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Townhouse merger scrapped in favor of new Midtown house

Posted On: 11-04-2016

By Darrell Hofheinz

Daily News Staff Writer

An unusual project to merge two Midtown townhomes into one single-family house has veered onto a new path.

Lorraine S. and John Charman apparently have abandoned their plans to combine the Italian Mediterranean-style luxury townhouses at 425 and 431 Chilean Ave. The Architectural Commission late last year approved the majority of the coversion project, which would have created a house of more than 9,000 square feet from the two units, which share a common wall. But the Charmans withdrew the plans from consideration several months ago.

Instead, the owners have embarked on a plan to demolish both units and build a new house in a French style — and designed by a different architectural firm.

“They just ran into a whole series of problems and decided they were headed up the wrong road,” architect Kevin Asbacher told the Architectural Commission last week before he presented his plans for the new house.

“The total square footage is 100 square feet smaller than what is there now,” added Asbacher, principal of Asbacher Architecture in Jupiter and New York City.

Although the board rubber-stamped the townhouses’ demolition, commissioners were far from satisfied with the house’s design. They sent Asbacher back to his studio to reconsider the placement of a front-facing garage, rethink the house’s overall footprint, refine exterior details and reduce the overall scale.

“I think there’s a nice core design here,” said Commissioner Alexander Ives. “But it’s feeling very heavy. There’s a lot of pull-back needed.”

A little history: In March 2015, Lorraine Charman paid a grand total of $8.4 million for the two townhouses. The duplex had been designed by Palm Beach architect Patrick Segraves of SKA Architect + Plannerand built in 2002 by brothers Howard and Stuart Wexelman of Boca Raton. It occupies a lot measuring a third of an acre near the Town Docks.

Lorraine Charman, who had previously owned a South End penthouse, told the Daily News when she bought the townhomes that she immediately had a vision for how they could be reworked. Her goal was to create an expansive house convenient to shopping and dining on Worth Avenue.

“I saw that the two adjacent (townhouses) were for sale,” she said at the time. “I had the idea that if it worked logistically, we could connect them and end up with a nice-sized in-town property that suits (our) personal needs and taste.”

Her Corcoran Group real estate agent, Jim McCann, put her in touch with Segraves, who began work on the conversion. The town granted variances in December, and architectural commissioners gave the project a thumbs-up the same month, on the condition that Segraves rework the front entrance and return for final approval.

But he never got the chance. The Charmans ended up changing direction after discussions with another architect, Tom Kirchhoff of Kirchhoff & Associates Architects in Jupiter. He told the architectural board in April that he had recommended the couple raze rather than renovate. Kirchhoff subsequently left the project, which by June had disappeared from the commission’s agenda.

Nothing more was said about the property until Asbacher appeared Oct. 26 before the board. After the meeting, Asbacher said he wasn’t aware of the exact details about why the Charmans had altered course.

Segraves said this week he had been surprised by their change in direction, especially since the town had all but granted approval to his design.

“I thought we did a good job of converting it,” Segraves said in a phone conversation Wednesday.

The house’s interior remains gutted. Lorraine Charman has said that any salvageable materials, including windows, would be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

In the two purchases last year, McCann acted opposite agents Todd F. Peter and W. Ted Gossett of Sotheby’s International Realty and agent Trina M. Lane of The Fite Group.

The Charmans have ties to Atlanta and Bermuda; John Charman is an English businessman who made his career in the insurance industry. . Asbacher and the Charmans couldn’t be reached Wednesday.

Stay tuned for updates.

Source: Darrell Hofheinz, November 4, 2016, Palm Beach Daily News

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