'Big Bang' and Tunnel Affect British Market

Times Staff Writer

Anticipation seems to be the name of the real estate game in England.

Somerhill, a 50,000-square-foot, 320-room house in Kent that was sold through Knight Frank & Rutley last summer for the equivalent of about $2.25 million, is being turned into a luxury hotel because it is on the road to the tunnel planned between France and Britain.

And what the British are calling the "Big Bang," the revolution that is expected to sweep through London's financial district next fall, is reportedly already fueling the interest of overseas banks and investors. (Membership in the London Stock Exchange will be liberalized, and centuries-old financial restrictions will be eliminated. This will also affect real estate firms like Knight Frank & Rutley, which will be able to offer financing along with handling the transactions.)

Speaking of England, there is a nice 210-acre estate known as Fernhill Park, near Ascot and Windsor Great Park, on the market with Knight Frank & Rutley for 10.5 million (about $14.7 million), and it was completely redecorated by Douglas Barnard Inc. of Santa Monica.

"We do a lot of work in Europe, but this was perhaps the largest house we've done," Barnard said. Like the house in Kent, the one near Ascot is 50,000 square feet!

Its first record of construction was in 1740, supposedly for King George II.

"It had been bastardized considerably," Barnard said, "and we did a lot of gutting and redesigning to bring it back to what it had been in the 1740s." The project took three years.

Trivia question of the day: Whatever happened to Don Durant, star of TV's "Johnny Ringo," which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1961?

He was in more than 200 films, appeared in such TV mainstays as "Gunsmoke," "Wagon Train" and "The Twilight Zone," and was lead vocalist with the Ray Anthony Orchestra before going on to sign with the Tommy Dorsey and Frankie Carle bands. He also recorded under the Capitol Records and RCA Victor labels.

Now? He's co-developing (with Currey-Riach of Calabasas) Lago de Palmas, a 12-unit condominium project in Palm Desert at prices of $384,500 each.

Only one home in the world has an adjacent studio that houses an 18,000-pound, nine-foot-tall block of brilliant green glass insured for $3 million.

It is the Beverly Hills residence of Pascal--Suzanne Pascal, to be exact--one of the greatest living American sculptors.

And the green glass will soon be a three-ton, seated torso that will travel to the Soviet Union as part of the cultural-exchange agreements initiated last fall in Geneva.

Pascal, who will be 72 on March 19, expects to complete her creation in a few months. It will be sent along with other examples of Pascal glass sculpture from the collections of Frank Sinatra, Armand Hammer, the Prince and Princess of Wales and Winthrop Rockefeller.

Neither fire nor flood nor threat of landslide will deter some hardy investors. . . .

Malibu, which has suffered all of the above, continues to grow in popularity as a place to live, judging by the results of an annual survey conducted by the staff of Jon Douglas Co.'s Malibu office with the help of other brokers and agents.

Survey results, released last week, show total sales for 1985 at $199.7 million. They were $192 million in 1984.

This included the sales of 65 homes on or adjacent to the ocean front with a total value of $65.2 million. In 1984, only 58 homes in this area were sold for a total value of $56 million. The 1985 figures also included the sales of 207 land-side homes with a total value of $87.7 million. In 1984, only 154 land-side homes, worth $83.7 million, were sold.

The average selling price of the ocean-front homes rose to just over $1 million from $965,000, but the average price of the land-side homes was $424,000, compared with $540,000 in 1984.

Why the drop? Dick Lowe, a Douglas associate broker who compiled the results, attributed it to increased availability of lower-priced homes and a decline in asking prices of sellers whose expectations had been unrealistically high.

1985 was the second successive year of what he termed "strong demand for Malibu real estate," but the inventory of properties for sale is still large, he conceded, "and many owned by sellers who did not want to compete in an overly depressed market are now being added to the existing supply of offerings."

In case you missed it . . . the renovated Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Grande Dame of Hollywood, held its grand opening last Friday with a black-tie party honoring the City of Hope. The hotel was the site of the first Academy Awards in 1929.

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