The Hamptons enjoyed an impressive real estate run during the first half of 2014, with numbers up in almost every category and virtually across the board. Among the more impressive areas of growth was Hampton Bays, where the number of home sales was up more than 50% over the first half of last year, and the total home sales volume leaped more than 150% in the same period.
“There’s a changing dynamic in Hampton Bays,” says Kimberly Scarola, Developer, Ponquogue Manor, sitting on the site where her part of that dynamic is coming to life. “It’s a place where a lot of people who can choose to live anywhere are choosing to live.”
Whether it’s The New York Times writing about maximizing second-home investments “west of the Canal” or the growing number of watersport enthusiasts on their Waverunners and boats crisscrossing the waters beneath Ponquogue Bridge, the message that Hampton Bays is a market on the move has never been more evident.
“If you drive around Hampton Bays, you see the signs,” says Scarola. “The world has changed its vision of Hampton Bays. People are taking old beach cottages and knocking them down and building mansions on the water, because you really can’t get those things in Southampton or Sagaponack anymore—and it won’t be long before you can’t get them in Hampton Bays anymore.”
Instead of mansions, Scarola is looking to other market demands and opportunities— “lock-and-leave, people who no longer want the bigger home with the pool and the landscaping and the maintenance but don’t want to leave the Hamptons”—in developing Ponquogue Manor, which she calls “entry level Hamptons waterfront.” The project will comprise 24 townhouses, from one to three bedrooms, with 21 different floor plans in a gated community just north of Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, with high-end amenities—concierge service, onsite private marina—addressing the demands of a Hamptons clientele. Then there’s the canal and, beyond, the same waters that lure homeowners to properties along Dune Road.
Great Peconic Bay, Tiana Bay, Flanders Bay, Shinnecock Bay, the ocean of Ponquogue Beach—the local waters are just one part of the Hampton Bays appeal. “I was speaking to someone the other day, and she was taking Jill Zarin to look at houses in Hampton Bays,” Scarola says. “You can be close to New York, and we have everything. It’s paradise for boating. You can grab your nets and go crabbing. You have places like Rumba, which has become a destination.”
Scarola’s passion for Hampton Bays is personal as well as professional, as she has owned a home there since the 1990s. As she has overseen the development of Ponquogue Manor, a personal ideal has been a driving force. “There’s an ad that recently came out for Acura: there’s a voice in the background, a punk voice, singing ‘My Way,’ and the commercial starts out with these nerdy tech guys designing this car they really want to build, and going on the test track, and all these scenes showing how much they care about building this thing. And at the end they show the car, and it’s cool, and the catchline is ‘We built this for us, but you can have one.’ And that’s how we feel.”
That sentiment also plays into a concern sometimes heard on the East End, that new construction can overlook local heritage. It’s a point she says they have been embracing at Ponquogue Manor by incorporating the history of the area once known as Good Ground. They turned to architect Bernard Zyscovich from Miami “because we wanted a fresh approach,” she says, “but it was also very important that he capture elements unique to this environment”—design elements like eyebrow windows, trimming evocative of the crown-molding look of days gone by, real cedar siding separated in the traditional way. The vision was to create a building that looks “as if it been here for 300 years. We used architectural cues and hints indigenous to this area but in a contemporary execution.”
Blending the past with a vision for the future. It’s a concept not allocated solely to a single development, but to the Hampton Bays area as a whole. “When you do a project like this, it’s transformative. It changes the whole community, the whole perspective of the community,” Scarola notes. “There’s a new spec house across the street, other houses being renovated—a rising tide does lift all ships.”