Sunday, September 16, 2012

Late developer's dream home may be priciest in town - Sacramento Bee

Commercial real estate developer Gary Ravel spent nearly four years and $8 million building his dream house on one of Sacramento's most exclusive streets. He only had a short time to enjoy it before succumbing to brain cancer in May at the age of 62.

Today, the 10,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial home on Crocker Road, in the Sierra Oaks neighborhood, is on the market for $5.75 million.

Experts said that if it fetches close to the asking price, it could become the most expensive home ever sold in Sacramento County â€" and one of the highestpriced homes sold in the fourcounty Sacramento region.

"If they do get close to $6 million, it might be," said real estate agent Nick Sadek, who sold actor Eddie Murphy's palatial home in the Placer County enclave of Granite Bay for $6.1 million in 2007. Sadek, who specializes in multimillion dollar properties, said the Murphy sale was the highest price he could remember a house fetching in the region.

He cautioned that homes with acreage may have sold for more, and not all highpriced properties show up in the Multiple Listing Service, making them hard to track.

The nearest priced homes on the market today are in the $2 million to $3 million range, including some in Granite Bay and others in east Sacramento's Fabulous 40s neighborhood, Sadek said.

Annette Black, who is listing Ravel's former home, said two buyers have made written offers, though they were not accepted.

On Wednesday, Black and others prepped the home for another round of showings, blowing leaves, making beds, and polishing wood.

"The people coming to see the house would read like a who's who" of the region's elite, the veteran agent said. "We don't want anything to be out of place."

The home is a testament to Ravel's painstaking devotion to period architecture.

Craftsmen in Peru handcarved the kitchen cabinets to resemble 16th century Spanish antiques. A bar and great room are patterned after similar spaces at the venerable Sutter Club, near the Capitol.

Large light fixtures are replicas of those at the Alhambra Theatre, which was built in the 1920s in the ornate Moorish style and torn down in the 1970s to make way for a supermarket.

A blue tiled dome covers the pool house. The gurgle of fountains fills the courtyards.

An art deco elevator carries visitors to the second floor. Despite the home's scale, it exudes warmth with wood, stone and tile. Ravel's business partner, Scott Rasmussen, said Ravel intended it that way.

Ravel had stacks of architecture books with Postit Notes marking items of interest, he said. He was a particular fan of Addison Mizner, an architect whose Spanish Colonial designs are a hallmark of Boca Raton and other exclusive south Florida communities. "Gary always loved architecture, and he had the best eye in town," Rasmussen said.

The developer choked up as he talked about Ravel, who he said was his best friend for more than two decades.

Together the two developed properties such as the large multiuse project at 16th and O streets in downtown Sacramento that broke ground in January. Its 84 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail will fill two Spanishstyle buildings.

They also were the team behind the Upper Eastside Lofts, a student complex near California State University, Sacramento, and numerous other commercial projects throughout downtown and midtown.

Ravel set out to build his residential masterpiece on Crocker Road. The curving, treelined street of large homes is one of the county's most prominent addresses, home to notable figures such as restaurant owner Randy Paragary, developer John Saca and former McClatchy Co. executive Frank Whittaker.

Ravel paid $1 million for the property in 1999 and agonized over remodeling the existing missionstyle house, which once belonged to the Breuner family of local furniture fame. He ultimately decided to tear it down and rebuild on the same footprint, Rasmussen said.

"He wanted it to look like a 1920s Addison Mizner house," the developer said.

Construction costs, with nearly every item custommade and many imported, eventually ran to $7 million, he said. That put a strain on Ravel's finances as the real estate market collapsed.

The house was finished about three years ago, but Ravel got to enjoy it for only a short time. Almost two years after he moved in, he showed symptoms of the tumor that had been growing in his brain. He was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, and despite state-of-the-art treatment, died in a little more than 14 months, Rasmussen said.

Ravel was divorced and had grown children, but he lived alone. He left the house to his children, who are selling it, said Rasmussen, who is also the Ravel estate's executor.

He said he wished the home would be bought by someone who would love it as Ravel did, or perhaps even be purchased as the California governor's mansion.

"It was a culmination of a lifetime of remodeling houses," Rasmussen said, "a lifetime of hard work, and a lifetime of collecting architectural drawings and plans."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Call The Bee's Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191

• Read more articles by Hudson Sangree

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