Real Estate newsletter: A notorious castle trades hands

An aerial view of an Alhambra mansion known as the Pyrenees Castle.
Known as the Pyrenees Castle, the 1925 mansion sits behind walls and gates on a 2.6-acre knoll in Alhambra.
(Jeremy Spann)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, where a wild first week of May was marked by two bizarre home listings, two massive mega-project announcements and an intriguing new possibility for one of the country’s most fabled estates to come to market.

Tyrese Gibson’s Woodland Hills home features a prop from a movie, while an infamous house in Alhambra features a dark past. Known as the Pyrenees Castle, the estate was where late record producer Phil Spector shot actress Lana Clarkson to death in 2003 following a drunken night out in Hollywood. After years on the market, it finally found a buyer.

Over in the Arts District of Los Angeles, a new proposal hopes to turn an 1890s cold-storage plant into a $2-billion complex with housing, offices, shops and a hotel. Hollywood’s getting a substantial post-pandemic project as well, as one real estate developer filed plans with the city for a new film studio on Santa Monica Boulevard complete with five soundstages.


A high-profile divorce could have big implications for a handful of prized properties. Depending on how the separation battle goes between Bill and Melinda Gates, their trophy home in the Seattle suburb of Medina — a $130-million, 66,000-square-foot mansion with a trampoline room among the amenities — could potentially surface for sale.

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A murderer’s hilltop castle

The chateau known as "Pyrenees Castle" sits on 2.5 acres in Alhambra.
The chateau known as “Pyrenees Castle” sits on 2.5 acres in Alhambra.
(Richard Hartog/AP)

Alhambra’s most notorious home, a castle-like estate where the late record producer Phil Spector shot Lana Clarkson to death in 2003, was sold for $3.3 million.

Spector, the erratic and disgraced producer behind the “Wall of Sound” recording technique who died in January, paid $1.1 million for the French Chateau-style mansion in 1998, telling Esquire magazine at the time that he had bought “a beautiful and enchanting castle in a hick town where there is no place to go that you shouldn’t go.” One neighbor likened him to a feudal lord among serfs.

The fateful day came five years later when Spector was arrested after 40-year-old Clarkson was found shot to death in the mansion’s marble foyer. In court, Spector’s chauffeur claimed Spector emerged from the back door of the home moments after the shooting with bloody hands and said, “I think I killed somebody.”


Known as the Pyrenees Castle, the mansion’s dramatic style lives up to its infamous history. Turrets and spires jut from the roof, and inside, hand-painted stencils, crystal chandeliers and mirrored walls set a scene straight out of an Agatha Christie whodunit.

A blockbuster listing

The Mediterranean-style property includes a backyard with a movie screen, swimming pool and giant Transformers replica.
The Mediterranean-style property includes a backyard with a movie screen, swimming pool, street sign and giant Transformers replica.
(Carsten Schertzer)

Amenities abound in L.A.’s luxury listings, but only one comes with a giant replica of Bumblebee, the heroic Transformer robot from the blockbuster film franchise. The Woodland Hills home belongs to Tyrese Gibson, who put it on the market for $3.5 million.

Gibson, the singer and actor who starred in three “Transformers” films as well as the “Fast and Furious” franchise, paid $1.385 million for the property a decade ago, records show.

He completely customized the backyard during his stay, installing a street sign marked with “Voltron Enterprises Pkwy,” the name of his limited liability company, as well as a neon-lighted sign of the company’s logo above the swimming pool. The Bumblebee replica, which can be purchased along with the home, anchors the space.

$2-billion mega-project

Fourth & Central aerial view at dusk. Master planning and project architecture by Studio One Eleven.
Fourth & Central aerial view at dusk. Master planning and project architecture by Studio One Eleven, with tower at right by Adjaye Associates.
(Studio One Eleven/Adjaye Associates)

Blows to businesses during the pandemic have deadened the streets of downtown Los Angeles and threaten long-term changes to office life, but builders are pressing ahead with major projects in the belief that the city still has a lot of room to grow as times get better, writes commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent.

An Arts District cold-storage plant dating to the 1890s would be replaced with housing, offices, a hotel and shops in a proposal unveiled by Denver developers. With a price tag between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, the complex would rank among the largest L.A. commercial real estate developments in recent memory.

Continuum Partners launched the city approval process for a 10-building project that includes a residential skyscraper at Central Avenue and 4th Street, a historically industrial neighborhood dotted with art galleries, apartments and buzzy restaurants that has become increasingly attractive to tech and entertainment companies including Apple TV, Sony and Warner Music.

Hollywood gets a new studio

Rendering of proposed Echelon studio on Santa Monica Boulevard at St. Andrew's Place in Hollywood.
(Bob Hale/RIOS)

Although the pandemic emptied white-collar offices, soundstages have been a hot ticket as entertainment production keeps rising, writes Roger Vincent.

Against that backdrop, plans have been filed with the city for a complex called Echelon Studios, which could help meet growing demand for facilities as the industry eases COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Once production is back to full speed, companies are expected to ramp up to satisfy the need for content in theaters and on new streaming services.


Soundstages “have been in short supply for a long time,” real estate developer David Simon said. “Occupancy has been at 95%-plus for the last five or six years, and looking forward we don’t see a letup in demand.”

Simon wants to build Echelon Studios on the site of a long-closed Sears store and parking lot built in 1951 on Santa Monica Boulevard, west of the 101 Freeway. Plans call for a studio with five soundstages and support facilities, including offices and space for production base camps where trucks, equipment and actors’ trailers are placed.

Billion-dollar divorce

The 66,000-square-foot mansion is valued at over $130 million and racks up a yearly
The 66,000-square-foot mansion is valued at over $130 million and racks up a yearly tax bill of more than $1 million.

With the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce bombshell still echoing, so begins the process of divvying up the fourth-largest fortune in the world.

In addition to 242,000 acres of farmland, the couple own a string of mansions across the country that they’ve been compiling for the last three decades, including homes in Washington, California, Montana and Florida.

Their most impressive estate sits in the small Seattle suburb of Medina. Valued at more than $130 million, the tech-heavy mansion — dubbed Xanadu 2.0 — spans 66,000 square feet and racks up a yearly property tax bill of more than $1 million.


Depending on how the divorce proceedings play out, the futuristic smart house — which boasts a 60-foot-long swimming pool, library with secret doors and trampoline room — could potentially surface for sale.

What we’re reading

As if record demand and limited supply weren’t enough, driving home prices through the roof, a lumber shortage is adding to the chaos, CNN reports. The lack of wood makes building an average single-family new home $36,000 more expensive, and it’s gotten to the point where builders are reporting stolen lumber and other materials from construction sites.

Meet Sky Pool, the world’s first floating pool. Suspended 115 feet in the air between a pair of London towers, the 82-foot-long water-filled bridge was built in Colorado, transported to Texas and then shipped across the sea to give Londoners a more aquatic way to take in the city. Architectural Digest has the details.