New condo hopes for help from High Line

<span style="font-style: italic;">Builder-designer Tamarkin joins architect's row with steel-windowed project</span>

One of the new projects near the architect’s row in Far West Chelsea boasts one man as both architect and developer.

“People love architects,” notes Cary Tamarkin, the designer of the boutique condo at 456 West 19th Street, one of the latest projects directly on Manhattan’s High Line. “Everyone knows that architects are noble and spend time making things beautiful.”

“I worked super hard to make a building that is kind of outrageous,” he says.

But Tamarkin is also the project’s developer, as he has been for all of his projects during the last 14 years. And everyone knows that developers are “greedy, money-hungry, food-spitting” miscreants obsessed with keeping costs down, he says.

He says the architect in him trumped the builder with this project.

“There is no part of this building that I haven’t looked at 300 times, sketched and thought through — and put money into,” Tamarkin says.

Of course, “outrageous” has a totally different meaning these days.

Inspired by classic New York artist lofts such as the Bryant Park Studios on West 40th Street and Hotel des Artistes on West 67th Street, the building, while stark and bold, is elegantly understated.

“It feels particularly appropriate right now,” says Tamarkin of the condo, which will consist of 22 one- to three-bedroom duplexes.

“If you look at Schrager’s Herzog and de Meuron building on Bond Street [40 Bond], it’s a phenomenal building, but I’d be embarrassed to live there. To walk into that now, it’s like wearing a $700 pair of jeans.”

Tamarkin’s 1,100- to 3,000-square-foot apartments range from $1.45 million to over $5 million for the four penthouses, which open onto curved balconies that grace the top floors of the building.

“They were priced when we knew there was economic cataclysm, as my son called it,” said Tamarkin.

Indeed, joked, Alexa Lambert, a broker with Stribling Marketing Associates, which is marketing the project, “We opened the sales office last fall, at the perfect time: right when Lehman Brothers was tanking.”

Only around 10 percent of the building, or two of the units, has sold so far.

Yet both Tamarkin and Lambert say they are not worried about selling the apartments, which will be ready for occupancy in January.

To be sure, it seems like the developer has put himself in both a vulnerable and enviable position, as the project sits near a slew of new buildings by some of the most famous architects in the business.

“To be designing in the company of brand-new buildings by Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, Annabelle Seldorf and Audrey Matlock,” he says, is, well — “it’s intimidating to want to be taken very seriously as a world-class architect, but also compete with people whose entire lives are devoted to that.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

But, he adds, “It feels very good to be part of the architecture of this street.”

Until 14 years ago, Tamarkin, the architect, ran his own design firm, but decided, “I just wasn’t making enough money,” he says, so he jumped into the fray as a developer.

In fact, he fought for the site on which 456 West 19th Street is now under construction.

“I was utilizing a right of first refusal on my property at 397 West 12th Street [where he is developing another condo project],” and, “after a legal battle, which lasted a year and a half, we somewhat surprisingly came out owning both properties.” Tarmarkin ultimately prevailed in the dispute with Madison Capital Management and his landlord.

As for the design of the condo, Tamarkin said he took his inspiration from industrial buildings like the iconic Starrett-Lehigh Building on West 26th Street. The West 19th Street building will be covered in dusty gray-black bricks on a steel frame — “not glass curtain walls twisting and turning,” he says emphatically.

“I like getting attention, but not screaming for attention.”

The duplexes will all have 20-foot-high double-height living rooms with oversize multi-paned windows framed and patterned in steel, offering views north and west.

“No other developer uses steel windows,” says Tamarkin, “because you have to be out of your mind. They’re really expensive.

“But I wanted to have a real kind of ‘holy shit’ factor in each apartment.”

The corner apartments will be the most dramatic, with views that sweep from the river to the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.

Hinged at the top, the windows will flap open from the bottom, like industrial windows.

Yet unlike curtain walls, the windows will start well above the floor. Tamarkin notes that most of the units are high up enough that “you tend to not see much of the private parts — literally.” That might be a reassurance for buyers who worry that the massive windows, a stone’s throw from the elevated park, would put 456’s inhabitants on public display.

The apartments will also have three-quarter-inch-wide plank white oak flooring. Kitchens will have Corian countertops and all-wood white cabinets, painted with playful colors on the insides. Master bathrooms will have bleached teak vanities, mirror frames and cabinets, teak matting in the shower floor and glass wall tiles.

As far as financing, the developer has an arrangement with a couple of banks, including Wells Fargo, that are willing to lend to buyers without the building reaching the high sales percent threshold that is often required today. And construction is moving ahead without interruption due to strong financial backing by equity partner Westport Capital.

As far as selling the 20 vacant units, hesitancy is common in apartment sales today, Lambert says, “with everyone consulting their accountant, the bank, their mother and everybody they went to high school with.”

However, once the scaffolding comes down, and the windows go in, Lambert is confident sales will pick up. “Then it’s going to sell very quickly,” she says. “Of all the projects I’ve had, it’s the one I’m least concerned about selling.”

Tamarkin said that while he believes the units are fairly priced, they are still negotiating, “because nobody these days pays full price.”