Converting Nest Eggs Into Condos



THERE was valet parking at a construction site in Westbury early this month, along with a band performing the standards under a white tent, cocktails and tables of hot pasta, filet mignon, smoked Norwegian salmon and coconut shrimp.

The event was by invitation only, for hundreds of buyers, potential buyers and elected officials, to view the completed models in Meadowbrook Pointe, which will ultimately have 720 condominium apartments, duplexes and attached town houses on 51 acres of the former Roosevelt Raceway harness track.

Beechwood Organization is building the units in seven phases, with the entire $400 million project to be completed in 2008, according to its president, Michael Dubb. This is the builder’s first gated community in Nassau County, where open land is more scarce, but Beechwood has built more than 20 residential developments on the Island, including nine gated projects in Suffolk.

In Westbury, Ruth Asman and Helen Wagner finished eating and prepared to tour the nine decorated models open for viewing. Mrs. Asman, who is “a little bit over 55,” which is the minimum age at the project, seemed at ease, admitting that she had had concerns earlier. “I was worried because I bought from plans in July,” she said. “There was a huge waiting list” for the 250 units in the first phase.

Her unit will be one of the project’s 500 apartment-style units (15 per building), all with two bedrooms and two baths, Mr. Dubb said. Prices range from $600,000 to $850,000.

“The average person who buys here lived in their home 31 years and is now selling,” Mr. Dubb said, citing a survey that his firm commissioned.

In 2004, 22 percent of the residents of the town of Hempstead, which encompasses Westbury, were 62 or older. For many who bought on Long Island and other New York City suburbs 30 or more years ago, their house is their nest egg.

“Our house was $52,000 in 1972,” Ms. Wagner, 62, said. “I think at this point I could get about $600,000. The numbers are mind-boggling.”

Ms. Asman’s daughter is married to Ms. Wagner’s son, and the two women seem to have an almost sisterly relationship. Their children will move into Ms. Asman’s five-bedroom house in Searingtown when she moves into her two-bedroom condo at Meadowbrook Pointe in July.

Ms. Wagner and her husband have homes in Rockland County and in Scottsdale, Ariz., where another son and two grandchildren live. They plan to sell the Rockland property, and she hopes they can then purchase a Meadowbrook Pointe unit. “This is the closest thing I find that is like a community,” Ms. Asman said.

The jumbo-sized heart of Meadowbrook Pointe will be the $12 million 25,000-square-foot clubhouse. Such community hubs are rapidly becoming the pile-on perk in gated communities on Long Island.

As cars streamed into the white-tent reception on a rainy evening in early June, they passed signs hawking the clubhouse features: fitness center, theater, sports bar, card rooms, spa, indoor and outdoor pools.

Sherry Mendelson, 57, and her fiancé, Arnie Scher, 60, who were sitting at the same table as Ms. Asman and Ms. Wagner, are buying a million-dollar town house in the community. (There are also “villas,” which range from $675,000 to $875,000; they are two-story units that are two to a building.)

Ms. Mendelson has lived in a condominium complex in Bayside, Queens, for the last 15 years. “I like the lifestyle” at the town house, she said, especially the clubhouse activity. Getting in when the development first opens is important, she said, as residents form social cliques that are hard to break into later on.

Mr. Scher, a widower, will be starting “a whole new life” with Ms. Mendelson when he leaves a five-bedroom colonial on one acre in a golf course community in Woodbury.

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The couple chose a 3,000-square-foot town house model; the town houses are grouped four to a building. The end units are bigger, but Ms. Mendelson and Mr. Scher chose a center unit, which has a secluded courtyard outside the recessed front entrance. “I can just picture eating blueberry muffins and danish on a little table,” she said.

She may have gotten the idea from the courtyard in the model, which is outfitted with a round wrought iron table and chairs, a platter of muffins and settings for three. Inside, a two-story cathedral ceiling above a curving staircase adds grandeur to the first-floor formal dining room, sitting room and living room with fireplace. Very Tara.

The thematic décor in the models includes wide moldings and other architectural details like recessed areas in some bedrooms that do not come standard with the units.

In the model of an end-unit town house, an English style helmet and riding crop are on a dresser in one bedroom, and old horseshoes (is that fake encrusted dirt from Roosevelt Raceway?) decorate the night tables. A painting of a saddle, crop and riding boots hangs on the wall, and wainscoting lines the entrance area near the full marble-tiled bath.

Generous hallways and pocket doors in sparkling bathrooms, wide enough for a wheelchair, add to the sense of luxury and cocoonlike security. You’d never have to move again.

“We wanted to have a bedroom on the first floor,” Mr. Scher said, but they preferred the model with second-floor bedrooms, so they opted for an elevator.

Mr. Dubb, the builder, a tall lithe man with a quick stride, rattled off the prices, square footage and amenities as he showed off the models after the reception.

He has built homes on Long Island for 20 years, and Meadowbrook Pointe is “the biggest development since Levittown,” he said, without specifying how he defines big.

He might be right, according to Patricia Bourne, the Nassau County Planning Department commissioner. “It’s certainly one of the biggest,” Ms. Bourne said. “It probably is the largest for a 55-and-over development” in Nassau County.

In the town of Oyster Bay, the easternmost town in Nassau County, large developments sprang up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, according to the town planning commissioner, Jack Libert, but often more than one developer was involved.

“If you’re talking about a single development, I would say he’s pretty high up there on the list,” Mr. Libert said of Mr. Dubb’s claim. “It’s certainly the largest in the last decade from my recollection.”

One exception would be beyond the town’s eastern border in Suffolk County, Mr. Libert said, at the Greens at Half Hollow Hills, a 1,200-unit 55-and-over condominium development in Melville.

Whatever the claim, Mr. Dubb is confident that the growing population of house-rich Long Islanders over 55 years old is thirsting for more high-end communities like Meadowbrook Pointe.

“People want this,” Mr. Dubb said. “If I had 5,000 of these units, I’d sell 5,000.”