Castles & Cottages

What $6.5 million will buy, Yonkers waterfront woes, Ossining's new rentals.



Far Away from the Worries of the World

Got $6.5 million? This glass house can be yours.

Imagine living in a 6,275-square-foot, glass-enclosed home that sits on a cliff and juts out more than 50 feet above a spring-fed lake. Imagine stepping into the master bathroom shower and having only glass walls separating you from the rest of the world—except that the nearest neighbor is miles away. Psychiatrist John Docherty says it has been heavenly living in a house like that. Only now it’s time to move on.

Since 2000, when he purchased the house in Bedford, the 65-year-old Dr. Docherty, a former professor at UCLA and current Cornell professor, has expanded the living room and added walls of glass, also opening up other spaces throughout the house to bring the outside in. He worked with the New York City-based architect Lynne Breslin, a modernist, to take advantage of views formerly obscured by traditional plaster walls. Also, the gardens were improved, the pathways opened up.

They say houses have personalities, and like the good doctor he is, he helped his house find its real self. “Now it’s all so free,” he says. But life rarely stays the same, and Dr. Docherty is divorced now, his two 30-something daughters are busy with their own lives, and the house on 20 acres has become too big for him. As he wisely observes, “The reality is that things fit you at a particular time, and then they change.” Dr. Docherty purchased the house for $2.6 million in 2000. It’s listed for $6.5 million with Caroline Shepherd at Houlihan Lawrence in Bedford.

More Apartments on the Way

The demand for apartments continues unabated in Westchester, reports Mark J. Forlenza, a vice president for development for AvalonBay Communities Inc, the Arlington, Virginia-based company that recently bought approximately 20 acres in Ossining. It plans to build about 200 apartments in four low-rise buildings. With an eye to preserving the history of the site, AvalonBay will convert a stone mansion on the grounds (first used by a chemical company once located there) for its leasing office and then for a clubhouse for residents. AvalonBay, a major real estate investment trust, has hundreds of apartment complexes in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Northern and Southern California regions of the country. In Westchester, it already has complexes in Bronxville, Elmsford, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, and White Plains.

Ups & Downs in Yonkers

Less housing, no offices, but more stores and entertainment. That’s the latest plan for redeveloping Yonkers’s downtown, according to Joseph V. Apicella, executive vice president of Cappelli Enterprises in Valhalla, one of the developers. The original design called for more than 900 apartments in the downtown, but that number has been reduced to 200 to 250 as a result of the depressed housing market, Apicella says. Retail and entertainment space would expand to about 600,000 square feet, up from 535,000 first proposed two years ago. Altogether eliminated is construction of 100,000 square feet of office space. One partner, Struever Bros., of Baltimore, has pulled out of the deal. The $1.3 billion proposal still calls for a 6,500-seat baseball stadium to be built on top of the retail center. That item alone will cost $40 million. The biggest unknown is when construction will begin. Given the starts and stops with this project so far, it’s hard to say. There’s an old saying: Yonkers is a city of hills where nothing is on the level.

Optimistic Indicators (Sort Of)

In a sign that the real estate market may be improving (kind of), two houses built on spec at Stone Manors on Twin Lakes in Bedford a few years ago have finally sold. The plan was to build 17 homes priced in the low $4 millions and up for what Douglas A. Smolev, one of the developers, called “the recession-proof end of the market.” But sadly, few were willing to buy a 9,000-square-foot home with every possible amenity on five acres of land. Considering what happened to the economy, no wonder such abodes went unsold. However, things may now be turning around, albeit slowly. The sale this spring of two of those houses is an indicator, according to Smolev. One of the gracious homes was purchased by a young hedge-fund type and his wife—he won’t name names—for $3.4 million, a bargain considering what the house might have fetched at one time. As for the other 13 houses: they won’t be built on spec like the first four were, that’s for sure, Smolev says.

At Home on the Sound

The trend to age "in place" is growing, with Larchmont and Mamaroneck becoming the latest communities to establish a non-profit referral service to help seniors stay close to home. Aptly called At Home on the Sound, the grassroots organization opened its doors in June to offer clients referrals to social service and healthcare providers, as well as vet house-keepers, drivers, and trades people. The idea is to encourage older citizens to remain active in their communities, rather than have them leave for retirement complexes elsewhere. Population projections bear out the need for such organizations. By 2030, the total number of people living in Westchester is expected to be 982,666; of those, about 243,518 will be over 60. As Robert Waldman, the president of the Center for Aging in Place Support in White Plains, explains it, people have begun to “rethink the process of aging and to push back on stereotyping of the old. Nowadays when people get older, they don’t want to have to go away out of sight.” The Center for Aging in Place Support, a nonprofit established three years ago, offers grants and technical advice to aging-in-place startups in Westchester.