The Real Deal New York

1055 Park: Polishing tiny gems

Developer scales down focus with five-unit 1055 Park Avenue

March 31, 2009
By Steve Cutler

Developer Trevor Davis would rather buy a two-carat blue-white diamond than a 10-carat yellow diamond.

He used the diamond analogy to describe his latest project, 1055 Park Avenue, and the comparison seems apt today, as the diamond market, much like the real estate market, has fallen precipitously after a seemingly unstoppable rise over the past several years.

With a small, rare gem, he added, “The value is always there.” The same goes, Davis said, for his 12-story glass condominium on the corner of Park Avenue and East 87th Street, by far the smallest in his 30 years of developing apartment buildings on the Upper East Side.

The building will have five apartments starting at $15 million each when it opens next month, including three four-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot duplexes; one five-bedroom triplex with a private terrace; and a two-bedroom penthouse duplex with a roof terrace.

Will the developer consider chopping up the mini-mansions into more “affordable” pieces — say, one-beds for $3.5 million — if they do not find takers in a market where ultra-luxury buyers are in retreat?

No need, said Davis. In fact, “we’re in contract with [a buyer] for the top five floors of the building. We got our asking price.” That apartment, if the deal goes through, will combine the duplex penthouse with the triplex below to create a six-bedroom “pentaplex, we call it,” he said.

Davis claims he is not putting up a small building to accommodate an anorexic market. Rather, he said, having dissolved RFR Davis, his two-decade-long partnership with Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs, in 2005, “I took a step backwards while everybody was going crazy, building all over the place. I was ostensibly out of the real estate market — with hindsight a good place to be in the current economic environment. Then I decided I would rather concentrate on building smaller projects.”

Davis acquired the corner property seven years ago and kept it in his pocket while he continued producing high-rise condominiums, including the Michael Graves-designed, 55-story 425 Fifth Avenue, and Park Avenue Place on East 55th Street. For the latter, he employed architectural firms H. Thomas O’Hara and Kohn Pedersen Fox, both of which he used again on 1055 Park Avenue.

The small site — the building will be just 19 feet deep on the Park Avenue side and run 100 feet long on 87th Street — has some unique attributes. Besides occupying a corner, Davis said, the lot “intrigued me because for some reason they had forgotten to include it in the Park Avenue District, which stopped at 86th Street and began again on the north side of 87th Street. There was this one sliver that was outside of the landmarked district.”

The odd glitch gave the developer liberty to build any sort of façade for the structure, as long as he met the zoning requirement to build only up to the height of the parapet of the adjacent building to the south, at 1049 Park Avenue.

Along with the 22-story 45 Park Avenue, designed by Costas Kondylis, 1055 Park will be one of only a few all-glass buildings among the historic prewar apartment buildings on Park Avenue.

Residents of 1055 Park, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and encased in red-brick fritted glass panels that drench the interiors in southern light, will be exposed to public view when they choose not to engage the motorized shades.

“The longer length of each room faces out on the glass,” said Nancy Ruddy of Cetra/Ruddy, which designed the interiors. “A beautiful, very modern interconnecting staircase floats along the glass wall.”

Situated at the corner of the front end of the building, the living rooms will have views up and down Park Avenue through 10-foot-high, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, as will the master bedroom suites above.

The interior finishes will be minimal, and “the whole apartment is a symphony of different whites,” said Ruddy, including polished white Corian kitchen countertops and glossy lacquer cabinets, as well as bathrooms with “Rhino White” floors, vanity and walls. The starkly contrasting 5-inch black-oak plank flooring throughout the apartments, said Ruddy, “feels suede-like and sumptuous underfoot.”

The condominium will likely have one of the most underutilized doormen in the city and a live-in super. The building’s five owners — or four, should the pentaplex combination come through — will share a basement fitness room, and each will serve on the condo board.

Aside from adding a modern glass façade to old Park Avenue, the building managed an even rarer feat: getting construction financing in a nearly frozen credit market.

In fact, said Davis, “We just got a financing commitment from two banks [in mid-March]. Even in a lousy market, you can still get financing if you have the right site in the right location and the right track record.”

Then again, he added, “I’m not sure why. I’m not questioning why.”

If Davis’s response seems a bit dazed, perhaps it was because just a week before he had watched his family’s enormous Dutchess County mansion, which he custom built, burn to the ground.

“It was the chimney,” he said. “I will build it again.”

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