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Mark Pulte house in Palm Beach finally wins OK after style overhaul

Posted On: 06-04-2018

It took developer Mark Pulte nearly a year. But the Boca Raton-based homebuilder has finally won the town’s approval for the design of a house he wants to develop on speculation on a vacant lakefront lot in the North End in Palm Beach.

Pulte was all smiles — but had no other comment — after the Architectural Commission’s 5-2 vote at its most recent meeting to greenlight the controversial and much-revised project for 446 N. Lake Way. The lot is next door to The Vicarage, the second-oldest house in town.

“I respectfully and politely request and ask for approval of my project,” Pulte said to commissioners at the beginning of the meeting.

Commissioner Alex Ives, who ended up voting with Commissioner Maisie Grace against the project, had never been impressed by the various designs for the property. But he was sympathetic to the time and effort invested by Pulte, who heads Mark Timothy Inc. 

“I can feel the strain that you’ve been under,” Ives said from the dais.

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Over 11 months, Pulte’s project had morphed from a starkly contemporary structure that officials variously described as looking like a “a squat white box” and a “hotel” to a Spanish-inspired house that nods at the town’s historic Mediterranean-style architecture.

In July, some architectural commissioners worried that the original contemporary-style house proposed for 446 N. Lake Way would not be a ... Read More

Daniel Menard of LaBerge & Menard Inc. designed the final version of the roughly L-shaped, six-bedroom house with 13,620 square feet of living space. Menard worked in conjunction with the architect of record on the project, Benjamin Schreier of Affiniti Architects.

Schreier had designed the first incarnation of the house presented in July. Pulte’s team repeatedly emphasized that the layout was dictated by the confines of the relatively narrow lot, which has a “buildable” area just 69 feet wide. Measuring about an acre, the lot is one of two divided from a larger estate once owned by beer tycoon Stephen Levin.

Commissioners were dismayed by the initial designs for the house and demanded a complete overhaul of the house. It was too starkly contemporary in style and too massive for the lot, they agreed.

Pulte soon turned to Menard, who presented his version in November. The house was still contemporary in style with a flat roof, sheer lines and large windows. But Menard’s revamp — with its new layout in a rough T-shape — found little favor with the commission.

So in February, Menard and Pulte changed gears and presented a house that resembled in many ways the layout of the contemporary design. But it had been given a pitched, barrel-tile roof and Spanish-style arches fronting the loggias by the swimming pool. Two more rounds of revisions followed before the design finally earned a thumbs up May 23 after officials reviewed Menard’s tweaks to some of the windows.

At previous meetings, the architects had presented animated video tours of their designs based on renderings. The video images approximated the view from a drone flying around the exterior of the house, showing the structure from various angles.

In a revamp last fall, the house proposed for 446 N. Lake Way saw changes to its contemporary-style architecture, but the ... Read More

But Pulte had added an extra bit of technological oomph between the April meeting and the one last month. He invited commissioners to a “virtual reality” presentation at Menard’s office in West Palm Beach. Those who went wore a special viewing apparatus on their heads and saw the house in a true-to-life, 3-dimensional format, as Commissioner Michael B. Small explained it. As viewers turned their heads, they got the experience of actually walking around the property, Small said. It appeared that they could peer around corners and look into a loggia, for example.

Small was impressed. “I suggest that this technology be used as often as possible,” he said.

Alternate Commissioner Katherine Catlin agreed that the virtual-reality presentation gave her far more information than she could discern from the original video or the 2-dimensional renderings.

“I think this is just a house that didn’t render well,” she said. “This rendered very flat and boring — and that’s not what this house (turned out to be) all about,” she said.

Last summer, the original application for the house was submitted by then-lot owner Levin on behalf of Pulte, who had the lot under contract.

By the end of September, Pulte’s ownership company had paid Levin nearly $14 million for the property. The lot is immediately south of The Vicarage, a Colonial-style landmarked 1897 house. During the review process, some commissioners had questioned whether a contemporary-style house would be out of place next to the historic house.

Levin — the former head Gold Coast Beverage Distributors — tried for several years to sell his longtime house before deciding to knock it down last year and split the property into two equally sized lots. They were marketed for sale by broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens Associates; he also represented Pulte in his purchase of the north lot.

As to the south parcel, it sold in January, with agents Jack Elkins and Bunny Hiatt of The Fite Group acted for the buyers, William R. and Julie McDermott, who haven’t yet submitted plans for a house there.

At the May 23 meeting, commissioners wrestled with similar issues of size and scale for houses designed for two side-by-side lots across town. The lots were split from an oceanfront estate at 901 and 905 N. Ocean Blvd. Commissioners and neighbors criticized the houses as too massive for the long-and-narrow lots. The architects and attorneys representing the owners countered that the houses were appropriate solutions for their sites.

Both projects were referred for re-study, and revisions are expected to be presented at the board’s meeting this month.

 

 

 

Source: Darrell Hofheinz, June 4, 2018, Palm Beach Daily News

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