During the depth of the 2009 financial crisis, James Barnett, an asset manager and serial entrepreneur decided it was the right time to buy a lot and build his dream home in South Florida.
In 2010, the Canadian native found a perfect full-acre parcel on a peninsula in Fort Lauderdale—a town known as the “Venice of America” for its abundance of canals. It was owned by Wayne Huizenga, a prominent businessman, sports team owner and philanthropist, who has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion. Mr. Barnett paid $7.64 million for the property, and last month he put it on the market for $39 million.
Soon after purchasing it in 2010, Mr. Barnett assembled a star team to design and build a Venetian mansion on the property by demolishing the old house and elevating the ground. Jeffrey Smith of Smith Architectural Group, who is a trained classical Venetian architect, is behind the overall design, while other team members include interior designer Bunny Williams, builder Grey Marker of the Marker Group and Sanchez & Maddux for landscaping.
“It is very gratifying to see the final outcome after five years of planning, building, adjusting, tweaking, refining, and now living in this dream estate,” Mr. Barnett said.
The end result is a two-story mansion with a total of 17,352 square feet of living space, comprising seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms and five half bathrooms.
Dubbed Bella Fortuna (meaning “Beautiful Fortune” in both Spanish and Italian), the home was inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice, according to the listing with Katrina Campins of Katrina Campins Group.
“The award-winning intricate architectural components of Bella Fortuna surpass those of any estate that I’ve seen in my career,” Ms. Campins said. Among the awards the estate has won is an Addison Mizner Award for Craftsmanship.
The estate has 750 feet of water frontage, a private 350-foot concrete dock, a swimming pool, manicured gardens, a four-car garage, outdoor entertaining area and space for a tennis/basketball court, the listing said.
What Mr. Barnett appreciates most is the wide water view. “To wake up and see the wide water view from every room, starting with my master bedroom and home office, is always breathtaking,” said Mr. Barnett. His many professional ventures spread from real estate development to medical treatment to wearable technology.
Over the last couple of years, he has hosted many guests on the property, and they’re always amazed at the unique finishes in the house and specimen plants through the estate, Mr. Barnett said.
He built the home with his late wife, who died of breast cancer before the house was actually completed. He is remarried and plans to build another new home in Fort Lauderdale with the help of starchitect Jeffrey Smith.
“I built Bella Fortuna with the intention of living out the many decades left in my life, so selling now was a tough decision,” he said. “Whoever is lucky enough to become the second owner will fall in love with this slice of paradise.”
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