Developer Francesco Morawetz, 75, is not the first entrepreneur to open a club and residence for luxury vacationers. But he's the first to do it in as grand a place as Palazzo Trevisan-Cappello off St. Mark's Square in Venice. And he may be the first to do it with as much respect for the art and architecture that came before.
The Italian-born Morawetz knew he wanted his private club to be in Venice, where select members who care for the city could enjoy a well-managed part-time home. "But it couldn't be just a luxury club," he says. It had to be quintessential Venice. When he saw the abandoned palazzo (better known as Palazzo Pauly, since it was the headquarters of the Pauly Glassworks for more than a century), it was a revelation. Morawetz acquired the property and, rather than selling the valuable artistic-glass collection that came with it, decided to give Venice a new Museum of 20th Century Glass as part of the project. Venice's mayor, philosopher Massimo Cacciari, well aware that the project was far beyond the city council's budget, facilitated bureaucratic permits.
The three 16th century buildings are being restored in authentic Venetian décor and transformed into 26 apartments decorated with priceless Pauly chandeliers and objets. Membersnever more than 260, by invitation onlyare entitled to stay in any of the apartments whenever they like and have access to a private jet from any European location and use of the club's launch, as well as its yacht, docked at the Port of Venice. The glass museum will be open to the public during the day, and club members can invite guests in after hours for an aperitif. Membership in the club, which will open in June 2008, begins at $476,000, plus annual dues of about $19,000 for operating costs.
"Luxury is, of course, one of the project's characteristics," says Morawetz, "but we are adding culture to luxury. It's a completely different approach to the city."
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