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.

8 thoughts on “Backcountry success stories

    • Anon:
      A fair question; where indeed do we “draw the line” when delineating mid-country from backcountry? Pose the question to some brokers, they will say “North of the Merritt is backcountry”. The problem with that theory is that the Merritt, thanks to the political muscle of the Rockefeller family in the 1930’s, takes a 1 1/2 mile detour north as it winds its way through Greenwich. As far as I’m concerned, once you’ve gone 4 miles or so from the top of Greenwich Avenue, you’re in backcountry. So what’s my standard? Everything north of Clapboard Ridge Road.

      • Anon:
        See what I mean? Everyone’s got his own definition! But anyway, yes, I too, loved these houses, and I’m generally no fan of spec houses (or ANY new houses, for that matter).

  1. While I agree with there being some wiggle on the definition of backcountry, this is, at best, “lower backcountry”. But I think of backcountry having more to do with zoning–specifically, RA-4 zoning–than anything else. Because that’s one of the primary reasons for the softening backcountry market (that, and convenience). Today’s buyer doesn’t give a rip about owning lots of property because they don’t go outside, they’re not equestrians, they don’t garden, they don’t entertain extensively at home, etc. So the extra acreage just means higher maintenance costs. They want a backcountry-sized house shoehorned into as small a parcel as they can get. Hence the growing population of Riverside and OG and the increasingly ridiculous, looming, faux shingle styles darkening their streets. And to a lesser extent, the in-town bonanza. I get your argument about the Merritt’s dip–but this parcel would be just about at or below the Merritt even were it further east, and the dip down, in Greenwich, only occurs far enough east that it only includes a relatively paltry section of town east of North Street.

    • Anon:
      All fine & dandy, and some good points, but the jury remains decidedly out regarding your assertions about “the primary reasons for the softening backcountry market”. Your theories of the evolving tastes and habits of these new, younger buyers are just that, theories. Maybe I agree, but I’m not sure yet.

      • The other explanation being, I presume, “convenience”–i.e., drive time to Whole Foods, Lululemon, Soulcycle, etc. New buyers crave convenience because they have a town-centric life–shopping, working out, shopping, eating at restaurants, and shopping. A house with lots of land 15+ minutes from town is at cross purposes with that lifestyle. Backcountry life–what was once called the “Greenwich Lifestyle™”–was home-centric, and town was a couple of times per week jaunt. Convenience was a secondary concern. It all ties together.

        But if you believe there’s something other than convenience and changing tastes at work, I’m interested to hear it.

      • Some: good man (or woman), consider the fact that there is simply more to DO in town! Back in the 1960’s, there were no serious downtown restaurants, gyms, yoga studios, etc. Greenwich Avenue rolled up the sidewalks no later than 9:30 PM! 50+ years later, there are REASONS to come to town!
        And here’s another thing to place in your pipe for smoking purposes…this weekend, a young-ish couple was looking at a Belle Haven listing of mine and they lamented the fact that their wasn’t more land for a “big guest house, huge lawn, and distance from the neighbors”!

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