Sporting Good Times at Newport Beach Club
by janice o’leary
Upscale, gated communities have taken off around the country. But the majority have emerged in areas where land is plentiful, and if there’s a theme, it’s relegated to golf. So the arrival of a private estate community here in densely settled, parkland-preserved New England comes as something of a surprise. This fall O’Neill Properties launched The Newport Beach Club, a sister property to The Carnegie Abbey Club, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Developer Brian O’Neill, company founder and chairman, has become one of the nation’s leading experts on renovating brownfields, creating live, work, and play communities from former industrial sites, which is what he’s done here and at Carnegie Abbey. The Newport Beach Club is located on what used to be the Weyerhauser Lumber Yard—a 150-acre parcel right on the water. After years of approvals and remediation, the property was finally ready for construction. With Carnegie Abbey, he developed The Tower at Carnegie Abbey, a 22-story luxury condominium building on the site where Kaiser Aluminum once built aluminum cables.
Because of O’Neill’s presence through Carnegie Abbey since it launched in 2002, he has kept an eye on properties that might fit his vision, says Maureen Fraser, director of sales and marketing for O’Neill Properties Group, New England Division. “Such direct waterfront access is rare,” she says of the Newport club’s choice location. Indeed, for beach and fishing enthusiasts, it will have a resort-style beach with cabanas and a pool, as well as 120 boat slips large enough to accommodate boats up to 110 feet long.
Year-round amenities also abound: an indoor (and outdoor) Olympic-style equestrian facility with stables, as well as four heated Har-Tru tennis courts and two raised paddle tennis courts with a warming hut. Also of note: This community is designed for families as opposed to empty nesters, unlike many golf communities. Initially, the club’s sister property started as a gentleman’s club, says Fraser. “It wasn’t family-centric.” But that evolved, so in addition to world-class golf, Carnegie Abbey also began a kids’ camp and year-round sports clinics. “We’ve seen and reacted to how busy families have become,” says Fraser, “and evolved the club to go with that change in lifestyle.” She says her clientele’s biggest concern is needing activities to be right at their fingertips to maximize their limited family time.
Natalie Ward, general manager, who oversees all aspects of The Carnegie Abbey Club as well as future programming at The Newport Beach Club, says that safety and security are as important to the residents as the diverse athletics. “We have a private police force here,” she says. “The gate guards know everyone.” And travel within the Carnegie Abbey community is mostly by golf cart—teens can get licensed to drive one on the property at age 14.
Paul Lukez, an architect based in Somerville and author of Suburban Transformations, has studied the gated-community trend extensively. “They represent the desire to create a real sense of community, a place where you can feel safe and relax,” he says. “Such opportunities haven’t always been available in suburban contexts.” Often the sense of community arises from knowing the staff as well as having shared interests. “It’s a natural human tendency to want to be with people you feel comfortable with,” he adds.
Celebrity interior designer Ally Coulter couldn’t agree more. That’s why she and her family have a home at Carnegie Abbey and why she wanted to be involved with designing one of the model homes at The Newport Beach Club. “It’s the place where I can unpack, the kids can take art classes, ride horses, take a golf lesson, and I can see friends— then we can all meet for dinner at the restaurant on property,” she says. “It’s the only place they can do all of that in one day. It’s a real community. We know the servers and the tennis pro, plus all the other families and their kids. There’s a built-in safety with that.”
Coulter teamed with Ralph Lauren Home to create the interior for the Radiance model house, a 4,020-square-foot abode offered for $3.9 million. She wanted a beachy feel to reflect the home’s location on the coast and incredible views of the Newport harbor, but she also layered in cozy, warm elements like silk upholstery and cashmere throws for the year-round resident. Opting for a serene palette, she used mostly white, with sand colors on the walls, which pop against the darkwood flooring. “Black accents add a classic refinement to seaside living,” she says. A Roark hanging-pendant light in polished nickel is suspended in the great room, lending a Soho sophistication to the space. “There’s a harmony there,” she says, referring to her version of ideal luxurious interior design. “Refinement, a great flow through rooms, but also great comfort. Simplification is a luxury right now in our chaotic lives. You want a place that envelops you, so you feel safe, feel good.” The Newport Beach Club, 8 Newport Harbor Dr., Portsmouth, RI, 866-606-1111.
photography by Al Weems Photography