The waterfront Coral Gables estate that has housed University of Miami presidents for more than a generation — hosting everyone from world leaders to bright-eyed college freshmen — has been sold.
The price: a cool $9 million. The buyer: New Yorker Maria Montalva, who listed a posh Upper East Side Fifth Avenue address on county sales records.
Montalva could not be reached for comment, while UM President Donna Shalala declined comment.
A local real estate blog written by Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtor Alexandra Restivo described the home, built in 1965, as boasting a “tropical ambiance,” 4.6 acres of lush gardens, and a prestigious Gables Estates address.
“Here’s a chance to own a rare piece of South Florida history,” wrote Restivo, whose firm, EWM, represented both buyer and seller in the transaction.
Among the home’s more-unique features is a guest room created specifically to host the Dalai Lama during His Holiness’ visits to South Florida. University freshmen were also famously hosted by Shalala during a barbeque that welcomed them into the UM fold — a tradition expected to continue at Shalala’s new digs.
UM has been designing and building a new presidential home in Pinecrest — the crown jewel of a 30-home gated community known as Smathers Four Fillies Farm.
The 32-acre Pinecrest development, built on land donated to the university by UM law grad-turned-philanthropist Frank Smathers Jr., exclusively houses UM faculty. Shalala will now join their ranks as both boss and neighbor.
Decades ago, the grounds were home to Smathers’ Arabian horses and world-renowned mango collection. The UM-built homes are clustered in the center one-third of the acreage “to safeguard the botanical integrity of the estate,” according to the university’s website. The remaining land is dominated by lush plants and fruit groves, and is maintained by Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens.
Living amongst such natural environs can have its complications, however. In 2010, the Pinecrest Village Council donated $1,200 to help the Smathers Four Fillies Farm Home Association relocate a disruptive and fast-growing peacock population — birds that the association complained were producing droppings at an “astounding volume.”
Shalala’s new, modern-style, two-story home is still being finished, according to interior designer Phyllis Taylor, who is spearheading the decor of the house, just as she did with Shalala’s previous residence. Shalala plans to move in at the beginning of the fall semester.
“It’s a very bold house,” Taylor said of Shalala’s new digs. “It’s a dominant house in the neighborhood.”
Taylor said the all-white exterior of the new home is a noticeable contrast to the more-earthy tones of other houses nearby. The university is calling it the “Ibis House” after UM’s beloved (and also all-white) mascot.
Shalala’s new home will sit on a quarter-acre of land — dramatically less property than she enjoyed before. On the plus side, Shalala, just as in her old home, will enjoy about 9,000 or so square feet of interior space, and an in-home elevator connecting the first and second floors.
The new home is also situated in a unique gated community that offers a community clubhouse, tennis courts and pool, and meticulously landscaped gardens. Because the house is not yet complete, its market value has yet to be determined by Miami-Dade County.