THONOTOSASSA — Donald and Erika Wallace spent four years and a sum that they’re not quite ready to discuss creating the Oaks Estate, their 36,000-square-foot French-Normandy style chateau overlooking Lake Thonotosassa.
The idea was to have a home where they and their children, Donnie and Alexa, could have friends over and entertain, whether those friends wanted to ride horses, race go-carts, spend time on the lake, lounge by the pool, go bowling or retreat into a retro diner-style game room done in red and black.
Now, eight years after the house was completed, the children are college-aged, and the estate is on the market for $17.5 million. That’s a drop from the $22 million that the Wallaces asked when they first listed it for sale a year ago.
“You cannot possibly duplicate this home for anywhere near that kind of money,” said Realtor Ed Gunning, who is the listing agent for the property along with Mary Pond and Dina Sierra Smith.
At either price, the home would be the most expensive residence ever sold in the Tampa Bay area, more than the record $16.5 million that developer Ben Mallah paid last year for a gulf-front mansion owned by former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
This week, the Wallaces opened up the house, which is about 16 miles northeast of downtown Tampa, so that brokers and journalists could get a look inside.
“You don’t realize that this even exists," Gunning said. “Don made a comment a few weeks ago that the buyer of this house doesn’t even know it exists, has never even been out here.”
Wallace, 70, founded, with his brother and father, LazyDays RV SuperCenter in 1976 with $500, a mobile home and two travel trailers. The business grew into a sales powerhouse with dealerships in five states, shares traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange and $608 million in revenue in 2018. Wallace is retired from Lazy Days, but remains active, serving on the board of the directors of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute Foundation, and has a business office at the home.
Before moving to Thonotosassa, the Wallaces lived in a 13,000-square-foot Mediterranean mansion on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard. For the Oaks, they combined four properties on Fort King Highway overlooking the 900-acre lake. They brought in hundreds of mature live oaks and imported Italian cypress trees and lived in the guest house while supervising construction of the main house, which includes six bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, seven half-bathrooms and a ton of extras.
A dark wood-paneled men’s lounge includes a bar and enough space that the Wallaces bring in bleachers for Super Bowl watch parties. In addition to a seven-car garage for the main residence, there’s also a barn-style show garage with space for — take your pick — 20 collector cars, a basketball court or a dinner party for 300.
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An on-site maintenance workshop and machine shop allows for the fabrication of most anything needed on site and also includes a commercial-grade spot-free car wash system. The property also has seven fresh-water wells, two diesel generators and two fuel tanks.
“The whole house is completely self-contained,” Gunning said. “If the world’s coming to an end, you could live here until you ran out of diesel fuel.”
The Oaks Estate
Owners: Donald and Erika Wallace
Asking price: $17.5 million
Development team: Cooper Johnson Smith Architects; Alvarez Homes, interior design by Taylor & Taylor of Miami
Size: 36,361 square feet air conditioned, 22,120 square feet in main house
Construction details: 20-inch-thick exterior walls clad in blonde Texas limestone. 256,000 recycled red bricks used in the driveway, outdoor parking areas and walkways. Four stories in the main house, with an elevator. Two-story closet in the master bedroom. Imperial blue granite on the kitchen countertops. Hand-painted silk wallpaper in the formal dining room. Three fireplaces. Floors of marble, French oak in a herringbone pattern, onyx and pillow-top limestone. Alarm system with video surveillance.
Amenities: Game room. Two-lane bowling alley. One-mile paved jogging path. Croquet lawn. Go-cart track. 1,000 exterior lights. Indoor and outdoor salt-water pools. Pool house. Gym, dry sauna, steam room and massage room in main house. Stables with 7.4 acres of fenced pasture. Boat house and two-story dock with 6,000-pound boat lift and two lifts for personal watercraft.
Staff: Two housekeepers, five maintenance workers, five landscapers
2019 property taxes: $149,607