Brokers are bubbling over buyers’ interest in a recent condo conversion of a pair of Park Avenue South buildings, where a radical makeover by Tessler Developments is transforming former union offices to luxury condominiums behind the existing turn-of-the-last-century neoclassical facades.
The eight-story buildings that once housed the United Federation of Teachers, between 20th and 21st Streets, will now be called 260 Park Avenue South.
More than 70 of the 110 apartments in the new development have been sold since sales began in mid-August.
In converting the building, the developer has done more than turn drab corridors into carpeted hallways and replace rows of file cabinets with spiffy kitchen fixtures.
Tessler purchased the complex 20 months ago, and besides the requisite gutting and sectioning into apartments, the developer has added four floors, replicating the building’s exterior.
Tessler is also are cutting out a 12-story slice to create a south-facing courtyard with terraced gardens to expose the inner apartments to natural light and better air flow. Brokers who have shown clients the model apartment say prospective buyers are easily swayed by what they see, and are backing it up with big offers.
Zoya Litinetskaya, a broker with Halstead Property, was working with a client interested in primarily new developments for almost eight months before the woman decided on a two-bedroom apartment in the “800 range,” Litinetskaya said.
“What she was getting for the money at 260 Park Avenue South was by far superior as far as finishes and materials used,” Litinetskaya said. “She actually overextended her budget by a considerable amount and bought an apartment at 260 Park Avenue South versus, I would say, 10 other developments.”
While some buyers are easily convinced, some brokers are also seeing the continuation of a trend toward smaller loft spaces with the project.
Mary Vetri , a senior vice president at William B. May, said developers may have passed up sprawling loft-size spaces in favor of three-bedroom apartments, perhaps trying to squeeze more rooms into a building.
Lofts at 260 Park Avenue South do seem smaller, and “may be a case in point,” she said.
Shaun Osher, executive vice president at Douglas Elliman, pointed out that the overall number of units in 260 Park Avenue South, which he is marketing, may shrink from 110, because buyers are combining spaces to make larger homes.
The apartments, with interiors by Shamir Shah, are getting a good response, say brokers, whose clients are drawn to the 11- to 14-foot-high ceilings, oversized double-paned windows and kitchens opening onto living spaces that lend a loftlike feel to apartments. Luxury touches include Calcutta marble countertops, oak floors, Italian walnut cabinetry and stainless steel appliances.
Shah said his aim as a designer is to meld a building that is clearly older and more traditional with the modernity of the interiors.
“They’re clean, streamlined and slightly transitional,” he said. “The aim was to give a wide range of people a neutral palette and base to develop, but also to give them something that spoke of quality and a decent, well thought out finish.”
David Ryskiewich, a broker with Citi Habitats, agreed. He recently sold a client a 994 square foot one-bedroom apartment with 12-foot ceilings for $910,000.
“I’m a big fan of prewar conversions, and the gut renovation of the interior is completely contemporary,” he said. “All the fixtures are top-of-the-line. Chef’s kitchens. Very tasteful.”
Ryskiewich said he felt the only drawback is that clients have to take a “huge leap of faith” to purchase because the building is not yet finished. He said this may have given risk takers a relative bargain, because the project was priced slightly under market.
“It’s probably a no-brainer,” Ryskiewich said. “By the time the building is finished [in summer/fall 2005], if there are any apartments still available, they’re going to be at market price and above.”
Osher said he recently sold the two-bedroom, 1,880-square-foot model apartment for $2.6 million.
“We’re breaking records for prices,” said Osher.
Vetri said she wasn’t able to convince her client to purchase at 260 Park Avenue South, but it wasn’t for lack of her enthusiasm for the development, which has 24-hour concierge service, a fitness center and storage spaces for bikes and strollers.
“To me, it’s the ultimate pied- – terre. It’s a good central location,” Vetri said. “Because of the size of the rooms, it’s perfect for someone who’s comfortable in something that’s refined but unpretentious.”
There are also three penthouses, one of which has its own lap pool, and none of which are being marketed yet. A 4,000 square foot penthouse with up to six bedrooms may sell for almost $8 million, Osher said.
Penthouses will overlook a neighborhood that has captivated brokers. The easy access to Gramercy Park and Union Square and the upscale cachet of Park Avenue make 260 Park Avenue South a particularly desirable residential location.
Though parking may be limited, there is plenty of subway access, and the neighborhood has the energy of downtown but the sophistication of Park Avenue.
“It’s a balanced, solidified, stable neighborhood, but it is a little bit trendy, it’s a little bit younger, it’s a kind of happening neighborhood,” said Adrienne Albert, president of The Marketing Directors.
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