Joseph D. Kestenbaum, who tore down the 80-year-old castle-like La Ronda mansion, is building a $5 million stone-veneer, three-story house with an indoor hockey rink to replace it.
Gone for good are the towering turrets, stained glass, and "great hall" room constructed in Bryn Mawr by leather-tanning magnate Percival Foerderer 80 years ago. In their place, according to plans filed with Lower Merion Township, will be the basement rink, a solarium, a 10-foot built-in video screen and a cathedral ceiling in one bedroom.
There is also a basement "hall of fame" in the plans for the new manor, which is called Ten Thirty - even though the township has reassigned the property's address from 1030 Mount Pleasant Road to 945 Roscommon Road because of a driveway rearrangement.
It is unclear what the hall of fame would contain. Neither Kestenbaum nor his architect, Michael Visich, returned calls yesterday.
The plans, which were filed with the township under a copyright, illustrate what a phalanx of construction workers is now in the middle of building after the lengthy controversy over tearing down the historic house. The first framework of what appears to be an outbuilding has sprung up, just yards from an immense hole in the earth that could have been a moat if the castle-like structure designed by famed architect Addison Mizner were still standing.
Instead, neighbors are now shrugging at the new construction. "The big house is gone, so what more can you say?" said neighbor John McKelvey. "It's just a new house like there is everywhere, and that's just how it is."
The new house is no common cottage, for the record: It's 16,675 square feet, plus a pool house and detached garage. Just getting the building permit for it cost Kestenbaum $5,393. Building out the electrical and other utilities is estimated to run more than $500,000, according to the permit. But Ten Thirty also comes in under La Ronda's size of 18,000 square feet, and has a third of the old estate's 21 bedrooms.
For Kestenbaum, a high-powered private investor, Ten Thirty will be a place to raise his five children amid the Main Line's reasonably placid suburbs. Until his plans to raze La Ronda provoked a public ruckus over the summer on the loss of a landmark, the neighborhood was lightly trafficked.
Kestenbaum, who has previously declined interviews, also has yet to reach out demonstrably to many of his future neighbors. He bought the property from behind a corporate front last winter, and spoke publicly about his plans only through an attorney and publicist.
Accordingly, the president and CEO of ELB Capital Management of Philadelphia and Marsh Hawk Capital Management of Plymouth Meeting seems to have a low profile around his new digs.
Neighbors know what has been reported: that he and wife Sharon are active members of Congregation Har Zion in Penn Valley, that they have a large family, and that Ten Thirty, when completed, will be a substantial upgrade from their current 6,400-square-foot home in Penn Valley.
A builder has told several neighbors that the new house will take two years to finish. According to the filed plans, its structure will be as different from La Ronda's as its era dictates: Where the old house was built on a concrete-and-steel framework, the new home will have a few inches of stonework over Tyvek stucco wrap, building paper, and drywall. Passersby will see the house's steep, pointed roof, two towering chimneys, bay windows, and mahogany front door with limestone trim. And among other modern touches, there will be air-conditioning and an elevator.
One neighbor, John Amsterdam, was out walking his dog when he ran into Kestenbaum and Visich in the street, looking at where the house will rise on the six-acre lot that cost Kestenbaum $6 million to buy and an estimated $300,000 to raze.
Amsterdam described his new neighbor as affable and good-humored. But Amsterdam, like other neighbors, said he knew little about the house Kestenbaum is erecting on the historic sod.
"Hopefully, it'll be a very nice addition," Amsterdam said. "You don't pay $6 million plus the cost of demolition and put up an inexpensive home."