'Trophy' plot in Beverly Hills going for $1.36b

The site is the highest point in the prized 90210 zip code. It occupies a ridge in the Beverly Crest neighbourhood, adjacent to Beverly Hills, with Studio City to the north and Bel Air to the west. Previous owners include Princess Shams Pahlavi and m
The site is the highest point in the prized 90210 zip code. It occupies a ridge in the Beverly Crest neighbourhood, adjacent to Beverly Hills, with Studio City to the north and Bel Air to the west. Previous owners include Princess Shams Pahlavi and movie mogul Merv Griffin.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Buyer can build 1.5 million sq ft home on virtually undeveloped 63.5ha site, up for sale at record price

BROOKLYN • A storied and virtually undeveloped 63.5ha plot of land overlooking Beverly Hills is officially going on sale with a record-setting asking price of US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion).

Occupants of the plot, which offers sweeping, 360-degree views of the San Gabriel Mountains, Malibu, Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, can gaze down on neighbours such as Seth MacFarlane, Sylvester Stallone and Warren Beatty.

Rebranded the Mountain Beverly Hills, the property previously known as the Vineyard Beverly Hills is the highest point in the prized 90210 zip code.

It occupies a ridge in the Beverly Crest neighbourhood, adjacent to Beverly Hills, with Studio City to the north and Bel Air to the west.

So large is the piece of real estate that all of Disneyland could fit in it and it would still have 23ha to spare. Media materials liken a visit to the site, accessed via Benedict Canyon, to a "God-like experience".

"It's a special property, a trophy property," says Ms Christine Hong, global luxury property specialist at Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills. "Very unique and beautiful."

Occupants of the plot, which offers sweeping, 360-degree views of the San Gabriel Mountains, Malibu, Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, can gaze down on neighbours such as Seth MacFarlane, Sylvester Stallone and Warren Beatty.

Demand in the area is high, adds Ms Hong, whose recent sales in the environs have hit US$3,500 per sq ft (psf); the Beverly Hills average is at US$2,500 psf.

Recent additions to the market include the Chartwell Estate in Bel Air, the facade of which was used in The Beverly Hillbillies TV series. At an asking price of US$350 million, this is the priciest home listed in the country; the Mountain doesn't offer a home.

The Mountain comprises six manicured, zoned lots on which the new owner can build up to 1.5 million sq ft of home. Based on the average price cited above, building such a structure or structures would cost almost US$4 billion, on top of the land's asking price.

Princess Shams Pahlavi, elder sister of Iran's last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, acquired the summit property in the late 1970s and had planned to construct a single estate. Following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which saw her brother toppled and Molotov cocktails thrown at her then residence in California by pro-Islamic Republic demonstrators, the princess let the plateau lie fallow for a decade before media mogul Merv Griffin took ownership in 1987.

Mr Griffin had grand plans to build a massive compound on the site. Under his ownership, about 765,000 cubic m of dirt was moved from the top of the site to achieve a more level grade, and the zoning was reworked to incorporate the six buildable lots.

But his interest in the project soon waned. In 1997, the year he took ownership of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, he sold the land to Herbalife founder and billionaire Mark Hughes.

Mr Hughes paid US$8.5 million and had planned to build a 45,000 sq ft home on the grounds. After he died in 2002, the land became part of his estate, held in trust for his then eight-year-old son.

Hollywood royalty, including Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, have since reportedly shown interest in all or part of the estate, which was occasionally used as an event space in recent years.

But complicated lawsuits over ownership kept the property off the market until now.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2018, with the headline ''Trophy' plot in Beverly Hills going for $1.36b'. Print Edition | Subscribe