Feeding the Frenzy

A few months from now, when you walk into the new condo building called the Lumière, on 53rd Street near Eighth Avenue, you’ll see a doorman’s desk, the usual bank of mailboxes, a couple of chairs for waiting visitors—and a stainless-steel KitchenAid refrigerator. You’d be excused for doing a double take, but it’s not the last time you’ll see such a feature: Michael Shvo, the building’s marketing agent, is planning on doing the same in all future developments. Why? One reason: FreshDirect. “We try to have our vision of what’s missing in our buildings,” says Shvo. “We see FreshDirect picking up tremendously—I use it, everyone I know uses it. It’s almost an essential.” His next building—in the financial district, he says, with 400 units—will have a walk-in cooler off the lobby.

The Lumière is just one sign that FreshDirect is, amazingly enough, beginning to affect the Manhattan real-estate business. Persuading New Yorkers to leave established neighborhoods for fringe areas, especially those buyers already struggling to find family-size apartments, has been easier than ever for brokers. The service also eliminates the perpetual gripe about the financial district (“There’s no supermarket!”). Kelly Cole of the Corcoran Group, who specializes in upper Manhattan areas like Inwood and Washington Heights, says that when she talks to buyers from downtown, “one of the things that always comes up is where they would shop.”

Good groceries were certainly a sticking point for downtowners Dan Lenchner and Joni Greenspan, two chefs who recently closed on a 3,000-square-foot co-op in Washington Heights. “One of the things that helped tip the balance for us was that FreshDirect delivered there,” says Lenchner, who owns Manna Catering, a high-end kosher service. “It wasn’t the make-or-break, but it absolutely cushioned the fall.” Corcoran’s Jason Karadus says it was a deal-clincher for two units at 150 Nassau Street—“part of our whole marketing strategy,” he admits. And the longtime Harlem broker Willie Kathryn Suggs says it has helped sell East Harlem to people worried about where to buy kohlrabi and artisanal cheese in an area that does most of its shopping in bodegas. “FreshDirect changed the game,” she says. “While we’re not like the rest of the Upper East Side, buyers can’t use that as an excuse now.”

Understandably, FreshDirect itself is thrilled at all the attention, and at its unforeseen influence. “This was not in the original business plan,” says FreshDirect president Steve Michaelson, “but we’re grateful.”

Bedford Street Freeze-Out
Max Weinberg’s West Village house is snaring some interest. The front man for Late Night With Conan O’Brien’s band—and, of course, Bruce Springsteen’s go-to drummer for three decades—is selling his 1859 house at 10 Bedford Street. It’s a rather whimsical property: a three-story, two-bedroom townhouse connected to another building’s one-bedroom “parlor apartment.” (There are fewer than a dozen such properties in Manhattan, say brokers.) Sotheby’s Roger Erickson reports tremendous interest from couples and starter families. “It’s a small, charming place. Not huge,” he says, noting that Weinberg and his wife used it—and its lush garden—as a weekender. (“A drum set was not present.”) Three fireplaces, a Jacuzzi, and a recent overhaul of the mechanical systems brought the asking price to $2.65 million (down from $2.825 million). A source reports that one couple almost took the plunge but decided that their 9-year-old daughter couldn’t quite handle the separate apartment, which includes a full bath and updated kitchen. The little girl could not be reached for comment.
—Will Doig

Triple Assessment
250 West 90th Street
One-bedroom, 11⁄2-bath, 920-square-foot condo.
Asking price:
Charges and taxes: $1,302.
Broker: Cris Herrera, Bellmarc Realty.

Originally an 820-square-foot loft (with a two-story wall of glass offering views of the Hudson), this light-flooded living-and-working space was split horizontally by its owners. The renovation added 100 square feet of usable floor space, but our experts say it also created an odd one-bedroom that may not draw many second looks.

Rob Morgenstern, Gumley Haft Kleier: “It’s a quirky apartment,” says Morgenstern, who points out that it’s a “live–mostly work” space whose basic kitchen needs to be completely redone. “You have a one-bedroom with a Murphy bed, so you’ll need to find someone who’ll use it that way” or refurbish it completely.
His assessment: $775,000.

Patrycia Harbison, Halstead: Harbison was impressed by the view, and lauded the building for its “very nice amenities,” which include a roof garden and a health club that’s free to residents. But given the small kitchen and the apartment’s present layout, she says “it’s not ideal as a one-bedroom.”
Her assessment: $795,000.

Toni Simon, Century 21 William B. May:The property is in a neighborhood where live-and-work spaces are a rarity, notes Simon, so it can command a premium. “But the ceilings are low and the hallways are cramped,” she adds, and a buyer will likely want to renovate to open the space up.
Her assessment: $795,000.

Feeding the Frenzy