Two lots in Kennedy Aquinnah estate put up for sale

Red Gate Farm fronts on Squibnocket Pond and the Atlantic. — File photo by Susan Safford

Two of the most exclusive undeveloped building lots on Martha’s Vineyard hit the real estate market with a splash this week.

Caroline Kennedy and her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, owners of the 377-acre Red Gate Farm overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Aquinnah, have placed a 54-acre lot with an asking price of $25 million and a 40-acre lot with an asking price of $20 million on the market.

The two lots are part of a subdivision estate plan for the property once owned by Ms. Kennedy’s late mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and enjoyed by many members of the extended Kennedy family.

The remote property has long been admired for the privacy it provided the Kennedy family. The one access road is off Moshup Trail and distinguished by a red gate. The main houses are surrounded by acres of rolling hills, dunes, and coastal heathlands. The estate is bordered by Squibnocket Pond to the southeast.

The listing agent is Deborah Hancock, owner of Hancock Real Estate in Chilmark. Ms. Hancock could not be reached for comment.

The listing sheet for the pond-front parcel says it provides “incredible views of Squibnocket Pond, with further views over towering sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. This property consists of 39.51 acres, with over 1,000 feet of frontage on the pond and over 1,000 feet of frontage on the stream connecting to Menemsha Pond.”

The ocean front parcel is described as “simply magnificent … Rolling dunes, Squibnocket Pond views, Atlantic Ocean views … over 50 acres of beachfront land abutting 60 acres of protected beachfront.”

Location, location

News that a portion of the Kennedy estate is for sale attracted the kind of free national and international publicity that a real estate broker only dreams about — unless the client is a Kennedy.

The headline in the online edition of the Daily Mail, based in England, posed a question: “Fancy being neighbors with America’s first family? Caroline Kennedy selling off two Martha’s Vineyard plots for a cool $45 million.”

The Daily Mail also reported, “Martha’s Vineyard is an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It is well known as a popular destination for the rich and famous during the summer months.

“Politicians and celebrities known to regularly visit the island, refered to as ‘Hollywood East,’ include U.S. President Barack Obama; former president Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; comedian and talk show host David Letterman; Bill Murray; Quincy Jones and Meg Ryan.”

Closer to home, The Boston Herald broke the story Thursday in its gossip column, Inside Track with the headline, “Be Caroline Kennedy’s neighbor … for $45M!”

Inside Track columnist Gayle Fee asked, “Does Caroline Kennedy need a little walkin’ around money if, as expected, she packs up and heads for Tokyo as President Obama’s ambassador to Japan?”

Ms. Fee quoted a description of the property. “‘Simply magnificent is the only way to describe this pristine oceanfront parcel,’ says the listing. ‘Rolling dunes, Squibnocket Pond views, Atlantic Ocean views … a blank slate for your dream home.’ And did we mention the only neighbor is the former first daughter and her fam?”

Careful thought

The groundwork for listing the properties was completed in April 2006 when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Island’s powerful regional permitting body, approved the Kennedy Red Gate Farm estate subdivision plan.

At the time, Red Gate Farm, formerly owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, consisted of 31 separate parcels on 366 acres off Moshup Trail, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Squibnocket Pond. The approved plan created seven large lots, to include the 106-acre family homestead lot, three equal-sized lots for the Kennedy-Schlossberg children, the two lots now listed, which could be sold to pay taxes and/or expenses, and one lot declared forever non-buildable, to preserve the coastal environment.

The MVC reviewed the estate plan as a development of regional impact (DRI) because of the property’s size. Throughout their review, the commissioners struggled with defining their oversight role in regulating development and addressing environmental concerns and habitat protection on the property years into the future, in concert with strict regulations already imposed by Aquinnah’s town boards and state agencies.

The MVC approved the plan, 10-2, with conditions as offered by Ms. Kennedy, and the additional condition of their own regarding wastewater systems and further subdivision and development.

Ms. Kennedy thanked the commissioners for their careful review. “We put a lot of care and effort into this plan, and a lot of thought. I believe it is such a special piece of property, and I know my children feel the same way. Obviously that sentiment is shared across the Island, so that is something that we’re very conscious of,” Ms. Kennedy said. “We do feel that we are stewards of this property and hope to be very happy here for many generations, and this plan really is a critical component in our ability to take care of the land.”

Ms. Kennedy also offered to donate $100,000 to the Aquinnah Affordable Housing Committee and contribute up to $15,000 to the Mass Estuaries Project, a sum equivalent to Aquinnah’s share of the cost.