Live Long and Prosper in This Trekkie’s $30 Million Florida Mansion
(Bloomberg) -- When Marc Bell listed his 27,000-square-foot Florida mansion in 2014, “it got a bad rap,” he said.
It wasn’t the price that did it—$35 million at the time—or the number of wet bars (three), or the pool that was outfitted with an underwater light show; it was the Star Trek–themed home theater. “There are only two rooms that are Star Trek–related,” he said, a note of exasperation in his voice. “And one room isn’t just Star Trek, it’s also sci-fi.” That didn’t stop news organizations around the world from picking up the listing and calling it the “Star Trek House,” but it might have gotten in the way of his selling it.
Three years after initially listing the house, in the gated community of Princeton Estates in Boca Raton, he’s dropped the price to $29.95 million, listing it with Nestler Poletto Sotheby's International Realty, and is bent on emphasizing its non-intergalactic qualities. “The house is Mediterranean in style on the outside,” he said. “It’s very classic on the inside, and the rooms are oversized.”
From the start, though, this was a project that hinged, by Bell’s account, on his own sense of whimsy. After paying about $3 million for a house he discovered was riddled with mold in 2002, and then another $3 million for the adjoining house, he knocked them both down and began building a mansion straight out of his childhood fantasies. “I grew up in a home where there was a living room we were forbidden to go into because it had white carpets,” said Bell. “And the dining room was off-limits, too. And I thought: I’m not going to be that parent. I want it to be fun.”
By virtually any measure, Bell can consider the house a mission accomplished. By the time he moved, in 2006-07, he’d designed a 9-bedroom, 10-full-bath, 7-half-bath home replete with a video gaming room, an arcade room, themed bedrooms, a pool fed by a waterfall, a giant outdoor chess set, and a basketball court.
Adults will also find themselves in a house built for their (or at least, their host’s) entertainment. Along with those three bars (“You can never be too far from a drink,” he said), the house is stocked with 3,000 bottles of alcohol, only half of which are wine. The rest, he said, is liquor. “I never want anybody to tell me I can’t make a drink. I always want to make sure that we have everything anyone could ask for, and my friends pride themselves on proving me wrong.” One friend gave the house another name: Bar Bell.
But the house isn’t just a speak-easy—there’s also a formal dining room, a breakfast nook, a kitchen area, and a massive kitchen, because “no matter how big a house is, I realized that everyone’s just going to congregate in the kitchen,” Bell said. Other rooms are multipurpose. “The living room can turn into a master dining room, except on Halloween, when we turn it into a cemetery,” he said. “We decorate the living room pretty much every month, depending on the holiday.”
Twenty Years of Work
The arcade room is stocked with restored titles from 1978 to 1982, a period Bell called “the most significant and transformative years in video game technology.” The games aren’t for sale—at least, not technically: “If you want to double the price of the house, then we can have that conversation,” he said. Collecting them has “been 20 years of work.”
Then there’s the movie theater, which has a 10-foot-wide screen and seats 11. “We actually designed the theater before we built the house, and it took us so long we ended up finishing the theater after the house was done,” he said. “It’s acoustically perfect, and the tech keeps getting better.”
The publicity the theater received wasn’t ideal, but on the other hand, it had some ancillary benefits. “George Takei came down for a visit to see it, and Leonard Nimoy called,” Bell said. “But people label the house ‘Star Trek,’ and it’s anything but.”
Still, he vigorously disputes the notion that the house’s eccentricities have in any way been a deterrent to potential buyers. “We had a buyer!” he said. “But my kids were much younger back then, and they had a rebellion: They wanted to stay there through high school, and after a lot of tears and crying, I finally caved. I was like, ‘OK, OK, we’ll stay.’”
All of the themed rooms, he said, are only superficially to his own taste: “Take out all the stuff, the video games and pool tables—my wife calls it my crap, I call it my stuff—but take that out and it could be a gym, or a nightclub, or a yoga studio.” Even the movie theater could be easily modified: “You can change it to an ‘Old Western’ theme just by changing the wall coverings.”
He’s selling the house for $5 million less than its initial asking price, he said, because he wants a sale to happen fast: “I have a window of time where my kids and my wife all say it’s OK to move. I don’t want to lose that window.”