The Real Deal New York

165 Charles Street costs rise

October 17, 2007
By Steve Cutler

While architect Richard Meier s marquee two tower project on the West Village waterfront attracted almost as much notice for construction delays and water leaks as architectural panache, his latest project, at 165 Charles St., may eventually epitomize cost overruns in pursuit of perfection.

Where Meier designed the glass towers at 173-176 Perry Street, but left them as raw space on the inside, the new Charles Street project is the architect s outside and in, right down to the bathroom faucets and screening room chairs.

Developers Simon Elias and Izak Senbahar, who are unaffiliated with the Perry Street buildings, decided to meld their fate to the architect s vision from the start. Giving the architect carte blanche has meant continual cost increases.

“We went to Richard Meier and he really wanted to do a third building and he wanted to do the finished interiors,” Elias said. “We gave him a free hand everything he wanted. We knew we would end up with a unique product.”

It hasn t been cheap. “We started out with an 85 percent construction loan,” Elias added, “and ended up at 60 percent as we continued down the design phase. All the extra money we put in was our own equity.”

Living in a building that owes more to art than commerce leaves little room for modest budgets. Prices have reached as high as $4,394 a square foot or $20 million – for the 4,551-square-foot penthouse with an 1,800 square-foot terrace. The unit has drawn interest from prospective buyers such as Hollywood mogul David Geffen. If it gets the asking price, it would be Downtown s most expensive apartment.

Wrapped in glass and aluminum, the sleek, minimalist 16-story building is similar but not identical to the Perry Street towers. “The façde is different it s like a cousin, not a brother, of what s there,” Meier said. “The height is the same and the idea of the open, transparent building is similar.”

Extraordinary interior finishes abound. Apartment walls never touch the ground but instead float just above it, for purely aesthetic reasons. Sheetrock was laid on the inner walls by the same team that did the Museum of Modern Art. Meier s handwritten signature even graces the inside of kitchen cabinets.

“They are pure Richard Meier,” said James Lansill, senior managing director of The Sunshine Group, which is marketing the project. “Every detail on the inside is proscribed by Meier.”

Windows in the building have three layers of glass to keep out the noise from the West Side Highway below. A protective layer shields out harmful ultraviolet light rays. To keep the glass clean, the building had a crane-like apparatus mounted on the roof to reach down it s an in-house, or rather on-house, robotic window washer.

The finishes transcend craftsmanship, says Elias. “If you look at the Getty Museum [designed by Meier], everything lines up in an amazing way. You see here too, in the apartments, the wood planks on the floors line up with the bare wood on the terraces. I don t know if anybody notices that, but it s the kind of thing that s typical of him.”

Interior doors are made of translucent glass. Bathrooms feature a frosted window between the shower and the master bedroom. Shower bases are made of one piece of stone, custom-ground for drainage, instead of tiles.

The common areas are similarly impressive. A below-ground atrium space houses a 50-foot pool next to a 15-foot waterfall. Other amenities include a private wine cellar and a 35-seat screening room specially-designed by acoustic engineers.

Approximately 45 percent of the building s 31 apartments are sold. The 22 three-bedroom units cost between $5.3 million and $8.5 million. Its three studios, lacking the front views that the larger apartments have, are the building s bargains, going for about $1.25 million, well below the average overall $2,500-per-square-foot pricing.

Developers hope that with finished space, they will avoid the problems experienced in the other Meier towers. In that project, buyers had to put in their own basics, including bathroom plumbing, and the building reportedly experienced leaks and other problems. Calvin Klein, who bought a unit in the building, threatened to sue over the complications that arose.

The Charles Street project will also be unique in that Meier made an agreement with the developers stipulating that he would never replicate certain aspects of the design in any other projects.

Two of the units are reserved for the developers. “Both Izak and I are going to keep apartments here,” said Elias. “We won t do this again and we didn t want to drive by 10 years from now and say, I should have kept one. ”

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