07.24.09

The Obamas' New Digs

The Daily Beast has learned where the first family will stay this summer: Blue Heron Farm, a lavish $20 million-compound on Martha's Vineyard—paying market rent.

d—paying market rent.

Matt Drudge may well have dreamt it last night, but it also happens to be true: Obama and family are planning to holiday at a Martha’s Vineyard property of the sort that rents for $35,000-$50,000 a week. Negotiations are being finalized for the rental of Blue Heron Farm, a 28.5-acre pile in the town of Chilmark that boasts a swimming pool, a small basketball court, and even a golf tee. There are four dwellings to choose from and more than a half dozen other structures in which to swing a cat. (Chilmark, by the way, was deemed the most expensive small town in all America by Business Week back in 2007. It has since shot up again in value by several hundred million dollars.)

The 28.5-acre pile boasts a swimming pool, a small basketball court, and even a golf tee. There are four dwellings to choose from and more than a half dozen other structures in which to swing a cat.

It’s a lavish choice of holiday home and fine fodder for those taking aim at the recession-era president. However, here are some mitigating factors worth considering. First, they’re not renting the entire farm. As reported in this morning’s Vineyard Gazette, while the details are still being hammered out, it appears that the rental agreement will be split into three leases: one to be held by the Obamas, another by the Secret Service and a third by a White House entourage.

Second, they are paying their own way—according to sources, the Obamas are treating the transaction as a standard summer rental, from payment terms right down to requesting permission to bring the family dog. In contrast, Bill Clinton, the last sitting president on the Vineyard—and a professional schnorrer—shacked up rent-free for six summers of his presidency at the palatial digs of party donors and political pals. The Clintons were put up at the compound of Democratic donor and Boston real-estate developer Richard Friedman and that of the late Robert McNamara, all without forking out a penny.

Third, the rental options for a first family seeking peace and quiet in the post 9/11 world are severely limited. The choice of Blue Heron Farm concludes a thorough, months-long investigation of possible properties by the Secret Service and senior White House aides. The advance team has looked at and rejected more than 20 rentals.

Early research centered on Oak Bluffs, the town where the Obamas have vacationed several times before and have many friends with summer homes, including Valerie Jarrett, Charles Ogletree and Obama’s recently arrested buddy Skip Gates. There are some great deals on weekly rentals to be had in central OB, as a certain sluggishness in the Vineyard housing market has begun to reveal itself. But the potential for rubbernecking traffic in the bustling downtown put those properties out of contention.

The farm is set back from the main road, out of town, and is large enough to accommodate much of the president’s crew. Blue Heron Farm is owned William and Mollie Van Devender. They paid $20.35 million for the property in 2005. The lease will be handled by Sotheby’s International Realty Trust. A partner in the real-estate company confirmed to the Gazette yesterday that it has leased the farm for a block of 60 days and that the company will sublease the property.

Incidentally, it’s unlikely that either of the property’s owners voted for their new tenant: Wife Mollie contributed to Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. And her timber magnate husband maxed out on contributions to both Thompson and John McCain.

Sam Bungey, a staff reporter and online editor at the Vineyard Gazette, grew up in London, went to university in Dublin and co-founded Mongrel, a monthly magazine about Irish youth culture.