Construction that's ready for anything



Engineers are paid to think about what could go wrong. And if something ever goes really wrong with Sarasota’s weather, the owners of a house at 1459 Bay Point Drive should be in good shape, thanks to their engineer.

When consulting on the construction of the house, which was completed in 2008, their engineer was thinking of hurricanes Andrew, Donna or Charley — the kind of epic disasters that are rare here. Homeowners Stan and Merry Williams say the engineer urged them to consider the possibility before they built.

williamsmain“Part of this lot is in a velocity zone,” said Stan Williams, a retired dentist, “and we got an OK to go ahead and build this normally.

“But the engineer thought that if a hurricane ever went up the Manatee River and turned around, it could come backwards and hit this house. So we had better do this extensive foundation.”





Something close to that happened in 1846, but no storm on record has executed such a maneuver.

Still, the beefy foundation cost them $800,000, making this residence, newly listed by Kim and Michael Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Co. at $8.25 million, “the House of Concrete.”

The 7,800-square-foot home, with 17,826 total square feet, sits on 125 steel-reinforced concrete pilings with poured footings, floors and balconies. Architect Yehuda Inbar designed it and Voigt Brothers Construction spent 18 months building it.

The pilings are driven 26 feet to bedrock, “and then they tapped them three times after that,” said Stan Williams, who owns books on concrete construction — and has read them. “Then they tie them together with floating foundations, footings, that go from (pier to pier) with steel and poured concrete. They take three pilings together in the ground and pour that, and put another two poured columns on top of that. It narrows as you go up. This column here (in living room) has two under it, and then three under that.

“Every floor is poured, and there is tons of steel. All the decks are poured,” said Williams. “It is built in such a way that it will never move.”

“Even if that hurricane comes down from the Manatee River — with a partner,” Michael Ogilvie said with a smile.

Builder Mike Voigt noted that most houses have concrete slabs on the first floor and wood trusses on the second and third. But this one is built like a condominium tower — with each level formed and poured with ample steel rebar, even the roof.

“It’s an amazing house. From a basic design of concrete, that is as high-end as you can do,” said Voigt. “It is code-plus.”

The initial insurance premium estimate for the house was $60,000. But, upon further review of the plans, the premium was reduced to $20,000.

Flood insurance is just $4,300 because the main living level is above base flood elevation.

Making an impression

There is more, though, to this high-end listing than a whole bunch of concrete.

Kim Ogilvie, who has listed or sold some of the most expensive houses in local history, says none of them is superior to the Williams house in either fixtures or finish.

Built mostly by local craftsmen, the home has leather-tile flooring in the study, walnut facing on the appliances, glass surfaces in the master bath, a tumbled-marble counter in the caterer-grade kitchen and ground-granite stucco on the exposed classical columns in the living areas.

“You can see the attention to detail,” said Michael Ogilvie.

That is, once you take your eyes off the view. The house, set at an angle to maximize sight lines, has dramatic balconies that frame views of Selby Gardens, Hudson Bayou, Sarasota Bay and downtown Sarasota.

“You get to enjoy Selby’s wonderful music programs for free!” said Merry Williams.

Said Kim Ogilvie, “Nothing on this street with this view comes on the market. It’s actually the closest anyone can get to town with such a view.

“If you grade desirability that way, this is, bar none, the best. The style and character of the house — everyone loves it, the interiors, the grounds, the view. It is everything in one package.”

“People really don’t want to spend all the time and effort and planning and the pushing of paper to build what they like,” said Michael Ogilvie. “So something like this, which is turn-key — you don’t have to upgrade it in any way — is very attractive.”

How they found it

The Williamses lived in The Landings before buying the property on Bay Point. It was not listed, but a friend of Merry Williams is a neighbor, and told the former owner not to list her home until talking with the Williamses.

“So we came over and had pie and coffee and talked for a long time,” Merry Williams recalled, “and she said, ‘I’ll bet you would like to know what the number is.’ ”

It turned out to be $2.5 million — land value in 2004. They couldn’t save the old house without having to place it atop pilings to meet FEMA flood-elevation requirements. So they tore down and built anew.

“This is the third home we’ve had that Merry put her touches on,” said Stan Williams, praising his wife’s flair for interior decor.

“OK . . . I do not like that,” said his slightly embarrassed wife. “I had a designer friend who helped me — Barry Welker of Quebec and Boston.

“He carries my file with him. He knows what I like.”

“She knows exactly what she wants and she fights until she gets it,” said Stan.

“That’s true,” Merry admitted.

“Every space is different,” said Stan. “This room is different from that room, and you don’t feel like you are in some theme house. It’s a very livable house.”

The house, while grand, is not pretentious.

“I don’t like the layered look,” said Merry. “I like clean lines, but it was not a conscious thing. I just did what I liked.”

That includes walnut-faced appliances and cabinetry in the kitchen, which has a tumbled-granite counter that wraps around the seating area.

“I like the natural look of wood and I wanted a contrast with the white trim,” said Merry.

“This is the most unusual kitchen we have ever listed,” said Michael Ogilvie.

Mike Voigt, the builder, said the house stands out not only for its structural strength against hurricanes, but also for its innovation.

“Stan and Mary had a commitment to high-end quality finishes,” he said. “So many things had to be custom-fabricated because they had never been built before. Every room has special finishes. Even the waterfalls that come down on each side of the front stairs.

“It was, ‘Can we build this?’ It was constantly pushing the limits.”


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: November 23, 2013
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