The Latest Luxury Amenity You Need
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The Latest Luxury Amenity You Need

High-end developments are looking to incorporate mental health into wellness programming.

By John Scott Lewinski
Mon, Jul 12, 2021 10:56amGrey Clock 4 min

The luxury and resort real estate developments of the 21st century are in buyers’ heads, whether they realize it or not.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the trend of applying psychological elements to property layouts accelerated. Meanwhile, some venues moved to employing various types of therapists as a resource for well-heeled residents looking to ease their re-entry to daily public life.

Contractors are busy these days finishing custom homes at the golf community of Seven at Desert Mountain in Arizona. The aptly named seventh community built within the Scottsdale hill country complex came together with planners like Arnaldo Cocuzza, director of athletics and the Sonoran Spa at Desert Mountain, expecting the pandemic to heighten home buyers’ desire to socialize after months of sporadic lockdowns.

“During the pandemic, mental well-being became a major concern,” Mr. Cocuzza said. “A key to addressing mental health is socialization. With this increasing awareness that being around others is critical to mental health, we continue to add outdoor activities for our residents. Coming to a scheduled event or participating as part of a class or a group fosters a sense of belonging that is so essential.”

Seven Desert Mountain buyer Jason Yetter of Colorado explained he and his family weren’t necessarily checking psychology textbooks when they went home shopping, but they were seeking the right mood or “vibe.”

“We wanted to be among people—to have to engage and socialize with like-minded people,” he said. “We don’t want to be isolated.”

Such attitudes mark a change from pandemic days when many regions of the U.S. saw an increase in home sales “behind the gate,” as those with means looked to escape the risk of infection. In these more neighborly times, developers look to experts to help them make residents feel cared for and comfortable.

Dr. Megan Lewis is the VeraVia Director of Behavioral Health at the Park Hyatt Aviara and the adjoining residences in Carlsbad, California. Ms. Lewis offers a variety of services from a series of individual behavioral health and psychiatric-related consultations to behavioral wellness workshops. VeraVia clients pay a $3,000-per-person deposit when they book a service package, with the remaining balance due 40 days prior to treatment. Offerings range from three-day, $3,500 “Reboot Express” tuneups to $9,000-per-week, four week stays. VeraVia does not accept insurance.

Though there was a time when properties offering psychiatric services would’ve seemed strange, Ms. Lewis believes today’s problems forced people to realize the importance of mental health.

“Especially as a result of the pandemic, mental health has moved more to the forefront of people’s minds, as we saw individuals who have never had mental health issues struggle” Ms. Lewis said. “We are seeing more large communities in various industries employ a mental health professional in-house to make mental healthcare more accessible.”

Whether a resident lives at a luxury residence or at a resort-themed vacation home, Ms. Lewis said those who never sought out mental health treatment before might be more willing to try it where the approach is holistic and focused on connecting the mind, body and spirit. She witnessed this trend before Covid-19, but the pandemic strengthened it.

“I believe the trend will continue even as the pandemic and the impact of it resolves,” she said. “It is more accepted now than ever before in history for people to admit or share the fact that they receive mental healthcare.”

On the other side of the country, in the heart of Manhattan at the Four Seasons Residences and Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, Nicole Hernandez serves as a resident healer and clinical hypnotherapist. She offers modern hypnosis therapies combined with somatic healing and coaching.

“Our digital lifestyle, paired with the pandemic, forced the hospitality and real estate industries to consider wellness services that reconnect us with our humanity,” Ms. Hernandez explained. “ I help high achievers improve their lives in various ways, from assisting golfers in improving their focus and confidence to assisting executive women in overcoming people-pleasing tendencies.”

Ms. Hernandez charges $285 per session for Four Seasons clients, with all meetings taking place in-person. Insurance is not accepted. In private practice, she only works remotely for $195 to $250 per appointment. Even though she maintains that virtual business, she sees the reliance on technology before and during the pandemic as a factor in many of her clients’ feelings of disconnection.

“How often do you see people out with friends or family, and at least one person is on their phone?” she asks. “We aren’t listening or engaging with each other in a meaningful way. A feeling of connection and belonging is a basic human need that’s not met in our 24/7 digital world. Healers, therapists and wellness practitioners fill this gap.”

Ms. Hernandez thinks people are more willing to participate in self-discovery experiences now after the pandemic forced them to look at their lives.

“Mental and physical health have become top priorities, and many people want more from their home life or vacations than just cocktails, art programs and pools,” Hernandez added. “They want to experience self-reflection and inner transformations to optimize their lifestyles.”

Doug Chambers is the principal co-founder (with Cary Collier) of BluSpas Inc. The Montana-based company provides consulting, design and planning in wellness concepts and spa management services at a variety of communities and destinations. While the firm’s role is making recommendations with spa services, Mr. Chambers says they’ve seen their clients become much more receptive of programming that falls within the general mental wellness umbrella.

“Our experience is that offerings in the meditation and mindfulness categories are nearly assumed components of programming for most of our projects,” Mr. Chambers said. “Additionally, we are developing sleep-related offerings, including sleep coaching, for some of our current projects.”

Mr. Chambers said the mindfulness category was well-received in the resort environment, but the pandemic was an accelerant for the trend. He said traditional counseling and therapy services are more complicated offerings for properties due to staffing requirements and the need to find professionals with very particular skill sets.

Back in San Diego, Ms. Lewis didn’t see those complications holding back the emergence of psychological therapies offered as amenities.

“Now, there is a growing public understanding that everyone can benefit in some way from mental health care,” she said, “even the most high-functioning individuals at the most luxurious destinations.”

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 11, 2021.


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They Were About to Move In When the Ocean Almost Washed Away Their New Home

Gail and Ron Fink’s property in Jupiter Inlet Colony sustained major damage during an unusually windy day. ‘The whole backyard is shot. All the landscaping is gone.’

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Gail and Ron Fink weren’t home the day the ocean swallowed their backyard.

The Florida couple, who are in their 70s, were a few miles away on Feb. 6—an unusually blustery day in the Sunshine State—as waves pounded their beachfront property in Jupiter Inlet Colony, sweeping sand, dirt and trees out to sea. When it was all over, the Finks’ newly-built, roughly 10,000-square-foot home was intact; so too was their free-form swimming pool, improbably balanced on exposed concrete-and-steel pilings.

“That’s what saved the whole thing,” said Ron, founder of an air- and-water purification company. “The pilings are holding up the house and pool.”

Gail and Ron Fink recently finished building a roughly 10,000-square-foot home. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Drone footage and pictures from local photographers and the Finks’ builder show the severity of the destruction, which left their pool suspended in the air, with pipes protruding from the earth. Town officials said erosion claimed 7 to 10 feet of sand and created steep drop-offs in front of about half-dozen homes, including one belonging to Kid Rock , the rapper-turned-country rocker, who paid $3.2 million for the property in 2012. Conair heiress Babe Rizzuto also sustained damage to her property down the street, which she bought for $6.3 million in 2015 and currently has listed for $22.5 million, according to Zillow.  Neither responded to requests for comment.

But the Finks house, located just past the end of a granite revetment wall—a kind of sea wall—bore the brunt of the heavy wind and waves.


“The whole backyard is shot. All the landscaping is gone,” said Ron. Also gone are fully matured Palm trees and an ipe-wood deck. “It’s out floating in the ocean someplace.” Ron is self-insured and the repair work will be quite expensive. undefined

A New Jersey native, Ron is an engineer by training who worked at nuclear-testing sites in California and Nevada before moving to Florida in the 1980s. He is the founder of RGF Environmental Group, which makes air- water-and food-purification systems.

For almost 40 years, the Finks—who have three adult children and eight grandchildren—have lived in Admirals Cove, a gated community in Jupiter about 5 miles from their new house. They paid $180,000 for the Admirals Cove lot in 1987 and built a roughly 6,000-square-foot house, Ron said. The Finks also own homes in the Cayman Islands and Bahamas.

Until now, the Finks have lived in Admirals Cove, about 5 miles from their new house. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Ron said they began looking for property in Jupiter Inlet Cove years ago. “It’s a neat place, just a closed little colony right on the ocean, low key and quiet,” he said.

About 20 miles north of Palm Beach, Jupiter Inlet Colony is at the southern tip of Jupiter Island. The town, founded around 1959, has approximately 240 homes and is surrounded on three sides by water—the Atlantic Ocean, Jupiter Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway. Long a destination for wealthy homeowners, homes in Jupiter Inlet Colony tend to trade for between $2 million and $5 million, although one sold for $18.6 million in January, according to real-estate brokerage Redfin. Last year, a home on the Intracoastal sold for $21.4 million, a record for the town.

In 2020, the Finks paid $4.9 million for a vacant beachfront lot and subsequently built a coastal-style house with a copper-and shake-style roof, covered loggia, pool and outdoor fire pit. “You know, it’s kind of a dream home,” Ron said. “We have built quite a few homes, but this is the end of the line for us, hopefully the last one.”

He said the property originally belonged to the singer Perry Como, one of the town’s first residents. A prior owner demolished Como’s house, and when the Finks bought it, there were concrete-and-steel pilings sticking out of the ground.

Ron Fink said he never removed about 60 pilings, he simply added roughly 30 more. “Now I’m glad I did,” he said. (Pilings are based on the design of a house, so Ron retained some pilings that he didn’t necessarily need.)

John Melhorn of design-build firm Thomas Melhorn, which built the house, said the Finks were a final review away from obtaining a certificate of occupancy when the backyard was destroyed. “They were right there at the goal line,” he said.

The Finks’ house and pool are standing on about 90 concrete-and-steel pilings. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Melhorn said the erosion began in late October amid unusually high winds and ocean swell. During the first week of February, sand beneath a row of sea grapes that stabilized the dunes between the house and ocean began to wash away. By the evening of Feb. 6, the plantings disappeared. The yard was gone by the next morning.

Melhorn said a pre-existing, low wall between the ocean and house—described as a cinder-block retaining wall on land surveys—also washed away, as did a walkway and steps to the beach. But he said the 2-foot-high wall was less of a retaining wall and more like a curb between the street and sidewalk. In this case, a prior owner used it to hold sea grapes back from encroaching on the property. The Finks replaced the wall with decorative stone, now lost to the ocean. An outdoor fire pit is still there, cantilevered over the ocean. “We tried to pull as many things out as we saw the erosion coming, but we lost a lot,” Melhorn said.

In Florida, erosion is increasing because of more frequent, more severe storms and sea-level rise, said Cheryl Hapke, a research professor at the University of South Florida and the chair of the Florida Coastal Mapping Program. But she said it isn’t just hurricane-level storms that cause major damage. “One thing I have found about barrier islands [like Jupiter Inlet Colony] is that sometimes a series of smaller events can have as big an impact as a major hurricane,” she said. “But people get caught off guard. It’s something they don’t think of.”

In Jupiter Inlet Colony, longtime residents said this month’s erosion is the worst the area has seen in years, possibly ever.

Mayor Ed Hocevar, who has lived there for 17 years, said it has been a particularly cool and challenging winter with an abnormal number of Nor’easters. On Feb. 6, local news channels warned of high winds, with gusts between 40 and 50 miles an hour. (There were also reports of an earthquake off the coast that week, causing high waves.)

Since the 1980s, Jupiter Inlet Colony has had a granite rock revetment wall that extends from the northern end of the community past 11 oceanfront homes. “But we’ve got 28 homes along the beachfront, so it isn’t complete,” Hocevar said. “Where the wall ended is where the significant damage occurred.” Hocevar said he doesn’t know why the wall wasn’t completed, although local lore is that homeowners building the wall ran out of money.

Last week, the town hired a local mining company to bring in 7,000 tons of sand to replace what washed away. Hocevar said it would cost about $500,000, which will come out of the town’s reserve fund. Long term, he said, extending the revetment wall isn’t a strong possibility.

Hapke, the coastal geology expert, said that in recent decades, sea walls and hardened structures have fallen out of favor as scientists discovered they are detrimental to the environment around them. “Storm water wants to flow, so it will redirect water to the area without a sea wall,” she said, adding that the most ideal long-term solution is to move homes away from the coastline.


Hocevar, 67, who has been mayor of Jupiter Inlet Colony for about a month, said the town is working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection on its response. He said the DEP’s recommendation, should erosion like this occur again, is to bring in more sand. Hocevar emphasised that the community is rallying together. “Think about it as a fortress and your wall has been breached,” he said. “You want to protect your neighbourhood and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Holly Meyer Lucas of Compass, who represented the seller when the Finks purchased their property, said Jupiter Inlet Colony is a “special little enclave” where sales exploded during Covid. “Listings sell after a day or sell off-market,” she said.

Lucas said the consensus among local real-estate agents is that property values will hold, despite the erosion. “I think this is a really rare, weird, fluky event,” she said. “I’ve sold everywhere up and down the coast and I’ve never heard of anything like this.”

The couple were close to getting their certificate of occupancy for the newly-built home. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Babe Rizzuto, whose house is two doors down from the Finks, listed her house for $24.5 million in December 2023 and cut the price to $22.5 million on Feb. 6, according to Zillow.

“She’s going to continue to sell,” said Milla Russo of Illustrated Properties, who is marketing the property with her husband, Andrew Russo. “Even though the timing isn’t great, it is what it is.”

Russo said there has been erosion in the past, and during hurricanes residents of Jupiter Inlet Colony are the first in the area to evacuate. But in general, people are not preoccupied with the weather. “Maybe because we live here, when the hurricanes come, we all have hurricane parties. We go to people’s homes and we barbecue and grill. Of course we’re careful and we lock up and all that, but weather is weather,” she said. “We’ve never been terribly scared.”

(The Russos were also involved in selling the Fink property. However, in 2020 the closing agent on the deal, Florida-based Eavenson, Fraser & Lunsford, PLLC, sued Milla Russo and Illustrated Properties as part of a commission dispute. The seller, Michael Cantor’s Range Road Developers, was named as a defendant and cross-plaintiff in the suit, in which a judge ruled in favor of Eavenson, court records show. Milla Russo declined to comment on the suit. Eavenson declined to comment beyond the judge’s findings and Cantor did not respond to requests for comment.)

Ron was also matter-of-fact about the state of beachfront living. Bring a life jacket, he jokingly told a photographer who inquired last week about taking his picture.

However, the Finks are facing weeks of costly repairs. Although the town is bringing in sand to replace the decimated beachfront, the couple is self-insured and will be on the hook for the cost of rebuilding. Several major home insurers have pulled out of Florida, and Ron said insurance on the house would have cost $100,000 a year. Now, he estimated they could face about $1 million worth of repair work. “We gotta eat it,” he said.

The couple, who was supposed to move into the house this month, has put those plans on hold—for now. An engineer recently inspected the property and deemed the house safe, Ron said. “We’re doing wallpaper today,” he said. “We can put it back together again.” The patio and pool area, meanwhile, are roped off while the area underneath is backfilled with sand.

Ron said being near the ocean makes it worthwhile. “I just love the ocean, we both do. It’s important to us,” he said. “It isn’t easy to look at, but I’ve been through a lot worse.”


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