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Real Estate newsletter: Bel-Air mansion is the year’s biggest sale

A courtyard and a large white house
Spanning 2.5 acres, the Barron Hilton property includes a sunken tennis court, a famous zodiac pool and a Georgian-style mansion.
(Hilton & Hyland)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, where mammoth sales and one-of-a-kind listings make the biggest splashes as we head into a summer market that’s sure to stay hot.

The week’s two most interesting real estate stories share something in common — homes that are famous because of their late former owners — but the houses themselves couldn’t be more different.

The larger of the pair is hotel magnate Barron Hilton’s longtime home, a 15,000-square-foot Bel-Air trophy estate that sold for $61.5 million — which is Southern California’s priciest home sale this year. Over in the Hollywood Hills, a 100-year-old abandoned Craftsman once rented by rock icon Kurt Cobain surfaced for sale at $998,000. Based on the photos, it might need a little work.

Across the country in Tampa, Fla., Tom Brady found out that even he isn’t immune to landlord trouble. His landlord just happened to be Yankees legend Derek Jeter, who sold the 22,000-square-foot mansion that Brady was renting for a cool $22.5 million. Let’s hope the movers are careful with the star quarterback’s seven Super Bowl rings.

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Another week, another potential project for downtown L.A. The owners of the plant where this very newspaper is printed are hoping to redevelop the site into a Hollywood-style lot with 17 soundstages. The budget: $650 million.

Speaking of aspiring projects, the winners are in for the “Low Rise: Housing Ideas for Los Angeles” competition, which challenged architects to imagine new, higher-density options rooted in the architectural traditions of Southern California.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Big house, big sale

A courtyard and a large white house
Spanning 2.5 acres, the property includes a sunken tennis court, a famous zodiac pool and a Georgian-style mansion with more than 15,000 square feet.
(Hilton & Hyland)

Barron Hilton’s home — a Bel-Air trophy estate where the business mogul lived from the 1960s until he died in 2019 — just sold for $61.5 million.

That ranks as the most expensive home sale in Southern California this year, records show, but it’s only May. The deal beats out a Beverly Park mansion that was auctioned off for $51 million and a Palisades estate that was sold by Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith for $48.67 million in April.

Set on 2.5 acres, the Georgian-style mansion hit the market with a $75-million price tag late last year. Paul R. Williams — a famed architect with a star-studded client list including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz — built the 15,000-square-foot showplace in 1936. Considered one of Williams’ seminal works, the estate was designed for Jay Paley, a businessman and film producer from the famed Paley family, who founded CBS.

The property’s most emblematic feature is tucked away at the back — a custom Moderne-inspired pool with alluring blue, gold and yellow tiles that depict the 12 signs of the zodiac.

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Achieve Nirvana in Hollywood Hills

A two-story house.
Built a century ago, the Craftsman comes with a key to the famed High Tower elevator.
(Tatiana Tensen)

A famous fixer-upper just surfaced for sale in the Hollywood Hills. For a brief stretch in 1992, the 100-year-old Craftsman was rented by Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and now it’s on the market for $998,000.

Perched on a hill in Hollywood Heights, the abandoned haunt has fallen into disrepair, but its past is a bit more illustrious than its present. According to the 2011 documentary “Hit So Hard,” Cobain wrote most of Nirvana’s third and final studio album, “In Utero,” in the 2,500-square-foot home.

Over the years, Cobain fans and YouTubers have visited the ramshackle abode to pay homage to the late rock icon.

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The Cobain connection isn’t the property’s only selling point. It also comes with a key to a notable Hollywood landmark: the High Tower, a five-story, 100-foot-tall stone tower that houses an antique elevator built in the style of an Italian campanile.

Brady gets the boot

A mansion overlooks a bay.
The 22,000-square-foot Florida mansion includes 9,000 square feet of decks and balconies overlooking Tampa Bay.
(Uneek Image)

Tom Brady’s going to have to find a new place to stay. His landlord, Yankees legend Derek Jeter, just sold the 22,000-square-foot Florida mansion he was renting for $22.5 million.

It’s a blockbuster sale not only for its ties to the two famous athletes but also because of the estate’s impressive size. The listing says it’s the largest home in south Tampa and the largest waterfront property ever assembled in the posh neighborhood of Davis Islands, with 345 feet of bay frontage across 1.25 acres.

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Jeter, who co-owns the Miami Marlins and has served as the team’s chief executive since 2017, was shopping the home around for $29 million last year. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Brady was accommodating to prospective buyers and didn’t turn down any requests to get the place ready for tours.

Brady began renting the mega-mansion shortly after signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It looks like the seven-time Super Bowl champion will land on his feet after moving out; last year, he and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, bought a spot on Indian Creek Island in Miami with plans to demolish the 5,200-square-foot home and build a dream house in its place.

Downtown L.A. ready for closeup

A rendering of warehouse-like structures
A rendering of the proposed redevelopment of The Los Angeles Time printing plant in downtown Los Angeles that would convert the 26-acre property into a movie and television studio with 17 soundstages and support facilities.
(Atlas Capital Group)

The owners of the sprawling plant where the Los Angeles Times is printed plan to redevelop the site near the Arts District in downtown L.A. into a Hollywood-style lot with 17 soundstages to meet strong regional demand for movie and television production facilities, commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent writes.

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The Times’ landlord, Atlas Capital Group, filed a proposal with the city Wednesday to build soundstages on parking lots around the plant on Olympic Boulevard as The Times continues to print papers there.

If the city approves the $650-million project, a second phase of development would eventually convert the cavernous 1980s-era building where printing presses now roll daily into soundstages after The Times departs. The Times said its lease on the printing facility may be extended for years, however.

The results are in …

A drawing of an alleyway between two buildings.
“Green Alley Housing” is a proposal from Louisa Van Leer Architecture, an L.A.-based studio, that imagines transforming L.A.'s empty alleyways into more active throughways for habitation and other activities.
(Louisa Van Leer Architecture)

Los Angeles might be known as a city of sprawl, but it’s also a place that can do density remarkably well — and has done so for more than a century, columnist Carolina A. Miranda writes.

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Enter a well-timed design challenge organized by the office of L.A.'s chief design officer, Christopher Hawthorne, and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Budget and Innovation. Launched late last year, “Low Rise: Housing Ideas for Los Angeles” invited architects to imagine new, higher-density options rooted in the architectural traditions of the region

The challenge is a conversation starter and design exercise. It’s also a needed counter to commercial real estate developers, whose ideas of density tend to be based on a single principle — how many dollars they can squeeze out of every square foot — with little regard for green space or other community needs.

The winning designs for the “Low Rise” design challenge, however, offer a density L.A. can aspire to.

What we’re reading

San Diego’s newest residential community is stuck with a good problem. None of the 1,800 homes have been built yet, but the interest list is already north of 14,000 people, and the developers are trying to figure out who gets to buy in a region rife with housing shortages. The San Diego Union-Tribune has the details.

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Sellers aren’t stupid, and in a red-hot market where bidding wars drive prices far above the original ask, 29% of would-be home sellers expect to set the list price above what they think the house is worth, according to USA Today, using data from Realtor.com.


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