One Houston man is all about the family (and close friends), to the point where he took it upon himself to build a sprawling 20,000-square-foot estate for himself, his three sisters and their families.
According to Fox 26 Houston, retiree Reggie Van Lee believes that most relatives don’t spend enough time together, and the estate is apparently his way of redefining and solidifying those relationships in his own family.
“I built this house for not just my immediate family but for my extended family, including friends,” Van Lee said to the news station.
The generous family man, who was a performer in the Alvin Ailey Dance Co., recently retired as an executive vice president at a Houston consulting firm. He moved out of his River Oaks home after he completed building the estate for his family.
And an estate it is. The compound includes a hair salon for his sisters, of course, and there’s a pool for the grandchildren, a huge kitchen for the main house and a small chapel. Each of the private living quarters has its own kitchen, a living room and a washer-dryer set along with two bedrooms—one master and a guest room, which in turn each have their own separate bathrooms.
All members of the family living on the compound contribute to the pot of money that covers the food, housekeeper, groundskeeper, utilities and more, Van Lee told the news station.
“It’s fun. We each have our own spaces. So we can see each other as often as we want,” Mark Szafartz, who is married to Van Lee’s sister, told the news station.
And that is kind of why Van Lee built the house, so that his family could build memories together, long into the future.
“As much as people say ‘Oh, that’s so nice of you to do this for your sisters.’ They have no idea the joy I get,” he said.
Van Lee’s résumé also includes work he has done for the Clinton Foundation. He’s also been an appointee to a couple of committees by former President Barack Obama. Van Lee said he got the idea to build a family estate when he was invited over to the Kennedy compound by Caroline Kennedy.
“And in 1976 this little black boy from Sunnyside said, ‘I’d like to have a family compound someday,’” Van Lee said.
Now, a few decades later, that dream is a reality and Van Lee wants to encourage other families to do the same, even if it’s on a smaller scale.
“I think if we did more of that we would have more happiness in the world and a lot less tension,” Van Lee said.