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Keeping Up With the Joneses

By Margie Manning
St. Louis Business Journal
October 20-26, 1997

There are homes and there are HOMES. Dennis and Judith Jones of Jones Medical Industries Inc. are building one of the latter.

The 30.000-square-foot mansion they are constructing in Ladue at an estimated cost of $6.6 million includes nine bedrooms, nine full bathrooms, seven half bathrooms and a six-car garage, according to plans on file at the Ladue building department. There’s a wine cellar and an adjoining wine tasting room to house the Joneses’ 5,000-bottle cache of wine. And that’s just on the two floors above ground.

The basement will have a two-lane bowling alley, a racquetball court (Dennis Jones is an avid racquetball player), and exercise room, a theater, a dancing area, wet and dry saunas and a hot tub. An elevator will connect the three levels of the home.

Outside, there will be a pool and fountain, tennis courts and a wine garden. The façade was designed by architect Scott Krejci, of Gerst/Krejci Architects of St. Louis to resemble a French chateau.

People in the real estate and home building industries said it’s one of the biggest homes in the St. Louis area. Construction could take two years, according to home builders.

Those two years could be a bonanza for building firms. While Grotpeter Construction Co. is the general contractor, the Joneses are expected to hire subcontractors to install the many amenities, as well as for the grading, landscaping, patios, walks, drives irrigation, site lighting, fencing design and detail work.

Construction costs for custom homes generally range from $160 to $220 per square foot. But builders said the large number of special features in the Joneses’ home, including extensive use of marble and limestone, likely would push the price toward the high end of the spectrum.

For comparison, a new home built in a subdivision would cost between $70 and 4200 per square foot. New homes are averaging about 3,000 square feet in the St. Louis area, according to Gene Reuther, general manager of the custom homes division at The Jones Co.
At 30,000 square feet, the Jones home is not only 10 times larger than the average new home here, but it-s closer to the size of a typical Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore.
The Jones home is about three quarters the size of the Seattle mansion just completed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. That 40,000-square-foot structure was estimated to cost $50 million.

The $6.1 million construction costs for the Jones home do not include the price of installing the amenities. For instance, a two-lane bowling alley, equipped with automatic ball returns, would run about $70,000, said Vern Santens, owner of Celucoat Bowling Supplies Inc, in University City.

Bob Heil, owner of Heil Sound in Fairview Heights, said a home theater system would range between $30,000 and $40,000.

The cost of installing a residential elevator is around $20,000 to $25,000, said Craig Lindquist, president of Construction Contract Service Group.

People close to the project said the home also would include a mother-in-law suite and rooms for live-in help.

The Joneses, who currently live in a condominium, have declined to discuss their new home in any detail, as has Les Grotpeter, president of Grotpeter Construction, and Krejci, the architect.

But in a brief interview, Judith Jones said the house would blend history with a modern structure.

The couple bought the nearly 4 acres near Clayton and Warson roads on which the home sits for $1.1 million from Jack and Shirley Phelan in July 1996, according to St. Louis County records. The purchase included a 14-room home that had been built around an historic log cabin, dating back to 1832.

They tore down the home and a small caretaker’ quarters that were on the site and removed the existing pool.

“But we saved the stone from the two fireplaces in the log cabin and some of the logs, and we will incorporate those into our wine cellar. We’re trying to keep some of the history, but in a new structure,” Judith Jones said.

Dennis Jones, 58, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Jones Medical, and his wife Judith, 56, who is executive vice president at the company, are among the wealthiest people in St. Louis.

In addition to their compensation packages---Dennis earned $477,599 last year and Judith earned $237,518, according to the company’s latest proxy—they control nearly 4.5 million shares of Jones Medical, or about 16 percent of the total stock outstanding. Their holdings are worth almost $150 million.

Shares of Jones Medical, which makes and markets drugs, vitamins and food supplements, gained 264 percent in 1995 and an other 240 percent last year. So far this year, it’s down 12 percent, closing Wednesday at $31,875.

Many people who have struck it rich in the bull stock market are sinking their money into luxury homes, said Kent Higginbotham, president of Higginbotham Brothers, on of a handful of custom home builders in the area.

“There’s a lot of business for large custom homes. I guess the economy is driving it. I know everyone is pretty busy these days,” Higginbotham said.

The Jones Co.’ Reuther, who also chairs the Custom Home Builders Council of the Ho9me Builders Association, said about 150 to 250 custom homes are built in the area every year.

Wine cellars, exercise rooms and theaters are fairly common amenities in custom home. Racquetball courts are less common, and bowling alleys are pretty unusual for the St. Louis area, Reuther said.

Link the Joneses, people who want a custom home increasingly are turning to established neighborhoods, where they can purchase land and on older home that can be demolished.

“For a long time, it was go west, go west, I think we’ve hit that outer boundary and people are starting to come back,” Reuther said.

He’s said he also has noticed an increased demand for home offices, fully wired to connect with an executive’s corporate office via computer modem and fax.

And like Dennis Jones, who is a wine connoisseur, more people are bringing their personal interests into their homes.

“They are going to take their current hobbies and figure out a way to incorporate them into their home. It just depends on what the want to spend,” Reuther said.

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