Greenwich Legend, Cos Cob Hero: Dave Theis Memorial

Young Dave Theis warming up for polo practice as a wee lad in Cos Cob.

Young Dave Theis warming up for polo practice as a wee lad in Cos Cob.

Everything you need to know about Selectman Dave Theis could be learned from taking a look around Christ Church Saturday morning. The place was packed to the rafters, people standing in the aisles and waiting outside, an absolutely amazing display of how many people’s lives were touched by him. His nick-name was “Coach” because that’s what he did, he coached you to be your best, and made you feel you were one of his special friends. How he made thousands of us feel we were one of his “special” friends, I don’t know, but he did it.

So anyway, fine memorial, maybe a bit too long, but that’s usually the case with these things. My travel agent, and Dave’s longtime companion, Kerrin Coyle, set up a slide show in the reception hall featuring her best pictures of Dave being Dave. Honestly, I think I liked the slide show better than the speeches.

One surprisingly moving moment was when the squadron of Greenwich cops in full dress uniform stood in formation outside saluting in the freezing wind as two others ceremoniously folded a Town of Greenwich flag and presented it to Kerrin and Dave’s sister.

Oh, and the “bugle salute”! Christopher Hughes played Taps spectacularly. Taps is always poignant, but Hughes elevated it to something new, with the individual notes reverberating in that cathedral, floating around so beautifully, it was particularly powerful.

If you ever happen to find yourself in charge of a Gideon Fountain memorial, you could do worse than to copy Dave Theis’s. I want the cops, the firemen, the bugle guy. Oh, and I want the entire front row to be taken up by hot looking “tootsies”, as my granny used to call ’em, all dressed in black, crying into handkerchiefs. If there are no volunteers, for goodness sake, hire actresses or real estate agents or something…think outside the casket, people!

Fire Department salute to Dave Theis.

Fire Department salute to Dave Theis.

Police Department flag presentation ceremony.

Police Department flag presentation ceremony.


Backcountry success stories


747 Lake Avenue, one of three built on one site by the team of Kaali-Nagy and The Fieber Group...

747 Lake Avenue (fetched $7.5M 6/2014), one of three built on a 7.35 acre site by the team of Kaali-Nagy and The Fieber Group…

Beneath my attractive façade of glib self-confidence and amusing “beach club lightheadedness” *  there lies, as you know, a serious and thoughtful fellow. No surprise then when comments from intelligent readers manage to sway my opinion. Such swaying has just occurred regarding my theory that Greenwich’s backcountry has been permanently depressed by the 2008 “crash”.

Readers have reminded me of certain backcountry success stories, particularly involving new construction, that belie the myth that well-heeled buyers have given up on this part of town.

Case in point: The three new-construction sales at 747, 749, and 751 Lake Avenue (sorry, links were de-activated, see below).

In the order mentioned, they fetched $7.5M, $8.175M, and $7.850M.

This successful spec project began in October, 2012 with the purchase of a tear-down on 7.35 acres for $6,000,000, at 751 Lake Avenue, about a half mile south of the Merritt (around 5 miles north of Greenwich Avenue).

Builders Alex Kaali-Nagy and The Fieber Group, both great builders, teamed up for this project and got ’em built and sold in less than two years! Kaali-Nagy, I have long observed, has tended to sit on over-priced spec projects w-a-a-a-y too long, so it would appear the addition of Fieber added some needed discipline. In any case, these are exceedingly nice houses, tastefully done, modern design, everything you could ever want, and here is the key point: These houses were so nice, they would have sold easily in any part of town.

The lesson? New, high-quality housing defies the “backcountry prejudice”. Builders, be not afraid!

If the damned Greenwich MLS link doesn’t work, try the one below, and check out the pictures of this amazing interior:

749 Lake Avenue (sold for $8,175,000, Oct. 31, 2014)

* Playwright Philip Barry’s invention.

When a broker earns his commission


135 Field Point Circle: a perfectly nice 50's colonial, but its time has come...

135 Field Point Circle: a perfectly nice 50’s colonial, but its time has come…Asked $12M, got $10.250M (decent price for a tear-down). Closed 10/2014.

We Greenwich brokers tend to whine a lot, and whine not? Seems like we spend half our time chasing false-leads, tire-kickers, and future residents of Darien and New Canaan.  So when a deal gets signed and actually closes, it’s cause for celebration! Today we celebrate the perseverance of broker Russell “Prune Man” Pruner, founder of Shore & Country Properties.

Russ and I recently *  put a deal together on

135 Field Point Circle, off Greenwich’s fabled Belle Haven peninsula.

Negotiations began over two years ago, the listing then expired, but I continued to show. Pruner continued, too, urging his buyer on. That’s one of the advantages we have in wealthy Greenwich; when customers stick at a price, it’s not because they can’t go up, it’s because they won’t. The difference between can’t and won’t is where the broker’s role really begins. Russ and I engaged in numerous discussions of recent sales, plot-plan details, FAR calculations, etc.  He talked to his clients, I talked to mine. Gradually, achingly slowly, the two parties came closer and closer until finally, around September, we had a deal and it closed October 9th, $10,250,000.

* months ago, but I wasn’t in a writing mood, for whatever reason


Chase Bank gets something right for a change


The new Chase Bank building, corner of Dearfield and West Putnam. Notice how it sort of mirrors the Greenwich Library, kinda sorta? I like it.

The new Chase Bank building, corner of Dearfield and West Putnam. Notice how it sort of mirrors the Greenwich Library, kinda sorta? I like it.

I don’t like Chase Bank, can’t remember exactly why…Seems to me when I borrowed a paltry sum from them back around 1998, $33,000 or so, they were rotten to deal with. I was putting down less than 20% on a house and I needed that small amount from Chase in order to avoid some vile thing called “Private Mortgage Insurance”. I paid them off very quickly and was glad to be rid of them.

But that was years ago, I’m sure they’re much better now, right? And besides, today I come to praise Chase, not to bury it *. They’ve gone and done something smart here in Greenwich and I want to give them credit!

In case you haven’t noticed, Chase has erected a new building next door to Greenwich Library that comes damn close to being…attractive! Someone, maybe the architect, maybe Planning & Zoning? came up with the idea of drawing inspiration from the library’s handsome limestone exterior. The Chase building is not a direct copy, by any means, but it complements the library building nicely.

And there’s another great thing about this building, it was apparently built to replace a lot of those ugly, crappy little Chase branches that have sprouted up all over town like mushrooms after a rain storm. Now that they have this new “headquarters” apparently they can eliminate a few of the smaller branches nearby, hooray! Let’s hope other banking companies do the same thing and we can go back to being a town with only 30 banks instead of 78!

* a smidgen of Shakespeare for you literate types.

A depressing sale on John Street

Definitely not depressing for listing broker Barbara Zaccagnini, who just reported this sale at $5,000,000 and who represented both sides of the transaction, but for the rest of us, this is confirmation of the continuing difficult selling climate for Greenwich’s backcountry.

63 John Street first came on November 2012, at $9,949,000 (Town assessment presumes a market value of $10,030,100…ha!). Two years and four big price reductions later (down to $6,900,000) it finally gets the deal done at a paltry $5M, yikes!

This was a BIG property, with 13.61 acres, a pristine but boring 1980’s French-style main house of about 5,000 sq. ft., an equally large, but much newer “guest” house, designed by the firm of Hilton VanderHorn, a small cottage for security and/or staff, and various barns and outbuildings, everything in perfect condition. Oh, and pond, meadows, hills. you name it.

All that for five million shows you how far the backcountry’s values have diverged from the rest of the Town. Really amazing.

63 John Street, off upper Round Hill Road. Owner had no need to sell, but after two years of waiting, decided to let it go cheap.

63 John Street, off upper Round Hill Road. Owner had no need to sell, but after two years of waiting, decided to let it go cheap.

Check out the photos on the link below…(on first-time visits with a mobile device, just click “no thanks” if you don’t want the (useful) Houlihan Lawrence app, then you’ll be sent to the listing).

63 John Street

Do you get “cozy” for $65,000,000?

Wayne Manor, home to Batman, Robin, and the butler, Alfred? Nope, it's just the old Hemsley place, all spiffed up!

Wayne Manor, home to Batman, Robin, and the butler, Alfred? Nope, it’s just the old Hemsley place, all spiffed up!

Plenty of brokers objected to the way the old Helmsley mansion (ok, the “Topping House”) was recently renovated. For one thing, the current owners, whoever they may be, actually tore down a wing! Where once stood 22,000 square feet, now it’s a mere 17,493, barely room for a couple, a few kids, and a staff of 15. Oh, and that dramatic fountain in the driveway? Gone.

But never mind all that, the question is, would you live in this place? Would you feel at home? Is it…cozy? The answer is yes. Amazingly enough, I found the place highly livable, and I suspect you would to.

Since it’s exceedingly unlikely they’ll be running a public open house anytime soon, you’ll have to satisfy yourself with pictures. Take a look by clicking the link below and tell me what you think.

521 Round Hill Road, listing broker Jane Howard Basham of Ogilvy & Associates.