$30M wide UWS townhouse hunts for buyers

By C. J. Hughes | September 15, 2010 06:30PM

a rendering of the townhouse after renovations; a mural in the ballroom; and Fred Williams of Sotheby’s

What’s believed to be one of the city’s widest townhouses is on the market, though the size of its price tag may be proving too steep for buyers.

The Upper West Side limestone home, on West End Avenue at West 73rd Street, clocks in at 28 feet, about eight feet wider than most uptown townhouses, brokers said.

Although the 14,000-square-foot building at 266 West End Avenue is still being renovated, it already boasts an impressive array of antique finishes, including murals in three rooms, stained glass windows and raised-relief designs on its plaster walls. There are also modern touches in the six-bedroom, nine-bathroom home, too, like a landscaped roof deck off the back. An angled roof that had clay tiles when the building was completed in 1896 was replaced with glass decades ago. The actress Mae West supposedly lived there.

Still, its list price of $30 million, or about $2,100 a square foot, seems a bit high, said Avi Voda, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, who has sold dozens of townhouses over the past 14 years.

In fact, a 25-foot wide townhouse at nearby 26 West 76th Street sold for $19.4 million in March, while a 21-foot-wide version at 22 West 75th Street traded hands in July for $18.9 million, data shows.

“But they will get a nice number, of about $20 million,” said Voda of the home, which was listed in June by Fred Williams of Sotheby’s International Realty but appeared in CoStar just this week. CoStar, which focuses on commercial listings, agreed to take the listing, Williams said, because the property is actually zoned for commercial use as well.

Indeed, as difficult as it might be to fathom — the renovation is adding windows, doors and a stoop to make the townhouse more period-appropriate — the building could be torn down to make way for a larger development, as its lot could support twice the structure, or up to 28,000 square feet, Williams said.

“The owner is very enamored of the architecture on the inside and the outside, and it has been a labor of love, but he has decided to move on,” said Williams, who adds that the owner is a doctor overseeing much of the renovation himself.

Still, in the current development-averse environment, it seems unlikely that someone would buy the mansion just to raze it, Williams predicts.

Designed by Rudolph Daus, who is perhaps best known locally for the castle-like 13th Regiment Armory in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, the townhouse also could soon sit in a new historic district that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering.

But Williams denied that the townhouse’s owner is rushing to renovate the exterior before a possible designation. In any event, any designation wouldn’t affect the townhouse, as work is underway already.

Arlene Simon, president of Landmark West!, a 25-year-old group that supports creating a historic district, applauds any preservation efforts to a structure like this, but hopes it pays attention to the small points.

“Good preservation doesn’t paint with a broad brush,” she says. “It’s more detail-oriented.”