Brokers see red at Stribling’s Chelsea relaunch: PHOTOS

Oldest real estate office in America goes from “dump” to “art gallery”
By Hayley Kaplan and Julie Strickland | September 18, 2013 02:05PM

The brokers and executives were packed wall-to-wall last night for the debut of Stribling & Associates’ overhauled Chelsea office, a 25-foot-wide brownstone that will accommodate 50 percent more agents.

Real estate pros in attendance included Stan Ponte, a top broker at Sotheby’s International Realty, and Fredrick Peters, president of Stribling rival Warburg Realty, clad in his trademark bowtie.

“This is quite a transformation from the last time I was here,” Peters was overheard saying of the made-over office at 340 West 23rd Street. “It was a dump.”

The office between Eighth and Ninth avenues closed in September 2012 amid Stribling’s rebranding campaign, which included a new website and logo, as TRD previously reported.

Elizabeth Stribling, the firm’s founder and namesake, donned a red dress, and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Kivlan, who is the president of the firm, greeted guests as they poured through the door. Stribling said she was particularly excited about the art at the office, which will be rotated quarterly through a partnership with local Chelsea gallery Aperture Gallery.

“We designed [the office] to be like an art gallery,” Stribling said.

Like the real estate doyenne herself, waiters were decked out in the firm’s signature red, while some brokers wore red hats for the occasion, matching the fire engine-hued décor throughout the office.

The transformed space kept a number of its original features, such as a variety of brass bank vaults and doorframes. But the firm also increased the number of desks at the 3,500-square-foot office to 50, said Rebecca Mason, the director of sales at the Chelsea office.

The firm has hired some new agents to fill the office, while others relocated to its locations around the city during the renovation, Kivlan noted.

The story goes that the Chelsea building is the oldest residential real estate office in the country — brokerage James N. Wells & Sons first opened in the space in 1819. These days, framed copies of the building’s original property deed and photos of Chelsea in the early 1900s adorn the walls of the vacant basement.

Stribling & Associates acquired the five-story Chelsea brownstone in 1989 for $990,000, city property records show, the same year James N. Wells & Sons merged with the brokerage. The office occupies the building’s first three floors and tenants are on the upper two floors, Mason said.

Stribling also opened a new office in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, in May, as TRD previously reported.