View Full Version : Houses at Sagaponack

June 7th, 2004, 12:50 PM


June 6, 2004


An Enclave Update


The developer Harry Coco Brown's vision of an enclave of Hamptons dream houses designed by world-class architects is finally emerging from the ground in Sagaponack.

The first house, a sleek, 5,000-square-foot L-shaped structure bent around a swimming pool, designed by the Iranian-born sisters Gisue and Mojgan Hariri, has just been finished, and is on the market for $2.95 million.

Four more houses are under construction and one of them, by the architect Henry N. Cobb, has already sold for more than $2 million, according to Mr. Brown.

The houses are being built on the 33 empty lots in a failed Hamptons subdivision that Mr. Brown snapped up out of foreclosure for a mere $1.6 million a decade ago.

Declaring war on tacky, hypertrophied McMansions, Mr. Brown vowed a return to the values of modernism and in 2000 he asked his friend Richard Meier to recruit a roster of top architects. Design buffs nicknamed his project Sagatopia, but skeptics wondered whether using big names like Philip Johnson and Zaha Hadid wasn't simply a way of dressing up a drab property that violated real estate's triple imperative: location.

Mr. Brown's architectural Arcadia squats on the north side of Route 27, the psychological dividing line of the Hamptons, where the most coveted properties are found south of the highway, closer to the beach.

Worse yet, the property is set smack against the East Hampton Airport.

The Hariri house, a bleached cedar-and-glass creation of clean lines and well-lit rooms, is a short jog from the airport fence. They can always say it's close to transportation: the Long Island Rail Road tracks abut the property line to the south (although they are not visible from the house).

The roar of jets didn't keep away prospective buyers last weekend, when more than 400 people turned out for the property's first open house, said Tom MacNiven, a senior associate broker for the Corcoran Group's East Hampton office, the exclusive agent for what is being called the Houses at Sagaponac (Mr. Brown dropped the k). Mr. MacNiven said he has already received offers on the house.

Mr. Brown, 69, a former theater producer, first made his mark in real estate with a subdivision in Beverly Hills, Calif. In the early 1990's, when the savings and loan crisis left the national landscape littered with busted mortgages and failed land deals, he began snapping up properties on the cheap, like the Sagaponack subdivision and a pair of large developments on Cape Cod whose delinquent mortgages he bought from the federal government's Resolution Trust Corporation.

In a case that recalls the travails of Martha Stewart, Mr. Brown was indicted and charged with making false statements to federal regulators in an attempt to cover up his use of insider information in bidding on the Cape Cod loans. He pleaded guilty in 1997 and, according to the Bureau of Prisons, spent 27 days in a federal prison camp in Allentown, Pa. Still, his business acumen never deserted him. According to information in court records and published reports, he sold the Cape Cod mortgages for $8.4 million more than he paid for them.

Mr. Brown refused to discuss details of his financial history. Of his Sagaponack project he said, "I think the reality is going to exceed the expectation."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 23rd, 2004, 05:05 PM
First of the "Houses at Sagaponac" Completed

June 23, 2004


In one of the country’s most fashionable vacation spots - the Hamptons - developer Harry Coco Brown has completed the first house of his development, Houses at Sagaponac and placed it on the market for $3 million.

The architects and sisters, Gisue Hariri and Mojgan Hariri designed the four-bedroom, wood-framed structure in a classic modernist style. A cantilevered ramp leads to two elevated rectangular box volumes with grayish cedar siding that form an L-shape around a large swimming pool. A 2.7-acre wooded lot provides privacy to a sleek house that otherwise exhibits openness. Substantial exterior sections are made of floor to ceiling windows. Bathroom walls are frosted glass and their interior surfaces made of brightly colored translucent glass tiles.

The Hariri house is one of 34 architecturally distinctive vacation homes that were each designed by big name architects that Brown hired with the help of his friend Richard Meier. Three other houses currently under construction are due to be finished by the end of the year. One Buddhist-style structure designed by Harry Cobb has separate pavilions inside a courtyard linked by a columned passageway with 108 louvered doors made of teak. Another by the architect Shigeru Ban that will be surrounded by a small forest of 12-foot high bamboo is distinguished by structural supports that are made from cabinets, bookcases, and other furniture.

A former head of development for 20th Century Fox, Brown put together his development on an approximately 120-acre failed subdivision he bought a decade ago and that today is one of the largest unbuilt developed parcels of land in the Hamptons. Brown approached his project like an art film, getting star architects to give him cut rate prices on their designs. Product placement also helped Brown save money and bring construction costs down to approximately $250 a square foot. He says that Viking, Lutron Lighting, and even Sony gave him bargains on their products for the opportunity to be involved in the project, which is even the subject of a glossy book published by Rizzoli.

Brown says his unique development is a reaction against the prevailing style of new construction in the Hamptons, the elaborate shingle style McMansions with manicured lawns, that are fast gobbling up the area’s remaining open space. In contrast, Brown’s houses are set in a densely wooded area. They are moderately scaled, priced by Hamptons standards and eschew ornamentation. The development will have three miles of trails that will connect the properties and an adjacent private park with a community garden. “It’s a response to the new urbanism,” says Brown, “We can have community without having conformity---it won’t be ersatz old fashioned.”

Alex Ulam