Given Manhattan’s crowded condo market, the developers of 555 West 23rd Street longed to stand out. So apart from making sure all 337 of their units had the usual accoutrements and then some—glass mosaic tile in the kitchens, oak strip flooring, tricked-out gym and lounge—they spent more than $1 million on a courtyard, designed by landscape architect Howard Abel, that’s filled with evergreen plantings, a fountain, and an illuminated waterfall. “There are a lot of choices in the city for where to spend housing dollars,” says Jeff Levine, the principal builder, and he’s hoping that an enormous patio will make buyers choose to spend their dollars with him.
All over the city, developers are pouring funds into “greening” their buildings. This wasn’t always the case, says landscape architect Tom Balsley, who’s prettifying the lobbies, rooftops, and outdoor spaces of 415 Greenwich Street (pictured), 321 Fifth Avenue, 200 Chambers Street, and especially 270 Greenwich, where he’s channeling Lake Tahoe with a roof terrace full of pine trees. “Landscaping used to be an afterthought. Now it’s almost a prerequisite,” says Balsley, whose watershed commission (literally) was the fountain wall in Trump Tower’s atrium. Other similar projects in the pipeline include 1600 Broadway on the Square, where Rick Parisi is sculpting “rolling hills” on the fourth-floor terrace, and Element, a West 59th Street building marketed by Corcoran’s Shlomi Reuveni that promises 12,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space, including a meditation garden designed by Quennell Rothschild, master planners of Hudson River Park. Balsley says developers pay as much as $100 per square foot for his work, a far cry from when they “left gravel on the rooftops.”
Moreover, they’re happy to spend money spreading a few leaves around. “For every dollar you spend on landscaping, you get $3 in value,” says Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg, who’s a fan of the new trend. “We’re surrounded by concrete, tar, noise, and hell, and one of the most effective colors for diminishing stress is green.” Gumley Haft Kleier president Michele Kleier says landscaping can even transform a “non-view” into an asset. “If you can’t have the East River, then the next best thing to look out to is a waterfall,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like you’re the poor relative who’s facing the back.”
Uptowners no more? Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips is said to be leaving the Upper West Side apartment he and his family moved into just last year. The chiseled newsman, who also owns a home in Westchester County, has listed his very large triplex on West 72nd Street for $5.495 million with the Corcoran Group’s Fran Davis. The two-bedroom co-op with a convertible office is in a dog-friendly white-glove building designed in 1927 by Emery Roth, across the street from the Dakota, in what’s generally the most expensive part of the Upper West Side. It has herringbone oak floors, an enormous windowed kitchen (with the requisite stainless-steel appliances), three exposures, and the pièce de résistance: a 300-square-foot terrace with a high-tech irrigation system and uninterrupted views of the park. So why leave? Sources say the former Gramercy Park dweller is considering a return to downtown, though he’s not sure yet where he’ll end up.
Same Space, Different Place
Make Mine a Double
In this suddenly kid-friendly city, there’s no better demonstration of the demand for a second bedroom than a comparison of these co-ops in the Village. Though they’re nearly identical in size, and are on the same prime block near Washington Square Park, their asking prices are $85,000—a solid 11 percent—apart. Why? If you wall off each dining room, the one at 55 East 9th Street, which also has lower maintenance fees, will create “a larger second bedroom” than its counterpart a few doors down, says broker Barry Silverman of Halstead. A leafy street view from the higher-priced apartment—versus a busy street view down the block—seals the deal.
55 East 9th Street
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 950-square-foot co-op with den.
Asking Price: $935,000.
Maintenance: $919 per month.
Agent:Barry Silverman, Halstead.
30 East 9th Street
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 930-square-foot co-op with den.
Asking Price: $850,000.
Maintenance: $1,028 per month.
Agent: Barry Silverman, Halstead.