It's one of Tampa Bay's great party houses but not in the debauched, get-sick-in-the-bushes, Animal House kind of way.
Over the years, Fazal Fazlin's waterfront St. Petersburg estate has hosted elegant fundraisers for a wide range of worthy causes — Family Resources, the American Cancer Society and All Children's Hospital, to name just a few.
Thousands of guests have wandered the 5 acres of manicured lawns, enjoyed sunsets over Boca Ciega Bay, supped on lavishly catered fare in a grand hall and formal dining room big enough to seat 500.
Now the 10,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style mansion is for sale — asking price $5.975 million — though that won't necessarily mean an end to its prominent place on the bay area charity scene.
"Anybody who buys my home, chances are they love entertainment and are like-minded people," predicts the 64-year-old Fazlin, who says he always aimed to "make a difference in the community."
The Pakistani-born entrepreneur sold his Advance Plasma Systems company in 1999 and bought the estate at 900 Park St., once owned by former St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) editor Nelson Poynter. Fazlin added a two-story wing to the already spacious home, transforming it from private residence into part-time event venue.
Fazlin, then a trustee for Eckerd College, realized the school didn't have space suitable for fundraising galas. "I thought we would benefit from doing it here," he says of his expanded mansion, ''and that's how it started."
What followed were parties for All-Children's, PARC, the SPCA and several events for Abilities Inc., including a Napa Valley wine-tasting and sit-down dinner for as many as 400 guests.
There also were "smaller" (to Fazlin, "smaller" means no more than 150 people) fundraisers for the likes of WEDU and the Chi-Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation.
Just two weeks ago, samba dancers and Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes and his band entertained guests at Celma Carniva'Le, a fundraiser held on the estate grounds for the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation. Mastry, who grew up in Brazil and died in 2004, used to be Fazlin's neighbor.
Another neighbor of sorts, Raymond James chairman Tom James, lets Fazlin use a vacant lot he owns next door as overflow parking. (James lives 8 miles away in the Bayou Club.) Fazlin's own property has space for 125 guest vehicles, which valets park on the lawn.
Doesn't that wreck the lawn?
"What messes up the lawn," Fazlin says, ''is … people driving over the sprinklers."
Though a gracious host who enjoys "parties as much as the next guy," Fazlin sometimes slips away to his private quarters after mingling for a bit, especially when he knows few of the people in attendance. Sometimes he's not there at all — "Maybe I've already booked a cruise, so I'll say (to the charity organizers), 'Okay, you take the house.' "
Do guests always leave the place in good shape?
No immediate answer. Then: "What I have noticed in some instances is that when people come to these events, they cannot distinguish between a private home and a hotel ballroom. At a hotel, you just put your glass on a ledge and somebody comes and picks it up."
Forgetting they're in a private residence, some of Fazlin's guests abandon glasses all over the place, meaning the "somebody" who ultimately finds and picks them up is Fazlin himself.
Then there was the couple who settled down in his bedroom to watch TV. Fazlin realizes that people are curious about such grand residences, so he took it in stride.
"One of the staff members had let them in to see the private living area. We still do that, but our people have to show them around and stay with them."
Besides charity events, Fazlin has hosted fundraisers for a bipartisan group of politicians including Democrats Kathy Castor and Alex Sink, Republican Bill Young and Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. And, of course, there have been memorable parties for friends and family members, including Fazlin's two granddaughters, who live close by.
Divorced, Fazlin for years shared the home with a beautiful, long-haired female named Maggie. But after the cat died, Fazlin decided it was time to move. Hence, the house — with its 1,200-bottle wine cooler, infinity-edge pool, 300 feet of waterfront and sufficient docking for a large yacht — went on the market, first at $9.9 million, now at just under $6 million.
Fazlin realizes that one of the things he loves most about the estate — its west-side location with its glorious sunsets — is what makes the property less valuable than smaller estates on Snell Isle on the east side of St. Petersburg near the city's booming downtown.
So where does he plan to go when his current home sells?
"Downtown, of course, like everybody else."
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susankskate.