Text by Ruth J. Katz | Photography by Tim Lee
Antares homes—with their elevators, their inlaid-marble finishings, their heated garages, their impressive square footage, and their country-manor names—are big-ticket items, even in affluent Greenwich
Last year, according to a January ’07 article in The Wall Street Journal, the median price of a single-family home in Greenwich (through September 2006) was $1.94 million. However, “eight homes sold for more than $10 million,” noted a local Greenwich Realtor, David Ogilvy, of David Ogilvy & Associates.
That $10-million price point is where the stately Greenwich spec homes of Antares Mansions Group actually start. “Gatsby-esque” is how they are described on the company’s Web site, but in person, partners Joseph P. Beninati, 43, and James P. Cabrera, 44, are far more expressive.
“This, the residential segment of Antares Investment Partners, is the smallest part of our business, but it’s the one that we are the most passionate about,” Cabrera says. “It’s a lot more challenging to build homes than to build out commercial space.”
Currently there are three Antares manor homes for sale, priced between $10.9 million and $25 million. Even in a county where the term “million” is more or less expected in any sentence that has the noun “home” in it, these are big tickets. But these are not commonplace homes. Even the “most modest” of them, designed by R. S. Granoff Architects and dubbed “Stone Chase” (it’s at 16 Cherry Blossom Lane), covers 18,000 square feet and is a classic stone-and-clapboard beauty.
The 22,000-square-foot, $13.5-million “Two Fountains,” on just under three acres in the horse country area of Greenwich, underscores the grand scale of Antares mansions. Also designed by Granoff, the residence has finishings that include the finest marble (white Bulgarian with inlays of chocolate limestone from Paris Ceramics), top-of-the-line appliances (three Miele dishwashers in the kitchen/pantry), Christopher Peacock cabinetry, Waterworks soaking tubs, handsome Venetian-plaster walls, and wide, raw-oak flooring from Vintage Antique.
Antares’s homes have elevators, because, as Beninati observes, “Baby Boomers are, themselves, aging, and they often have grandparents living with them.” (In fact, in the largest of the three, a 30,000-foot manor on Lake Carrington, there are two elevators—a “family” elevator for general use and then a private one, off the master bedroom). Closets are vast and numerous, laundry rooms capacious—and there is one on each floor (upstairs, two machines and two dryers), and one even in the garage. The state-of-the-art technology that runs the house—including the alarm, pumping, and security systems, as well as the lighting, stereos, and TVs—can be controlled via the Internet from all over the world. Garages (each of which can accommodate at least four cars, although the Lake Carrington property has two garages, to house ten cars) are heated. And at the Lake Carrington home there are nine interior and two outdoor fireplaces; a 20,000-bottle, cedar-crafted wine cellar; and a 45-foot lap pool.
Notes Cabrera, “Major sources of inspiration were the architecture of Rosario Candela and the grand mansions of Newport. We studied the architecture of McKim, Mead & White as well as Candela to understand the bones, internal flow, and routing of their homes. We noticed that those great Park and Fifth Avenue apartments, with 10 and 12 rooms, always had little maids’ quarters, off the kitchen, that in later days owners knocked out in order to make a family-style, eat-in kitchen.
“The owners of mansions in bygone days never ate in the kitchen and they certainly never went downstairs. We walked through James Stillman Rockefeller’s Greenwich estate when it was on the market. It had storage bins for the coal and 7-foot-high ceilings in the lower level,” he continues. “But our lower levels are retreats—with a pool, a spa, a basketball or squash court, a wine cellar and a wine-tasting room, and of course, a home cinema. We do not want these homeowners to go to any great hotel around the world and find amenities that we have forgotten. We want each home to be a hard place to leave.”
Both partners live in sprawling homes not terribly far from the Lake Carrington property, Beninati in a replica of a majestic estate he saw in Lake Como, Italy, and Cabrera in a classic Shingle Style residence. They are a stone’s throw from each other, but then you might expect that, if you knew that the partners have been friends for more than half their lives, dating back to their schooldays at Choate Rosemary Hall. In addition to co-founding Antares in ’96 they were founding investors in Greenwich Technology Partners, a 600-person global electrical-engineering firm that built secure communications infrastructures. They left it at the end of 2002 in order to devote their full attention to Antares; Greenwich Technology Partners was sold in 2006. Today at Antares, Beninati handles the company’s finances and Cabrera spearheads the marketing and sales.
The Antares empire is immense: The privately held company controls a real estate portfolio valued at $4.5 billion and owns or manages more than 1 million square feet of residential and commercial real estate. The Stamford nerve center—the development and operational headquarters—is in a 26,000-square-foot waterfront office complex, located in a 400,000-square-foot office building which the partners own. As a totally vertical operation, Antares specializes in merchant banking and real estate private equity, acquisition, development, construction management, and related services, and ultimately the leasing and subsequent management of its properties or the marketing and sales of its developments. Its largest project to date is the Stamford Project, a $3-billion undertaking, on 80 waterfront acres, which will ultimately include offices; hotels; retail, educational, and cultural support venues; and 4,000 residential units.
The Antares empire is vast, but it is not geographically sprawling. For, as Beninati points out, “We did not want to be like some large-scale developers, who have parcels in Los Angeles, buildings in Hong Kong, or real estate in Paris. We aspired to be like an old-fashioned company. We wanted to do it the way Sam Lefrak did it.”
Comments Cabrera, “Following that Sam Lefrak model, we wanted to buy the land, entitle it, design and build the properties, manage them, and rent or sell them. Moreover, we always wanted to live in the same community.”
Beninati finishes up (these partners can complete each other’s paragraphs the way married couples finish each other’s sentences): “We live in town, and therefore, if something goes wrong with one of our projects, we’re going to get that SOS. We have to see everybody—at the movie theater, at parent-teacher nights. The buck stops with us.”
Clearly, “Lake Carrington”—with over 40,000 square feet in the entire residential compound, including the estate’s out-structures, built on nearly nine acres—is the star in the Antares residential portfolio. But, grand as it is, it is … unfinished. “Couture-ready” is how it is being sold. Cabrera explains, “Our research showed us that people buying apartments in New York City—in the Stern building at 15 Central Park West, One Beacon Court, and at the Time-Warner Center—that are similar to what we are building here in Greenwich are actually ripping out fixtures and finishings and customizing to their own taste.
“So we decided to do all the hard work—the paperwork, zoning, permits—and to sell the house in a state where it’s ready to be finished. We could do it or the new owner could do it, and it could cost anywhere from another $3 million to $15 million, depending on what finishings are selected.”
This home, designed by Boris Baranovich Architects, will assuredly be the jewel in the Antares crown, regardless of how it is finished. However, all are worthy of being affiliated with a company whose name comes from the heavens—Antares is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, and one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. It’s a likely bet that the Antares mansions will be stars in the area. TME
Senior contributing editor Ruth J. Katz is the author of five books. She has written extensively for The New York Times, and for more than 20 years has contributed regularly to New York magazine. She is the real estate columnist for New York Home and is a contributing editor of Golf Connoisseur. Her blog appears daily at www.cityguideny.com/blogs.