On the Quai de Bourbon with Kate and Friends
Once upon a time (2008), there was an American Francophile named Kate Sheaffer who rented an apartment on the Quai de Bourbon for her multiple stays in Paris. Sadly, for her, it was placed on the market for sale. She called me in a panic. She couldn’t afford to buy the property herself, but couldn’t bare to leave the apartment either. She had fallen madly in love with it, its quirkiness, even its fourth-floor walk-up affording beautiful views and its incredibly romantic location on the 17th-century island of the Ile Saint-Louis.
For those who aren’t fully aware of the island’s beginnings, it was part of a great urban plan by King Henri IV and later King Louis XIII and his queen mother Marie de Médicis, to build elegant residences for the nobles, aristocrats, politicians and wealthy businessmen who came to live on what was originally just a cow pasture to escape the noise and turmoil of the inner city. There was once a “ditch” that split the island into two, but that was filled in and between 1620 and 1650. The townhouses that still line the quays and inner streets of the island were built. It’s been a haven for the privileged ever since and it was no different for Kate Sheaffer at that time.
I had the idea for Kate to “fractionalize” the property by selling off several shares, keeping a part of the usage for herself. But, the problem was that she had to sell the shares in advance of making the purchase to raise the money. She also had to get all the legal documentation in order to set up the ownership correctly – with a fractional property, it’s a bit tricky. If it worked, then she would still have her precious apartment for the time she wanted it, but could share in the expense of it with her co-owners. She wanted no reward for herself in developing the property – only the sheer pleasure of using it.
I sent Kate to speak with a U.S. attorney in order to set up the legal structure. He had developed several fractional properties in Paris at the time and seemed to know what he was doing. In exchange for her efforts, he recommended that she keep only five per cent of the ownership, but 20 per cent of the usage, as a way of compensating her for her efforts.
Then, we advertised the available shares in the April 3rd, 2008 French Property Insider Nouvellettre®. Here’s the promo, word-for-word:
Have a Share in a Pied-à-Terre on the Ile Saint-Louis!
This is your opportunity to own one portion of a 42 square-meter (475 square feet) loft on the romantic Ile Saint-Louis for less than 100,000€!
Located on Quai de Bourbon, in the heart of Paris and on Paris’ chicest island, this bright, quiet and charming penthouse apartment has a fireplace, mezzanine with 17th-century exposed wood beam ceiling, skylight, is fully furnished and equipped with a separate kitchen and spacious bathroom. You will lavish in its old-world charm and gently hear the bells of Notre Dame chime in the background, while enjoying the benefits of your investment.
This offering is made by an individual who has rented the apartment for years and has a special opportunity to purchase the property, sharing it with a select group of four or five other owners. This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss if you have even the slightest desire to own your own pied-à-terre in Paris and make an important investment in the strong and getting stronger euro.
Do not delay to contact the organizer or the available one or two shares will be gone fast! Email for more information and be sure to say that Adrian sent you.
Kate was overwhelmed with responses. Within 48 hours, she had 70 responses and all her shares sold. She was both thrilled and scared of what was to come, but within a few months, the apartment was hers along with several other owners who could share in her joy.
Not long after the deal was done, one of the owners (a couple) who had purchased two of the five shares decided their deal wasn’t fair – they wanted Kate to only use the apartment five per cent of the time to be equal with her share of ownership. Clearly, the mistake was made in the original offering recommended by the attorney, but it was too late. The contracts were signed and the property in usage. The other owners were paying for the expenses of her additional 15 per cent of usage, and these particular owners weren’t happy. They launched a fierce campaign against her to recuperate her share usage and were relentless in their pursuit of their own happiness.
Kate was a well-known and highly respected mover and shaker in Washington, DC, working with a prominent level of Democrats on their campaigns and other issues. Affiliations on her professional roster included the likes of President Bill Clinton and then First Lady Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Geraldine Ferraro, John McCain, Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Jerry Brown, Madeline Albright and a host of others. She kept awfully good company and worked zealously for what she considered the most moral of causes. I was always a great admirer of hers and felt very privileged to have become a friend.
In the meantime, Kate spent a lot of time, money and anxiety battling to keep her precious apartment. At about the same time, she began a battle against ovarian cancer and fought for her life. Throughout this period of a few years, Kate and I kept in touch. I sadly watched her wither away to a shell of her former self and always felt the stress of the property battle contributed heavily to her demise. On Monday, November 3rd, Kate left us all:
Longtime KF Associate Kate Sheaffer Has Passed Away Kate Sheaffer, a longtime associate who helped bring national attention to the Kettering Foundation’s work, died at a Hospice in Calvary Hospital in New York City Monday, November 3, after a long battle with cancer. She had been a prominent part of the KF family for more than 30 years.
Read more of her obituary here.
A few weeks ago, Kate’s younger sister, Janine Sheaffer Johnson, contacted Kate’s Paris buddies to let us know she was coming to town with some of her ashes to sprinkle them over the Seine in front of Kate’s Quai de Bourbon apartment, as was her wish. And so we did.
On Monday evening, I arrived at the door of the apartment about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I stood on the quay under the tall trees full with foliage overlooking the river and watched the passers-by. The scene was mesmerizingly beautiful and I understood why Kate was so enthralled with the apartment on the Quai de Bourbon. Interestingly, there were more people going in and out of Kate’s building than any other building along the Quai and I wondered why. The answer to that I never learned.
While I was watching, two women approached me, said hello using my name and naturally, I assumed one was Janine, who I had never met, so I kissed her on both cheeks.
“Well, that was quite a greeting! Do you kiss every stranger you meet?” she asked.
I must have looked at her strangely, as the next words out of her mouth were, “You think I’m someone else, don’t you?”
“Well yes! Aren’t you Janine?”
“No, but we watch you on House Hunters International and I’ve been getting your newsletter for years!” she explained emphatically.
Oh la la! Ha, ha, ha! Yep, there I was kissing perfect strangers. Oh well, I don’t think Kate would have objected! After a short conversation, we said our good-byes and the real Janine, her family and friends showed up soon after. One of the couples among them were owners of one of the apartment shares. They had seen me standing on the walkway from their spot below on the river where they were enjoying the glorious summer weather over a glass of wine, and came to see why I was there at all. Perfect timing, “Join us!” – we were thrilled it had worked out so well.
Thirteen of us followed Janine down the stone stairs to the edge of the water. She pulled out of her tiny shoulder bag a small antique glass bottle of Sauzé Eau de Cologne Chypre (circa 1920), partly filled with a gray powder we assumed was Poudre de Kate, not the Eau de Cologne. One of Janine’s two sons was then brave enough to venture down the steep stone stairs that lead directly into the waters of the Seine to gently release the precious powder into the rushing waters, just as Kate would have wanted.
With the deed done, we mosied down to the corner café, Janine ordered up champagne and we raised our glasses to our friend and their relative, the illustrious, adorable, smart, personable, talented Kate Sheaffer. We felt her presence and we shared in her spirit.
Again, I feel privileged to have been a part of her life, and now a part of the celebration of that life. To have come to know her family, even if just a smidgeon, is a new beginning. Kate will never leave my heart, just as the Ile Saint-Louis will never leave the hearts of all of us who love Paris, especially mine. I suspect that every time I glimpse of the Quai de Bourbon, I’ll think of Kate.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t miss the re-airing of the recent House Hunters International episode, Champagne Problems in Paris: Sunday, June 24. Details on our HHI page. Set your DVRs now!