The Roaring Twenties

Photo: Courtesy of Douglas Elliman

Over the past five years, clubs and galleries have invaded the area sandwiched between Chelsea and Clinton, but luxury buyers have stayed south. The bottom half of Chelsea—that is, below 23rd Street—has historically been expensive, but above 23rd it was relatively affordable, especially if you were renting. (All those late-nineties towers on Sixth Avenue glutted the rental market for several years.) Then came fancy new renovations like the Chelsea Mercantile, complete with celebrity buyers like Penélope Cruz. Just to the south, the meatpacking district exploded—and both areas ran short of vacant lots and warehouses to convert. So the activity has migrated north.

“I’m calling it Chelsea Heights,” says Stribling’s Bruce Ehrmann, who’ll soon start selling 420 West 25th Street, a 100,000-square-foot conversion of a printing plant that should be ready next fall. “This area has a lot of high-quality loft buildings like Soho and Tribeca did. And there’s very little left in Chelsea to convert.”

New construction has been popping up as well in the area, which is also known as Chelsea North. About a month ago, Douglas Elliman started offering the Chelsea Royale, at 200 West 24th Street, from floor plans at nearly $1,000 a square foot, and it’s 70 percent sold out. The firm also put 130 West 30th Street—renamed the Cass Gilbert (pictured), for its architect—on the market this past spring, and it’s nearly all gone, at prices ranging from $875,000 to $3.2 million. Corcoran recently sold seventeen apartments (priced between $1.1 million and $1.3 million) in a building at Tenth Avenue and 24th Street in just 36 hours. “A few years ago it would have sold just okay,” says Corcoran’s Jim Brawders. “It would not have been this feeding frenzy.” Elliman’s Hal Henenson, who works in the area, says these buyers are those pushing the chic-ness envelope. “For the same product four or five blocks south, you would have to pay $150 per square foot more,” he says.

For ad executive Cindy Gallop, Chelsea Heights was a happy compromise. “I love Chelsea, but there was not a single thing I could afford that had the space,” she says about her new place in the old McBurney YMCA on 23rd Street, now under conversion to condos (plus a David Barton gym downstairs). “It was the only way I could afford a 3,800-square-foot loft in Chelsea.”

Kitchen Confidential
A pair of prominent food writers will soon be packing their pots and pans. The notably unphotographed New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni recently bought an apartment on Columbus Avenue in the Seventies for about $775,000. “I think my street address is a totally private matter” is all Bruni would say; a source says it’s five rooms and about 1,200 square feet. Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten, author of The Man Who Ate Everything, is also hunting and gathering, to less success. He’s used at least twenty brokers to find a bigger loft than his 1,600-square-foot, rent-stabilized ($950-a-month) Chelsea home and office. (“I fired him,” says one of said brokers.) Steingarten says he’s willing to spend about $2 million for a loft, but it has to have enough outdoor space to roast an 80-pound pig. “We are what they call tire-kickers,” he says of himself and his wife, Caron Smith. “After you kick maybe 30 tires, the broker doesn’t call you back quite as fast.” As for Bruni’s new nest, “this news is very disillusioning,” says Steingarten. “That he’s buying on the Upper West Side calls into question his dedication to food—it’s the culinary equivalent of the Sahara.”

Same Space, Different Place
The Great Outdoors, for Less
Even when the weather’s turning brisk, a tiny slice of outdoor space gets New Yorkers lusting. But what’s it really worth? Broker Daniella Schlisser recently held open houses for these two apartments on the same day—one with terrace, one without—and had accepted offers for both in hand within 72 hours. But the final difference was comparatively small: The terraced apartment sold for $519,000, its indoor mate for $510,000. (Brokers usually value a terrace at 25 to 30 percent of the square-foot price of the indoor space—in this case, an extra $45,000.) Why so modest a difference? Two reasons: The unterraced apartment is on a higher floor, and a bidding war unnaturally inflated its price.

245 East 93rd Street
The facts: 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 750-square-foot condo.
Asking price: $450,000. selling price: $510,000.
Charges and taxes: $853.
Broker: Daniella Schlisser, Corcoran.

245 East 93rd Street
The facts: 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 750-square-foot condo with a terrace.
Asking price: $519,000. selling price: $519,000.
Charges and taxes: $940.
Broker: Daniella Schlisser, Corcoran.

The Roaring Twenties