It’s the type of location moguls dream of: 120 acres of undeveloped land in one of L.A.’s ritziest pockets. And it’s now for sale at $150 million.
Owned by billionaire and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, the sprawling Beverly Crest property is one of the largest undeveloped sites remaining on the Westside.
Over-the-top dollar figures are often bandied about more as attention getters than as a bar for realistic value. But estates of this magnitude are a rarity in L.A., and a prized chip in a high-end market where affluent individuals put a premium on personal and private space.
The multi-parcel property crests a hilltop between Beverly Glen and South Beverly Park and was once the site of an architectural treasure: a Spanish Colonial-style home designed by architect-to-the-stars Wallace Neff and built in the 1920s for cowboy actor Fred Thomson and his Oscar-winning screenwriter wife, Francis Marion.
“It was the greatest Wallace Neff ever built,” real estate agent and historic architecture author Bret Parsons said.
The estate originally encompassed about 24 acres, but was later expanded to its current size by Paul Kollsman, inventor of the altimeter, during his decades of ownership.
The Times reported that Allen bought the property in 1997 from Kollsman’s widow for $20 million and had planned to renovate the grand residence. However, the 10,000-square-foot home and the surrounding structures — a guesthouse, stables and chauffeur’s quarters — were razed three years later.
On the site, once among L.A. County’s largest single-family home properties by acreage, are two gated entrances and a snaking one-mile-long private street installed during Allen’s ownership. The property, which takes in city, ocean and mountain views, is being offered as the site of a future compound or as five graded lots for future development.
The location has international appeal – even with its nine-figure price tag, said Ken Kahan, a Los Angeles developer of high-end apartments.
“There are a lot of people on the planet who, crazy as it sounds, can afford that,” said Kahan, founder of California Landmark Group. “Beverly Hills is still a magical place to a lot of people. It’s associated with wealth, the rich and the famous, and has been for 100 years.”
Still, almost any home for sale at that price point is a gamble.
One potential challenge for Allen: Although the location carries a coveted 90210 ZIP Code, the property lies outside the city of Beverly Hills in an area associated with Beverly Crest, according to the L.A. Times’ mapping tool.
But being outside of Beverly Hills has its advantages from a development standpoint. In Beverly Crest, which is part of Los Angeles, there are far fewer restrictions on what can be built.
Underscoring this point is Palazzo di Amore, which features a 35,000-square-foot main house, a 15,000-square-foot entertainment complex and vineyard capable of producing 400 to 500 cases of wine a year. The estate is on 25 acres with a vineyard developed by real estate entrepreneur Jeff Greene and is on the market for $129 million, a price cut from the $195 million it first listed for three years ago.
Other Beverly Crest properties with nine-digit price tags include a 35,000-square-foot mansion linked to late Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal that carries a $110-million asking price.
Also nearby is a lot with 12 contiguous undeveloped parcels totaling 97 acres that has sat on the market since last year, when it listed for a whopping $250 million.
Banking on L.A.’s red-hot development market is a safe bet, according to some agents with knowledge of the area. And the potential to build a new home from scratch will be especially appealing.
“With a property this size, you do not want a future buyer to be in any way restricted by your taste,” said Neville Graham, a real estate agent who specializes in land. “Especially with something in this price range.”
Beverly Park, the uber-rich development east of the site, offers some idea of what the site’s future may hold if subdivided. The exclusive, large-lot development is similarly part of the city of Los Angeles, but carries Beverly Hills’ 90210 ZIP Code.
Homes in the neighborhood average 20,000 square feet and tens of millions of dollars apiece. Current and former residents of Beverly Park include magnates Sumner Redstone and Ed Glazer, baseball’s Barry Bonds and celebrities such as Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg and Sylvester Stallone.
Still, speculative development brings a level of uncertainty.
It would be financially risky for a housing developer to acquire the land and then try to make a profit by speculatively building high-end houses, Westside real estate broker Jay Luchs said.
The likely buyer for Allen’s property is another individual high-roller who wants to build his or her own compound. With other Los Angeles-area residential properties recently selling for more than $100 million, “the timing is perfect,” said Luchs of Newmark Knight Frank. “The market is showing that it can sell to a high-end customer today.”
Though Los Angeles has always had wealth, its international status is rising among people of great means who like the idea of having a suburban-sized estate in the middle of a big city, Luchs said.
“L.A. has become the next destination for uber-wealthy people, where tech-meets-fashion-meets-entertainment,” he said. “It’s all here.”
Hilton & Hyland, the brokerage of record, did not return a request for comment.