Yankees’ Granderson does meet-and-greet as former Miraval Living prepares to unveil new spa operator

By Candace Taylor | December 07, 2010 04:31PM

Clockwise from top left: Curtis Granderson signs autographs for fans, the indoor rock climbing wall at 515 East 72nd Street, outside 515 East 72nd Street, and (from left) Jim Sheehan, Curtis Granderson and Loretta Bradbury at the event

Yankees center-fielder Curtis Granderson headlined an event last night at the site of his current New York crash pad, 515 East 72nd Street, a new condominium which is revamping its image now that it has ended its association with the Arizona-based resort and spa, Miraval.

Residents at the condo formerly known as Miraval Living, which started sales in 2007, have waited a long time for the building’s much-hyped spa facilities to open. The sponsor, River Terrace Apartments, has a new spa operator lined up and plans to announce it to residents within the next few weeks, the sales team told The Real Deal.

In the meantime, Granderson appeared to provide a welcome distraction.

At The River Terrace-sponsored event, the developer presented a check for $15,000 to Granderson’s charity, the Curtis Granderson Grand Kid Foundation, which promotes education and athletics for urban children. The building had pledged to donate $1,000 to the foundation for every home run the slugger hit, starting Aug. 1.

Popcorn and pigs-in-a-blanket were served at the kid-friendly gathering, where Granderson signed autographs and took pictures with excited building residents. Many of the pint-sized fans sported “Granderson” T-shirts and carried baseball gloves. One youngster asked the center-fielder to go outside for a game of catch. Another, nine-year-old Rianna Doolaramani, said her brother “screamed” in excitement upon hearing that Granderson was downstairs signing autographs. She proudly showed off her mobile phone, which the ballplayer had autographed.

Granderson, who just completed his first season with the Yankees, joked that he was “homeless, per se” at the beginning of the season, since the team had had only a few home games. Since taking up residence at the 72nd Street building, located between East End and York avenues, he said he has enjoyed the views and extensive-square-foot fitness center, though he doesn’t use it much during the season.

He said he’s heading home to Chicago now that the season is over, and “hopefully” would be returning to the building in the spring, but will have to “wait and see.”

It is unclear whether Granderson is a buyer, renter or merely a guest of the developer at the building. The Post reported this spring that Granderson was “test-driving” the apartment and thinking about purchasing it.

Jim Sheehan, project manager of 515 East 72nd Street, said Granderson has signed a purchase agreement, but hasn’t yet closed. He declined to comment further on Granderson’s arrangement with the building.

Most new condo buyers, of course, aren’t allowed to live in their units before closing on them, unless they are in a rent-to-own program. But Granderson isn’t just any buyer.

In recent years, it’s become common for new development condos to court celebrity residents — often offering them free or greatly reduced accommodations — in hopes of generating buzz. In one notorious example, 42nd Street’s the Atelier reportedly gave actress Lindsay Lohan use of an apartment in exchange for hosting events at the building.

In recent months, 515 East 72nd Street has also turned to other methods of increasing its profile in hopes of jump-starting slow sales.
A Bravo reality show called “Double Exposure,” about fashion photographers who live in the building, is filmed there.

After several years on the market, more than half of the building’s 365 units remain unsold.

Mitchell Hochberg, who was hired by the project’s lenders to help turn 515 East 72nd Street around, told The Real Deal this summer that “the creative team came up with new ideas for increasing the property’s profile, and one was to film commercials there, as well as the show.” He added: “No one is buying in the building because it’s featured on a TV show, but it can increase awareness.”

Regarding Miraval’s departure from the building, Granderson said it “doesn’t bother” him, although it may be a disappointment to visitors, like his mother.

For her part, nine-year-old Doolaramani said living at Miraval is “a lot of fun.”

Designed in collaboration with Miraval, it has a pool, indoor rock-climbing wall and half-court for basketball and racquetball. A number of treatment rooms for spa services are completed, but are currently sitting empty.

Unprompted, Doolaramani said: “I’m depressed that the spa is gone.”

The situation is a little more complicated than that, of course.

This fall, River Terrace Apartments ended its partnership with Miraval. The reasons are disputed; while Miraval has said that 515 East 72nd Street didn’t make payments on time, the building has said Miraval was responsible for delays in the spa’s opening.

Jim Sheehan, project manager at 515 East 72nd Street, told The Real Deal that problems with the spa had to do with turnover in personnel at Miraval, as well as the company’s inability to “make up their mind.”

The new spa will be “on par if not better in terms of service,” said Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group’s Loretta Bradbury, the building’s sales director.

The new operator already has a presence in New York, which the team said is one advantage it has over Tuscon-based Miraval.

When asked if the building’s buyers have complained that Miraval is no longer associated with the building, Sheehan said it’s the opposite. Residents were disappointed that the spa hadn’t yet arrived, and are now hopeful some progress can finally be made, he said.

Under the auspices of the new operator, the spa is slated to open in the first quarter of 2011. A café will also open in the building with a different vendor, Sheehan said.

Things may be looking up, however; the building has done about $8 million worth of sales in the past six weeks, Corcoran Sunshine said.