A Million-Dollar Room 

Apr 18, 2005

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Seven figures for 700 square-feet? Hey you get a bathroom, too!


Last summer’s opening of Richard Meier’s tower at 165 Charles Street introduced the million-dollar studio to the city, leaving spectators to the sport known as Manhattan real estate gasping. Even for an out-of-control market, even in a well-loved piece of architecture, asking seven figures for a room seemed way over the top. Would anyone actually buy it?

Indeed: “It wasn’t a problem selling studios at these price points,” says James Lansill of the Sunshine Group, which markets 165 Charles. The building now has takers for all but its last studio, with one fetching a record $1.425 million two weeks ago. “If we had more, I’m certain they would have sold,” says Lansill. “We’ve had lots of inquiries.” Other properties are also flirting with the seven-figure mark: The Time Warner building has a 370-square-foot space priced at $995,000 (available, presumably for servants or kids, only to those who purchase a bigger pad), and the new-kid-on-the-block Park Avenue Place on East 55th Street is listing 628-square-foot boxes for at least $990,000. “It’s like that Kevin Costner movie,” says Michele Kleier, president of Gumley Haft Kleier. “If you build it, they will come; if you price it higher, they will come even faster.”

In this case, “they” means business tycoons, Wall Street hotshots, rich foreigners, and young Hollywood types who’ll pay anything for a pied-à-terre in ultrafashionable environs. Citi-Habitats agent Tess Young had a fashionista client who scotched her plans to buy a one-bedroom in a typical building in favor of a 607-square-foot $700,000 studio at Windsor Park, the former Helmsley Hotel bearing the architectural stamp of Gwathmey Siegel. “She wanted the cachet,” Young explains. Some buyers also liken purchasing a high-caliber studio to collecting art. Interior designer Alex Fradkoff coveted one of the 165 Charles apartments, saying that living there would’ve been the ultimate homage to high design. “The space itself was so exciting I forgot it was a studio,” he says. (Another buyer beat him to the finish line.)

For many others, paying a million dollars for a superexpensive starter apartment means adopting a small-fish-in-a-big-pond mentality in exchange for rarefied surroundings. “Not everyone can have the $3 million two-bedroom, so why not the smaller space you can afford and be part of an elite group?” asks broker Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern, who has shown a handful of high-end studios to her clients. Besides, she says, “you’re better off not buying the best apartment in a worse building because in down times, the name buildings are the ones that will still hold their value.” In other words, it’s practical.

Boho Chic Returns to the Village
Fashion designer Nanette Lepore and her husband, the artist and singer Robert Savage, have finally closed on the 6,200-square-foot, five-bedroom Greenwich Village townhouse they bought last fall for $6.4 million. Lepore, whose recent Russian-bohemian-chic runway collection was well received by critics, expects her new abode to be a radical departure from the ultrastreamlined Noho loft she and Savage have occupied for two and a half years, and which they’re preparing to put on the market. Still, she’s excited about the whole prospect. “I get to discover a new neighborhood,” Lepore says with enthusiasm. And she’ll be able to indulge in lots of backyard barbecues, which she enjoys hosting, usually in the couple’s East Hampton summer getaway. Lepore says renovations will soon be under way, but she has no plans to strip the 1860s structure of its charm. “I don’t want to take a traditional space and modernize it to the hilt,” she explains. s.j.r.

Triple Assessment
505 Greenwich Street, Apartment 10G
One-bedroom, one-bath, 722-square-foot condo.
Asking price: $949,000.
Charges and taxes: $517 per month.
Broker: Christopher Mathieson, JC DeNiro & Associates.

The owner of this one-bedroom condo had just signed a contract (for a bit less than $700,000) when he met his boyfriend; by the time he closed on the apartment, they had already decided to move in together, and it went back on the market within a week. No worries, though: Our panelists deem it an easy sell.

Sharon Barros, Gumley Haft Kleier: Though the square footage is ample for a one-bedroom, Barros says it feels a tad tight—“There’s no place for dining,” she points out. “But it’s in a good building in one of the hottest parts of the city, and you have to pay for that.”
Her assessment: $925,000.

Julie Perlin, Stribling: “It’s a beautiful full-service building,” says Perlin, who especially liked its “great eastern light.” Her one concern: Should a high-rise replace the low-slung buildings across the street, “it only has one exposure.”
Her assessment: $925,000.

Edward Weiss, Century 21 William B. May: “Normally, if the floors are dark,” says Weiss of the gleaming mahogany underfoot, “a place would feel small.” But the high ceilings and the wall-to-wall windows balance the dark wood perfectly. “It’s got the look and feel of a New York condo that an up-and-comer would love to come home to—and show off.”
His assessment: $989,140.


Hot Property Book

The stars of HGTV's “Selling New York” let fans step inside the high-profile world of Manhattan real estate in a wild and one-of-a-kind novel of stormy egos, sumptuous homes, and staggering fame and fortune. Written by Michele, Samantha & Sabrina Kleier.