This week, hoping to stimulate construction of new high-end homes, Orren Pickell Designers & Builders lopped 25 percent off the prices of its vacant lots in Lake Bluff, Bannockburn, Long Grove, and Highland Park. Also included in the markdown is the colossal 99-year-old Landsowne mansion in Lake Bluff.
“We could have done this [in 2009], but it would have been a waste of time,” says Orren Pickell, the company’s CEO. “Nobody was buying.” Now, with the traffic up in his sales center and the market (perhaps) bottoming out, this may be a more opportune moment. “We can generate some interest and some synergy, build some houses,” he says.
That’s the key here. By selling lots, Pickell may keep the construction wing of his company busy. Buyers of the Pickell lots—there are six each in Lake Bluff and Bannockburn, three in Long Grove, and one in Highland Park—will have to build with him, Pickell says (that is, if they build now, rather than holding the lot for later). Pickell, who has been in the business for 35 years, notes that construction prices are also deeply discounted. “We’re at prices I last saw in about 1998,” he says. Where the price per square foot of his newly constructed ultra-luxurious homes ranged from about $240 to $320 at the height of the market, he says it’s now at about $190 to $250, a drop of roughly 20 percent.
The discounted lots range in price from $580,785 for just under half an acre in Highland Park (formerly priced at $774,500) to $2,812,500 for a two-acre piece of the former Lansdowne estate (formerly $3.75 million). At each of the three multi-lot parcels, the discount is only available to the first two buyers in the next 60 days. Most of the properties are represented by Monica Childs and Sarah Lyons of @ Properties. The Lansdowne mansion and lots are listed with Mona Hellinga of Koenig & Strey GMAC.
In 2007, Pickell bought the 24-room Lansdowne mansion and 21 acres of land for $16 million. Pickell then subdivided the property and put the house (situated on a 2.8-acre lot) back on the market at $9.68 million. Now Pickell has added another three lots to the deal and priced the property at $15.465 million. That combined package, which now encompasses 11.26 acres, would have earlier carried a $20.62-million price tag; what’s more, the mansion has since undergone a renovation that totaled more than $1 million. Pickell had hoped to put new homes on those empty lots, but times have changed. “Until last year, the worst I’d seen was 1981,” Pickell says.
ALSO: In December, I reported that the lawyer and novelist Scott Turow had sold his lakefront home in Glencoe for $5 million. The buyer, it turns out, wanted the place for a vacation home. According to Karen Breen-Elia, an agent with Re/Max Exclusive, the buyers—Yothin Dumnemchanvant and his wife—are from Thailand, but they have two sons in college in Illinois. “They wanted a place near their children,” Breen-Elia says. “They bought something in Champaign [a few years ago], and then they wanted to have something up here with some beachfront.” Dumnemchanvant is in the paper and pulp business in Thailand, Breen-Elia says, and he does some business in the United States.