NAME: Bruce Makowsky HOMETOWN: Providence, R.I.
COMPANY: Bam Luxury Development TITLE: Principal
Developer Bruce Makowsky is the man behind a massive mansion in Bel Air listed for $250 million. The spec house is the ninth his Bam Luxury Development has built in the Platinum Triangle formed by Bel Air, Holmby Hills, and Beverly Hills, one of which was bought for $70 million by “Minecraft” creator Markus Persson. The developer said he has two more projects in the works, both of which are bigger and likely more expensive than the 38,000-square-foot property he’s marketing on Bel Air Road. Makowsky and his wife, Kathy Van Zeeland, moved to Los Angeles from New York after selling their handbag company for a reported $330 million in 2010.
You came from New York, built a few spec homes there. Why move to Los Angeles?
I came out here to do nothing – to play tennis every day and go yachting and all that stuff. But I’m a type-A personality. I can’t just sit around. L.A. was really built in the ’50s and ’60s. The homes have not kept up with the toys people have – whether a boat or yacht or plane. It didn’t make sense to me.
But $250 million makes sense?
I’m just looking for that one person who really dies over the house. There’s no pressure to sell it. I have no partners. I don’t owe any money on it. I’m not at all concerned that somebody’s going to come along and buy it.
You still have to make money.
I spent $250,000 on a sink. I don’t think anyone would do something like that. The reason I did it is because I wanted to have the most unique, beautiful things inside. The economics are that I’m a little bit insane, because how do you go into a business when you don’t know what your costs are going to be and you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to sell it for?
You must have an idea of the budget before you start building.
There really isn’t a budget. Three weeks ago, I was down in Florida and spent $300,000 on an anchor. The house (at 924 Bel Air Road) is a land yacht. I said the only thing I’m missing is an anchor. I was taught this when I was really young – that when you make great-quality anything, there will always be a customer. It’s worked so far.
But surely not every spec developer can operate that way – and some have gone bankrupt. How do you protect yourself?
I’m aware of that happening. There are so many people coming out here to develop because they think they can make a quick profit. But you can only make a quick profit if you do really quality work. A lot of people love to borrow money in this business and the costs are going to come out where they come out. If you’re going to be a developer today, make sure that you’re well-financed.
The real estate market cycles. Will you pause your development efforts to prepare for a possible correction?
At this level, I don’t want to say it’s insulated, but I haven’t seen the amount of billionaires go down in the last 10 years.
Are you concerned about the lack of affordable housing for working- and middle-class families in Los Angeles?
I’m one of these people who creates jobs. I’m in a position where I don’t need to work. I did this house and 300 people got paid very well for four years. I want everybody to live in a nice house.
What about beyond your projects?
Because tech is moving down to Southern California, I think hopefully there will be enough jobs for people to be able to afford the homes in the area. The prices on houses are going higher.
The people living in them – that’s great, since they’re already living there. As far as new people moving into them, hopefully they have a good job and work for a good company.
What about the city’s attempts to crack down on mansionization?
I actually see both sides of that. One side is these hills, these streets, weren’t made for these big houses. I can see how some people might say, Why is anything being touched, because it’s just such a beautiful place now?
What’s the other side?
(Property) tax revenue. If you take a house that was a $10 million house … now if that house is an $80 million house, they’re getting eight times the amount of revenue for the city, which is a good thing. That means we can have better schools, services, everything. You can’t stop progress. The world wants nicer and better things.
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