The Making of the Most Expensive Mansion in History

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The Making of the Most Expensive Mansion in History

On a hilltop in Bel Air, a 100,000-square-foot gigamansion is under construction, for no one in particular. The asking price—$500 million—would shatter records, but, as ridiculous as it sounds, in L.A.’s unbridled real-estate bubble, this house could be billed as a bargain.

High above Bel Air, Nile Niami is looking down on the tiny mansions of mere millionaires as he stands on a plywood platform that will soon be the roof deck of the house he’s selling for $500 million. When you expect a half billion dollars, everything has to scale up, including the views, and from this hilltop, they span 360 degrees—encompassing the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and, today, Niami’s Rolls-Royce Phantom convertible, parked in the driveway below. The 47-year-old developer is taking it all in . . . and explaining why he believes the property is not really so expensive when you think about it.

The home itself, when it’s finished in 2017, will have five swimming pools, a casino, a nightclub with a VIP area, a lounge with jellyfish tanks in lieu of walls and ceilings, and various other amenities that might seem excessive at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi. It will be more than 100,000 square feet, twice the size of the White House. So the price works out to about $5,000 per square foot, which, Niami notes, is less than half what several billionaires have paid for their casino-less Manhattan penthouses. “We have a very specific client in mind,” says Niami, who is wearing a slim-fitting polo shirt and a Breguet watch. “Someone who already has a $100 million yacht and has seven houses all over the world, in London and Dubai and wherever.”

Niami rarely gives interviews, which is perhaps a wise choice. Brusque, blunt, and palpably cologned, he isn’t one to make apologies about his new project’s size or price tag. “To be able to say that the biggest and the most expensive house in the world is here, that will be really good for L.A.,” he says. That’s not necessarily a universally shared sentiment. He’s been unpopular in Bel Air since last fall, when he sliced off the top of a hill in order to enhance the panoramic vistas on the four-acre lot. […]

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