Cellar Dwellers

Photo: Donald Bowers

When Darren Orlando stopped in at the open house for a Charlton Street triplex in September, he first thought, No way. After all, he was trying to find a place that would live up to the bright, airy Tribeca loft he’d just sold. This property was dark, its kitchen “pieced together,” to put it mildly. Worse, the living room was on the undesirable ground floor, and its lowest level—two floors down—had six-foot ceilings, barely tall enough for Orlando to walk through without knocking himself out cold. Still, within weeks, he bought it for $1.73 million.

Insanity? Maybe not. For half the price of a similar space a few floors up, the advertising executive will have nearly 4,000 square feet for his family, more than enough for him to carve out a media room and a play space. That’s a bargain, especially on the boundary between superexpensive Soho and the even pricier West Village. More and more, buyers are discovering that getting in below the ground floor makes sense. “There’s an interest level now that we’ve never seen before,” says Paul Wexler, who runs a division of Corcoran that specializes in properties like these, many of which end up as professional offices. Although the majority of these underground residences are odd leftovers in eccentrically laid-out older buildings, developers lately have been incorporating subterranean plans as well, hoping to squeeze apartments out of every cubic inch they build. (In the Sweeney Building and 70 Washington, both in Dumbo, ground-floor duplexes start at $1.1 million for 1,675 square feet.)

In the case of the Charlton Street apartment, the listing broker, Dwelling Quest’s Jeff Silverstein, lives in a largely subterranean triplex he’s renovated to the hilt (pictured). He invited Orlando to check out his space, which sealed the deal. Even after a massive makeover, Orlando’s apartment will still be worth $1 million more than he spent on it. “If you see the possibilities, it’s much easier to see the value,” says his broker, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Louis Leone. “Color and lighting make a place so homey, the view isn’t so important.” Still, it’s not for everyone. “The sights, sounds, and smells—I personally don’t see the attraction,” Wexler says. “But that doesn’t mean that if the right unit came up I’d say no.”

Dr. Evil Has Left the Building
Morton Square apparently isn’t Wayne’s World. Sources say Mike Myers and his wife, Robin, have apparently left the high-profile downtown condo, where they’d been bunking in a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath rental. Whatever lured Myers—reportedly far more low-key than his flamboyant onscreen personae would suggest—to the property evidently couldn’t entice him to stay for the time being, even though reports say the couple has been hunting for a permanent home for some time. The apartment’s now on the market for $4.2 million; no word yet on where they’ve landed. A little farther uptown, celebrity D.J. and music executive Noah Kerner, who has spun for the likes of J.Lo and A Tribe Called Quest and whose book, Chasing Cool, is due out next summer, just bought a one-bedroom condo overlooking Stuyvesant Square Park through his broker, Corcoran’s David Branyan.

The Open House Log

130 Jane Street, Apartment 3B
One-bedroom, 771-square-foot co-op.
Asking Price: $799,000. maintenance: $969 per month.
Broker: S. Hunie Kwon, JC DeNiro & Associates.

Photo: Donald Bowers
Photo: Donald Bowers

Who: Katherine Begbie, creative director, and Daniel Wadia, ad executive (pictured).
What are you shopping for?
Daniel: Kate moved in with me, and my place isn’t big enough.
Katherine: We’d love to live in the far West Village.
Daniel: It’s probably the most charming area in New York.
What do you think?
Katherine: The bricks are brilliant!
Daniel: We really need a bedroom, though.
Katherine: This kitchen is not to our taste.

Who: Judith Hirsch, Elliman broker, and her husband, Marvin, importer.
What are you shopping for?
Marvin: We have a home in Quogue and an apartment in Forest Hills. But it’s time to find a place in Manhattan.
Judith: I wanted to see how many people showed up, since there’s all this debate about the market. Frankly, I didn’t see much dip in the prices.
What do you think?
It’s cute. It’s not a true one-bedroom, but people need to pay to live in the West Village.
Marvin: What looked ridiculous three years ago turns out to have been reasonable.

Who: David Kostman, real-estate lawyer.
What are you shopping for? I’m sort of in the market. I’m always in the market. Honestly? I was looking at a two-bedroom in the building and stopped by.
What do you think? It’s cute, but it’s really a studio. More like a loft, I guess—$799,000 is high. The owner has good taste.

Cellar Dwellers