Mitchell Rales, a billionaire industrialist who four years ago bought Ringing Point, David Rockefeller Sr.'s former oceanfront estate on Mount Desert Island, is demolishing Rockfeller's former summer home and is believed to be planning a new mansion for the property. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Two abutting shorefront residential properties in the local village of Seal Harbor are getting significant upgrades totaling nearly $12 million.

One is the former property of David Rockefeller Sr., which was bought in 2018 by Mitchell Rales for $19 million. The other was owned by Robert Bass, who sold it last fall for $7.25 million. Rales and Bass — like Rockfeller, who died in 2017 — are billionaires who have invested heavily in oceanfront summer homes for themselves and their families in Mount Desert.

It’s not clear who is the owner of the second property being upgraded.

Rales had Rockefeller’s former home on the property, known as Ringing Point, demolished earlier this year, and has started work on what is expected to be several buildings on the 14-acre parcel.

The building currently under construction, however, is not a house, though it is considered a residential building. It will have two half bathrooms, a kitchen, and a dining area and living area separated by a two-sided fireplace — but it won’t have any bedrooms.

Rales, who owns a $24 million contemporary-design mansion that he had built in 2007 in nearby Northeast Harbor, intends to use the new building at Ringing Point for private gatherings with family and friends, according to documents on file with the town.

The building will measure 120 feet by 32 feet with an open floor design and a second-floor mezzanine overlooking the dining and living areas that will be used as a children’s play area. It also will have open decks overlooking Seal Harbor at the north and south ends of the building.

The projected construction cost of the building is $4.5 million.

A second building permit has been approved for a building foundation on the same property that will measure 90 feet by 18 feet. The building that will occupy the foundation is labeled as a “future guest house,” though Rales has not yet applied for a permit to build the structure itself. The foundation is projected to cost $250,000 alone.

In February 2019, roughly a year after he bought the former Rockfeller estate at 39 Cooksey Drive, Rales bought a house across the street at 46 Cooksey Drive for $2.8 million. That property is being used for parking by construction workers and as a staging area for materials being used across the street, but no building or demolition permits have been issued for this property.

Nearby, another property is also getting extensive upgrades. The new owner of Bass’ former property at 55 Cooksey Drive is listed in town records as East Point Property Holdings, a limited liability company based in Fort Worth, Texas. The entity is spending more than $6.5 million to renovate the property, including a 10,000 square foot house originally built in 1890.

The main house, dubbed East Point, “has been mostly unused over the past 25 years,” according to documents on file at the town’s code enforcement office.

All the windows and most exterior doors are being replaced, hardwood floors are being replaced, a new heating system is being installed and all nine bathrooms are being upgraded with new fixtures, according to documents filed with the town. It is getting a new wooden shingle roof and new wooden shingles on its exterior. An apartment above a garage is getting renovated at an estimated cost of $250,000, and a former laundry building on the property is being torn down and will not be replaced.

Who is behind East Point Property Holdings is not clear from documents on file with the town, but Rosecliff LLC — an entity created by Bass to serve as the technical owner of his properties on MDI — also is based in Fort Worth.

Nate Holyoke Builders, based in Holden, is the general contractor for both projects at Ringing Point and the one next door at East Point.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....