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The Fall of the Loft

Edited by Carl Swanson

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Atalanta Braves
With downtown developers struggling to fill the vast emptiness of their loft conversions, the days of "white box space" are over.

Last summer, when he took a cab home from his job as a senior manager at HotJobs.com, Allen Murabayashi, 29, would pass the seventeen-story Atalanta, a giant slab of concrete on North Moore Street, and wonder, How are they going to sell apartments there if they have no windows?

Then he saw workers cutting through the walls with 42-inch blades. He met with Douglas Elliman's Helene Luchnick and ended up paying full-ask (more than $1.3 million) for 2,149 square feet of fenestrated ex-refrigerated warehouse. His "white box" loft was the ultimate luxury ideal of the boom: a self-invented space, unburdened by any legacy of another owner. Now that ideal's over.

With TriBeCa largely converted, the Atalanta is one of the district's last big projects. Its sales debut came last June, just after the first big NASDAQ dip. The plan was to sell most of it off as full floors of raw space, but last fall the spaces were subdivided. With 12 of the 32 units still unsold, the plan now is to finish off most of the spaces.

After the crash of 1987, "no loft building was converted downtown" until 1996, says Luchnick. Since then, Elliman alone has marketed more than 35. Two years ago, not a single dotcommer bought in at her project at 285 Lafayette. This time, she went looking for them. The Atalanta's $5.6 million sixteenth floor went to the former chief counsel at Oracle. Murabayashi, for his part, has a mortgage but put a big chunk down after selling 100,000 HotJobs shares. He was laid off in March. He's now in "early semi-retirement," he says, still in his 600-square-foot studio. The loft, which is to have a frosted-glass-walled guest room and space for a baby grand, was supposed to be an instant lifestyle: Now "I wish I was in instead of still renting and waiting for the contractor to call me back."

Luchnick originally thought she'd sell out in six months. Now she's looking forward to the one-year anniversary.
AUSTIN BUNN

Reel Property:
Bada Bingo!
Tony Soprano’s moving operations to TriBeCa. The actor who plays him, James Gandolfini, just bought a $2 million, three-bedroom loft on Greenwich Street.“It’s a big, high-ceilinged loft,” says Gandolfini, who, in fact, grew up in Jersey but had been living with his wife and kid in an apartment in the West Village. Nobu’s never going to be Nuovo Vesuvio, but “I’ve always wanted to live there,” he says. It’s all about famiglia. “There’s more room for my son to run around,” he says. He’ll also have family nearby; Michael Imperioli, who plays Tony’s nephew Christopher, recently bought a building a few blocks away on West Broadway, right across from Odeon. Before The Sopranos, Gandolfini was doing time in films like True Romance and Crimson Tide. He’s a made celebrity now, and was calling by cell from the set of his new DreamWorks movie shooting in Nashville.
MORGAN GOLDBERG

Big Deals
Upper East Side
200 East 89th Street
1-bed 650-square-foot condo. Ask: $405,000. Sell: $395,000. Charges: $490. Taxes: $408. One day on market.

Wanna know about one-bedrooms? Ask Peter Ashe broker Ariel Tirosh, who took a 97th Street-to-Battery tour of 47 of them with this marathon client. They made offers on two places and lost both in bidding wars. But then Tirosh called a Douglas Elliman broker to check on an old listing and found out about this place, which hadn't gone on the market yet. The buyer saw the big L-shaped balcony with river views, made a quick offer, settled on a price, and got the financial package approved -- within a week.
CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

TriBeCa
66 Leonard Street
2-bed, 2.5-bath, 2,077-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.65 million. Sell: $1.6 million. Charges: $1,035. Taxes: $780. Four months on market.

"Lucky for me, not every dot-com millionaire lost it all," says William B. May's Diana Tawgin of the new owner of this apartment. The sellers, who bought it two years ago based on a floor plan, gave up on the place mid-conversion when the builders blew their deadline. Tawgin found a dot-com millionaire to buy it, but after signing a purchase-and-sale agreement, he backed out when the NASDAQ tanked. The buyer was a luckier dot-commer: "It went to the next one on the list," says Tawgin. As for the condo, "everything they promised was finally delivered, which is kind of sad for the people who couldn't wait."
CHRISTOPHER TENNANT


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