Chelsea’s “Steampunk” co-op finds a buyer

Apr.April 08, 2013 08:30 AM

UPDATED, 11:43 a.m., April 8: When the so-called Steampunk loft in Chelsea hit the market about a year and a half ago, it made quite a splash for its eccentric decor, which included an authentic porthole, a 32-foot model of the Hindenburg blimp suspended from the ceiling, and a collection of gears, whirligigs and pipes snaking up the walls. But it seems the owner’s decision to strip the apartment of its more distinctive elements has helped him find a buyer.

The one-bedroom co-op at 120 West 29th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, went into contract on Friday.

Owner Jeremy Noritz, a filmmaker, bought the apartment for $1.3 million in 2006, public records show. He reportedly listed the home before embarking on a cross-country road trip, initially asking $1.75 million with Core’s Parul Brahmbhatt, and flinging open his submarine-style doors to a film crew for HGTV’s “Selling New York.”

At the time, Core CEO Shaun Osher told The Real Deal that Noritz intended to sell the apartment as is, and Brahmbhatt estimated that the finishes, which were included in the asking price, were worth about $300,000.

Described in a listing as “surreal” and “retro industrial,” the 1,875-square-foot home epitomized Steampunk, a literary genre and aesthetic that combines Victorian fashion, Industrial age contraptions and themes from science fiction. The home came equipped with a modified Murphy bed that functioned on a pulley system, hidden filing cabinets and a wood-paneled shower with a mushroom-shaped stool. Noritz told the New York Times that his inspiration came from a project he was working on about early photography and aviation, “when strange blimps floated gently through the sky against early industrialized landscapes.”

In February 2012, Nicole Beauchamp of Warburg Realty took over the listing (she said she learned of it through a real estate referral group on Facebook), and cut the price to a hair under $1.7 million, StreetEasy shows. The apartment is one of two units in a 1912 walk-up building that is part of a co-op with the adjacent properties at 114 West 29th Street and 116-118 West 29th Street.

In a video posted on YouTube, Beauchamp said she was “completely shocked” at the interior of the unassuming Chelsea building.

“The owner does have a distinctive personality and a vision, and he did want to create his own world inside this home,” she said in the video, noting that he hired an architect and a contractor to realize the goal of crafting a space that felt like living in a blimp hangar.

“It took me a couple of weeks to figure out that this was actually a fully working porthole,” Beauchamp said in the video, peering out of the circular glass window. “To see it is like walking into a living piece of art,” she added.

And yet, no dirigible diehards were to be found. Noritz cut the price several times, ultimately to $1.59 million, StreetEasy shows, and eventually removed most of the Steampunk features.

A transformation of the home was on the table from the start, Beauchamp said.

“The common underlying feedback — from buyers, brokers, stagers — was that the space was very cool and unique, but it was difficult for people to visualize how they could make the space theirs,” she told The Real Deal in an email.

Contractors started overhauling the home in late October — a week before Hurricane Sandy hit — and wrapped up work on Nov. 19, when they loaded the top of the zeppelin into a pickup truck and drove away, she said.

The result was an uptick in inquiries, showings and open house traffic, including from potential buyers who had been “tracking” the co-op and reconsidered once the decor had been altered, Beauchamp said.

Some elements of its past remain, including kitchen cabinet fixtures fashioned out of antique tools, polished concrete floors and ceiling beams, and a living room that functions more like a screening room, according to Beauchamp’s listing. The unit also comes with stainless steel appliances and a 500-square-foot Private Terrace, the listing says.

Beauchamp declined to comment on the buyer or the purchase price.

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