newest—Mark Wahlberg. All those folk shack up in the northern section. Residents of the sixteen mansions that comprise the smaller and more sedate but still sensationally posh southern section include car-collecting financier David Sydorick, Alex von Furstenberg—he would be Diane's noble-born son, media-savvy Beverly Hills cosmetic dermatologist Simon Ourian, Oscar-nominated actor Samuel Jackson, and former professional basketballer Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Down in the south-most section of the south section, on a prominent yet private 6.28-acre promontory purchased sometime around 1987 for an unknown amount, enormously influential Oscar-winning producer Richard Zanuck—the son of pioneering producer Darryl F. Zanuck and an honest-to-goodness Hollywood royal—and his Oscar-winning third wife Lili Fini Zanuck hired mansion specialist Marc Appleton to design their empty-nester dream house. The result was a dignified and properly proportioned 10,000 square foot, quoin-cornered red-brick Georgian residence (below) with grand entertaining spaces, a magnificent double-height library, and just one bedroom. That's right, children, one bedroom. At first glance, it might seem idiosyncratic and impractical to build a one-bedroom mansion but, children, iffin y'all will think about it for a minute, you might also find it's wonderfully civilized in an ultra-patrician sort of way. People of this status and wealth do not just ring their friends and co-workers and ask if they can crash on the couch when they come to town. No, puppies. Anyways, two wisely incorporated one-bedroom guest houses were added to house over-night guests without the good sense (or disposable income) to book in to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Other features of note that we know about include a tennis court and swimming pool, a movie theater—natch, and a fitness center that, so the story goes, was designed by action flick actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mister Zanuck went to meet the great producer in the sky—or whatever—last July (2012), and almost immediately whispers began to circulate amongst the cream of the Platinum Triangle real estate crop about whether The Widda Zanuck would or would not sell her highly customized Beverly Park pad. It wasn't long before unsubstantiated rumors made their way in to Your Mama's inbox that said the house was quietly available with a $26 million dollar price tag. Then, last November, international property gossips when hog wild when it was reported by no less than the Wall Street Journal that the elegant estate was sold for $20.1 million to "a European businessman who specializes in real estate investment."

In the days just after the property was sold, Your Mama heard word from real estate yenta Yolanda Yakktyyak who suggested we get a good hold of our real estate britches because, she hissed with wide-eyed flabbergast, the new owners plan to raze the Zanuck's mansion. Well, you could of knocked this property gossip down with a gentle breeze. Yolanda carried on and told us that her sources tell her that the European businessman owner is actually a Europe-based member of the politically powerful and preposterously rich Hariri family of Lebanon. But, hunties, that is like fourth hand real estate scuttlebutt so hear that for what it is. Okay?

Just in case some of you single-minded real estate freaks and pop culture vultures don't know who these Hariri people are, may we suggest you read a newspaper or, for the more modern-minded, a news feed. The Hariri family is, to be sure, one of the—if not the—wealthiest and most powerful families in all of Lebanon. The family figurehead, Rafic—or sometimes Rafik or Rafiq—Hariri, first made a world-class fortune building things for the Saudi royal family. He went on to found a well-funded philanthropic foundation and, in the early 1980s, returned to his homeland and dove head first in to politics. He was twice the internationally well regarded yet, ultimately, controversial Prime Minister of Lebanon, from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until 2004. In 2005, shortly after he resigned as Prime Minister, Mister Hariri was assassinated by car bomb in Beirut. His extended family, however, remains a vital and influential part of Lebanon's deeply interwoven political and financial worlds. Indeed, Mister Hariri's multi-billionaire second son from his first wife, Saad, served as Prime Minister of Lebanon from late 2009 until mid-June 2011.

We really don't know the details of how Rafic Hariri's multi-billion dollar fortune was doled out or who got exactly what but it only takes a couple of fingers and an internet connection to sort out that many of those closest to him—certainly Mister Hariri's second wife, Nazek, and several if not all seven of his surviving surviving children—are billionaires who, theoretically speaking, have the financial wherewithal to spend twenty million dollars on a one bedroom mansion, knock it down, and replace it with another house that would be more to their liking and would, we can all be assured, cost another small fortune to build. But we digress...

We plum forgot about the Zanuck house until, like so many of the children, we watched suave-y real estate broker Josh Altman on a recent episode of Million Dollar Listing flirtatiously negotiate with listing agent Marisa Zanuck for the successful purchase of the property on behalf of a mysterious client. Miz Zanuck is the daughter-in-law of Lili and Richard Zanuck—she's married to movie producer Dean Zanuck, Richard's son (and Lili's step-son)—who, reality television watcher surely recall, appeared in the last season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. In the final scene of the Altman-Zanuck story arc, Mister Altman, Miz Zanuck, and the mysterious buyer's representative—a young, strapping and good-looking fella, meet in a charming outdoor bôite for a coffee and keys exchange and, much to Miz Zanuck's (maybe mock) surprise, it is revealed—just as Yolanda told us way back in mid-December, 2012—the sellers plan to knock the house down.

Both Your Mama and Yolanda imagined the new owner would replace the Zanuck's classically aristocratic if impractical one bedroom mansion with a bloated faux-Tuscan pile or super-sized faux-chateau. After all, Beverly Park is littered with the those sorts of things, some reasonable facsimiles and some just plain awful. Well—dontcha know children?—it wasn't long before Your Mama received a covert communique from the always helpful Diane Todish who enlightened Your Mama with a link over to a YouTube-accessible video that shows a 3-D rendering of the house (and etc.) that the new owner of the Zanuck compound commissioned from the accomplished firm of Los Angeles-based architect Marc Whipple. But, children, it is not a mock-Med mega-mansion the new owners would like to build but rather a very contemporary compound wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glass walls that give way to broad terraces, deep verandas, and bird's eye canyon and city views.

Mister Whipple of Whipple Russell Architects, for those of you who do not know his name, is perhaps best known for glassy and very contemporary architectural confections, several of which are or have been owned and/or occupied by celebs. Before she bought her own six million dollar house in Bel Air, extremely well-compensated comedienne/provocateur Chelsea Handler rented a Whipple-designed house in Brentwood's Mandeville Canyon area. In 2011 sitcom star (and contemporary architecture buff) Matthew Perry plunked down $8.65 million for sleek, Whipple-designed digs in the trendy Bird Streets area above the Sunset Strip and, just this year (2013), Adam Wiles—a.k.a. 29-year old DJ Calvin Harris, a.k.a. the highest-earning DJ in the world last year with a $46 million take—paid $7 million for a Zen-modern micro-compound, also above the Sunset Strip, designed by Mister Whipple and—coincidentally—listed at the time by none other than Josh Altman.

We have no idea how many square feet Mister Whipple's planned contemporary compound encompasses but in the main house, in addition to vast, open concept public spaces and a huge kitchen/family room that opens out to the swimming pool and outdoor living spaces, we counted eight bedrooms—all with en suite bathroom and extensive dressing room/closets—and nine full and two half bathrooms. Down in the basement, nest to the subterranean five car garage, staff quarters provide four more bedrooms, two Jack-'n'-Jill bathrooms, and a kitchen-equipped staff lounge.

Two bedrooms, each with en suite facilities and walk-in closets, flank a glass-walled living/dining/kitchen area in the detached guest house that's divided from the motor court by a privacy wall and a shallow moat. The guest house, which overlooks the tennis court, sits on top of additional interior space of undetermined use that opens directly on to the court's viewing platform. Your Mama thinks it's probably pretty safe to assume that the partly underground area below the guest house will contain a fitness center, spa, screening room, and/or some other specialized-use space that only rich people can afford to install in their homes where at least one bathroom would be a convenient feature and, in the case of a spare-no-expense house like this, a quite likely one.

Repeated viewing of the video suggests to Your Mama that another bathroom was planned in the glass-walled pool house, which would make sense because, let's get real, who builds a house like this where dripping wet pool users have to traipse through the house in their bathing suits to do their mid-tanning session business? Nobody, that's who. We'd also be shocked—if one can be shocked by something this trivial—if there wasn't also a bathroom in the small guard house next to the drive gates because where else are the (probably) armed guards supposed to relieve themselves?

That all comes, by our boozy count, to a grand total of 14 bedrooms and at least 15—if not 16—full bathrooms, and at least two half bathrooms. All of that for an individual or family who will—more likely than not—make use of the high-maintenance property several weeks or—at best—a couple months of the year. Or maybe, Your Mama speculates, this will turn out to be a spec-built behemoth and the "European businessman who specializes in real estate investment" who may or may not be a billionaire member of the Hariri family will flip the finished compound on the market with an astronomical price tag sure to get the attention of trophy property buying billionaires and property gossips around the globe. We shall see, butter beans, we shall see.

Just to make this circle round...Lili Zanuck moved on to another compound just down the hill that she bought from our favorite Tinseltown minx, Sharon Stone who bought the property in March 2006 for $10,995,000, never moved in and then spent years unsuccessfully trying to unload the property at a variety of prices. Eventually, along came Miz Zanuck who, in November 2012, shelled out $6,595,000 for the less impressive but no less luxuriously appointed estate.

aerial photo: Pacific Coast News
exterior photo: Appleton & Associates
video: Whipple Russel Architects via You Tube

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