The world is your oyster, or amusement park when you’re a billionaire.
Mortgage magnate Mat Ishbia is on his way to building Michigan’s largest occupied house, featuring a trampoline park, serpentine swimming pool and an “Enchanted Forest” among other attractions in Bloomfield Township, about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.
Ishbia, who runs the nation’s biggest mortgage company and is the majority owner of two pro basketball teams – Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury – plans to tear down his current award-winning 22,000-square-foot house that is only 8 years old, as well as five neighboring houses to build his new amusement park-style mansion.
Ishbia’s new house is estimated to be at least 60,000 square feet when it’s complete, says the township assessor’s office, and will sit on about 14 acres of land. The only thing bigger than this is Michigan’s largest unoccupied house – the 85,000-square-foot Meadow Brook Hall, built in the 1920s by Dodge auto heiress Matilda Wilson, who gave it to Oakland University as a conference center. No one lives at Meadow Brook Hall.
Talk of the town
Ishbia’s plans for his big new house, and especially his big new yard, have become the talk of the neighborhood.
“He’s building an amusement park,” said one neighbor. Details came on July 11 at a township meeting of the zoning board of appeals, when Ishbia’s team of architects and lawyers approached with 13 requests. They had earlier appeared at a previous meeting with requests for a go-kart track, go-kart garage and a lighted observation platform, which were denied. Although the karts were to be electric, township officials and neighbors worried that they’d hear squealing tires and see the upscale bleachers.
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The updated roster of backyard amenities included a “trampoline park,” some tall mesh screening for a basketball court, more tall mesh around a 62-by-121-foot all-sports court, a treehouse, 14-foot-tall masonry piers holding metal gates that will enclose a sprawling “Enchanted Forest,” an ultra-large deck, 14-foot-high climbing walls, a reflecting pool, a 14-foot-tall waterfall, five 14-foot-tall artworks, as well as design tweaks to a previously approved 18-foot-high “conservatory and studio building,” whose size had recently been expanded “to have a little more indoor space for days that are bad weather,” said his attorney Trey Brice.
Brice told board members that almost none of the backyard features would exceed that height, and many had been dropped to 10 feet in line with the zoning laws.
The property will be surrounded by massive plantings of evergreens to keep out peeping toms and those on Amtrak’s passenger trains running from Pontiac, which will roll past the property from a tall embankment.
Earlier, at a meeting 18 months ago, the board approved an even longer list of outdoor features and accessory buildings.
They included buildings to house security guards and the caretakers who will maintain the mansion and grounds; a serpentine swimming pool that will stretch nearly 200 feet and have a “lazy river” to sweep those on “floaties” around artificial islands, a large backyard gazebo and a 50-foot-long pool cabana, a batting cage 75 feet deep, a trampoline park with bouncing from below ground level to avoid exceeding township height rules, a sports court for tennis and pickleball with its own 81-foot-long cabana, and a “rockscape” in the front yard that’s to be 2,500 square feet of boulders stacked up to 14 feet high, setting off a large pond around which will sweep a formal driveway carrying vehicles to a motor court in front of the house. A separate, secluded driveway will give family members access to their six-car garage.
At that previous meeting, the board denied permission for Ishbia to add a 24-foot-high platform for launching rides on a zip line, and they vetoed a security station at the front of the house, although they approved almost everything else while issuing some guidelines: Almost nothing in the amusement areas but the swimming pool could be used after dark, no additional elevated lights would be allowed and more evergreens were needed to screen the grounds from public view.
Ishbia’s plans also met resistance from the subdivision’s homeowners association. The association’s current president said the original location of the giant new house violated deed restrictions in the neighborhood. He said he notified Ishbia’s construction team, at first getting poor communication and no cooperation. Getting compliance took a stern letter with a veiled threat of potential legal action.
Ishiba’s lawyer Brice said that they added more landscaping and more screening, which pleased the neighbors, who gave the plans the green signal.
Forbes magazine lists Ishbia as Michigan’s fourth-wealthiest individual, with $4.5 billion in assets as of 2022.
Contact Bill Laytner: firstname.lastname@example.org