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Villa Maria back on the market

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Beth Young   Jul 17, 2008 4:58 PM

The 14.6-acre Villa Maria estate in Water Mill, formerly home to a Dominican Sisters convent, is back on the market—this time for a reported $100 million—three years after the bayfront property was sold to a couple who had hoped to renovate the houses on the property.

Peter Huffine, a senior vice president at the Corcoran Group in Bridgehampton, confirmed Thursday that he is representing the owners, Vincent and Louise Camuto, in the sale of the property. He said he could not reveal any details regarding the offering beyond indicating that the asking price, while high, is open to discussion.

The Camutos, who live in Greenwich, Connecticut, purchased the property in the summer of 2005 for $35 million. They said at the time that they did not plan to live at the estate, but rather to renovate the 21,000-square-foot main house and three guest cottages, and perhaps sell the property in the future.

The white stucco Beaux Art mansion—it has 12 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a ballroom and an institutional kitchen—had been used by the Dominican Sisters in the years leading up to the sale to Mr. Camuto as a non-denominational site for spiritual programs. It had become known as the Siena Spirituality Center. The Roman Catholic order, known as the Sisters of St. Dominic, had purchased the property in 1929.

Mr. Camuto, who could not be reached for comment, was a co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Nine West Group, a shoe manufacturer. He is now the chairman of the Camuto Group, a shoe design firm. Ms. Camuto is the creative director of the company.

Mr. Camuto owns at least three other properties in Southampton Town, including the former Woolworth estate on Gin Lane, a Tudor house that the couple renovated and that serves as their summer residence.

The Villa Maria property, which overlooks Mecox Bay, is currently assessed by Southampton Town at $33.7 million, and the property taxes were $148,000 this year.

Since their purchase of the property, the Camutos have done an extensive renovation of the property, Mr. Huffine said. Town records show that the couple received permission to build a tennis court, a swimming pool and fountain, a structural masonry wall and palisade, and a fence. They have also received permission to do an interior renovation of the gatehouse and rewire the buildings.

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