Not a model Citizen

Oddly named new Chelsea condo has a ‘jarring jazziness’

In its modest, soft-spoken way, “Citizen” is one of the weirdest names that a developer, in this case Anbau Properties, has yet bestowed upon a Manhattan residential development. True, this is an election year, but next year will not be, and the building in question, at 124 West 23rd Street, will still be there. Come to think of it, 2008 — when plans for the site first emerged — was also an election year. In any case, it is hard to divine the purpose of the name.

The 16-story tower, flanked on its eastern side by a building of roughly equal height, contains 34 residences, as well as 4,000 square feet of retail at street level. It was designed by BKSK Architects, who worked with the same developer to create Harsen House, at 120 West 72nd Street. And like that building, it rises over what was once a group of row houses. The present property was purchased from Franpearl Equities Corp for $19.3 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, Citizen’s units, which have just gone on sale in the past month, range from $650,000 for studios to a penthouse selling for over $4 million.

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The building, although of similar dimensions to Harsen House, is rather less successful. Like that earlier development, Citizen has a brick façade. But whereas the Upper West Side building is the soul of discretion, Citizen in decked out in the jarring jazziness of two-tone brick. The renderings diminish this clashing effect, which leads me to believe that the architects may not have known what they were getting until it was too late. Between the 11th and 12th floors, a pale horizontal strip divides the façade in two, before the pattern of the lower floors continues up to the roof.

Vertically, the façade is divided into three parts, with brick facing on the sides and in the center a continuous sequence of three windows that, unfortunately, look like value engineering. Linking these three sections, and coursing across the façade, is a horizontal band of four steel bars that are almost elegant and would surely be so, were it not for the two-toned brick that surrounds them. At Harsen House, by contrast, I must say, things were far more elegantly achieved.