Donnie We Dont Foget
Tear-downs aren’t unusual these days in build-it-now Palm Beach. But they still can grab headlines — especially when the mansion earmarked for demolition set a sales record nearly eight years ago when Donald Trump sold it for $95 million, the price recorded with the deed.
With his characteristic bravado, Trump was effusive back in 2005 when he talked about the mansion at 515 N. County Road, which he had scooped up the year before at a bankruptcy auction for about $41 million and then renovated for resale.
“It will be top of the line, with that ocean frontage, the ceiling heights and the skylights. By zoning, you could never build a house like that again in Palm Beach,” Trump told the Palm Beach Daily News. “I bought the land and gutted the house.”
PHOTOS: Donald Trump’s former estate at 515 N. County Road
Trump’s artful deal marked the biggest single residential sale ever on the island. With about 6.2 acres and 475 feet of beachfront, the estate today has 11 bedrooms and includes a separate pool pavilion, a two-bedroom guest house and a 1930s-era carriage house dating from the site’s original estate, Blythedunes.
In the 2005 story, Trump said the house — completed around 1990 — had been worth his investment. “The bones were that good,” he said.
But when he was interviewed by the Daily News after he sold the house in July 2008, he described the property a little differently: “I always looked at it as a tear-down,” he told the newspaper.
And that seems to be what’s come to pass, thanks to a decision last month by the Architectural Commission to green-light the house’s demolition. A report submitted to the board said the main house, pool house and tennis house are “overall in good repair,” although the carriage house is not.
In any case, the house would be noteworthy as a tear-down even if it didn’t have a link to the Republican presidential forerunner. After all, it is barely 25 years old.
Demolishing a residence of that age isn’t unheard of in Palm Beach, but it is rare — especially when the property qualifies as a bona-fide mansion, as this one does.
The sprawling one-story “Euro-Regency”-style mansion has about 61,744 square feet of living space, inside and out, although its basement — measuring about 30,000 square feet — was left in a raw state when Trump sold it. There’s another 20,000 square feet in its outbuildings, according to property records.
The buyer in July 2008 was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who reportedly has never lived there and last year saw the end of a contentious, and stratospherically expensive, divorce from his ex-wife Elena, the terms of which were undisclosed. Property records give no clue as to whether there was an internal ownership change as a result of the divorce or any other factor.
Rybolovlev used a limited liability company to buy the estate in an off-market deal. Agent Carol Digges of Brown Harris Stevens handled the buyer’s side of the sale opposite Trump’s broker, Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates.
Subdividing long discussed
Just because the town has granted permission to demolish a house doesn’t mean, of course, that it will be torn down. Sometimes, an owner will request permission to raze a house to make it easier to sell a property with a permit already issued. In the same vein, a committed buyer may ask the seller to secure permission to speed the demolition process along, once the sale has closed.
Architectural commissioners, however, were told at their March 23 meeting that plans for a demolition of the North County Road house were definitely in the works.
And the fate of the property? It will likely will be subdivided and redeveloped, according to several sources familiar with the estate.
The idea of subdividing the property had been discussed even before Trump bought the estate, his only other major property acquisition on the island outside of landmarked Mar-a-Lago, where he runs his private club and has a residence. The property once reportedly comprised multiple lots and a cul-de-sac.
Luxury homebuilder Mark Pulte of Mark Timothy Inc. was among the bidders who lost to Trump during the 2004 auction. Shortly after the bidding closed, he told the Daily News that he had considered three options for the property, had he ended up owning it. “I’d resell it to Donald Trump to use as Mar-a-Lago II; tear it down and make two lots; or see what I could do with the existing house,” he said.
Digges, who represented Rybolovlev in 2008, said Friday her client never discussed subdividing the property with her.
“We weren’t interested in subdivision. My buyer was interested in the entire property, so it never came up,” Digges said, adding that she hasn’t “had any contact with the buyer since the sale.”
Back in 2008, Rybolovlev was undecided whether he would keep the house or replace it with another mansion, she had told a Daily News reporter.