Bowie, Murdoch et Al. Spend Millions to Make Art Enclave Their Own

ERIC NEDERLANDER, ON MOVING DOWNTOWN: IT’S LIKE A NEW CITY In the race to lure millionaires below Houston Street, the developer of 285 Lafayette Street, which actually is an old artist-in-residence loft building with actual loft-law-era artists still in residence , did something right. As of last April, the list of residents read like a Howard Rubenstein guest list: David Bowie and Iman, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Pat McEnroe and Melissa Errico, I.B.M. heiress Olive Watson, the owner of Tootsi Plohound, a Columbia Records executive and, as of February, jilted groom Eric Nederlander, of the theater family.

“It was a surprise,” said Eric Hadar, president of Allied Partners Inc., the developer who constructed 21 “luxury” condominiums on top of a six-story, loft law building-an 1886 structure that was once a chocolate factory-after careful negotiations with the tenants. Construction on all of the apartments is now finished, though some of the common spaces are not, and all of the units had sold by last April.

How did Mr. Hadar make the residence so attractive to the famous? “The key was to provide a finished space that would appeal to people rather than have them come in and rip them out,” Mr. Hadar said.

Then again, maybe Mr. Hadar doesn’t know whom he’s dealing with. As of March 1, all but three of the 21 new units were occupied, but about one-third of the new tenants were in the process of remodeling. “Some people are doing major renovations and bringing in expert craftsmen from all over the world,” said Mr. Hadar. “High-profile people are very particular about taste and what they’re going for.”

There are eight penthouses in the new portion of the building. Mr. Bowie and his wife, Iman, took two, Ms. Watson took another, so did the Murdochs and Mr. Nederlander. Each has a wood-burning fireplace, 26-foot-high ceilings and 10-foot-high windows. Mr. Nederlander, 34, hasn’t unpacked all of his boxes, but he’s already interviewed five architects for planned renovations to his $1.8 million penthouse loft. “I’m not thrilled with the layout. I may rip everything out,” he said.

This is the first co-op Mr. Nederlander has ever owned. He doesn’t count the apartment he and his former wife, Jessica Sklar, bought at the Majestic, 115 Central Park West, which they had not moved into when she left him for Jerry Seinfeld. Mr. Nederlander has since sold the place. “I originally wanted to live downtown,” he told The Observer . “She wanted to live on the Upper West Side.”

Mr. Nederlander’s 3,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment features five French doors in the living room, south, east and west exposures, and two more French doors leading onto a 1,000-square-foot terrace-one from the kitchen and another from one of the bedrooms.

“It’s like moving to a new city,” said Mr. Nederlander.

Mr. Bowie and Iman, whose terrace is separated from Mr. Nederlander’s by a wooden fence, haven’t moved in yet. “It’s just dry wall,” said one source about the current state of their apartment.

Last year, the rock star-and-model couple bought two adjoining penthouses for $4 million. According to another source, they have already spent another half a million dollars on electrical work alone. They’re in the process of decorating. “He’s going for an old English look, with hunter green and suede and leather and dark wood paneling,” said the source. “It’s the last thing I would have expected he would do.”

Three-quarters of the apartments have direct elevator access, but Mr. Nederlander shares an elevator with Ms. Watson, who customized her $1.8 million penthouse with a movie projector and screen that drops from the ceiling.

News Corporation chairman Lachlan Murdoch and his wife, model Sarah Murdoch, outfitted their $3.6 million penthouse with an impressive audio and visual system, and are in the process of building a koi pond on their terrace. Larry Everston, who owns the Tootsi Plohound chain of clunky-shoe stores, has transformed his $3.5 million sixth-floor loft into a northern Morocco village, complete with mosaic tiles, a citrus garden of lemon and orange trees in the sunroom, Venetian plaster walls, cement countertops built to look 200 years old-even a waterfall in one corner. “He’s spending close to $3 million,” said a source.

Some are less picky-or more thrifty. Mr. McEnroe, the tennis player, and his wife, Ms. Errico, an actress, haven’t planned any renovations to the $1.53 million apartment they bought in August. And Columbia Records’ vice president of promotions, Jerrold Blair, also hasn’t hired any architects for his approximately $2 million apartment.

Each apartment came equipped with a professional-style kitchen featuring oversize commercial ranges, slate countertops and oversize refrigerators; other finishes are Brazilian hardwood flooring, polished nickel vanities, stone and marble countertops, wine coolers, steam showers and six-foot bathtubs.

Before he knew that celebs would be living in the building, Mr. Hadar installed safety features, including about 20 video cameras. Some tenants paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for bulletproof glass, but that was a feature Mr. Hadar did not provide.

“I didn’t know that was an option,” said Mr. Nederlander about the glass, insisting that his neighbors may have wanted it for soundproofing rather than safety.

The roof garden, complete with a barbecue grill, will be lit and landscaped by spring-and available for tenants’ private parties. The 800-square-foot lobby will have a 10-foot-long white onyx counter and latex curtains. “These people want privacy, they’re not interested in a lot of common facilities. Whatever they like in terms of their life style, they can install in their own apartment,” said Mr. Hadar.

WEST VILLAGE

FANCY WATCH SELLER CAN’T LIVE WITH ‘THAT WOMAN’ “She drove me out,” said Scott Woodward, chief marketing officer at the Movado Group Inc., a luxury watch company. Mr. Woodward was referring not to his wife or his girlfriend-or God forbid, his mother-but Monica Lewinsky.

Mr. Woodward had been living for three and a half years at the Archive, a luxury rental apartment building at 666 Greenwich Street, near Christopher Street, when the portly pepperpot moved in last fall. He told The Observer that his new neighbor, and all the fanfare she brought with her, made him want to move. In fact, she motivated him to buy a place.

Mr. Woodward signed a contract for a 1,500-square-foot loft at 259 Bowery for $800,000 on March 3. His broker, Russell Sheaffer of the Halstead Property Company, found the fifth-floor apartment in a newly renovated tenement building, between Houston and Prince streets. It has an elevator, a fireplace, a balcony off the master bedroom and panoramic views of Manhattan from three of the window-covered walls.

But, Mr. Woodward still doesn’t seem to be able to say goodbye to his notorious neighbor. “It’s completely under renovation,” he said. “The owner [of the building] is working with me to reconfigure the bathroom and kitchen. The bedroom will have a huge walk-in closet, and I’m going to add walls.” He’ll be cohabitating with the First Mistress until May.

UPPER EAST SIDE

30 East 85th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,250-square-foot condo.

Asking: $775,000. Selling: $755,000.

Charges: $969. Taxes: $498.

Time on the market: six months.

YOUR OWN NEW YORK CITY WELCOME WAGON In addition to the Banana Republic store on the first floor and the David Barton gym just above that, this 31-story building between Madison and Fifth avenues has a doorman, a concierge, an elevator attendant, a garage with valet parking, a tailor, a dry cleaner and countless doctors’ offices within walking distance. In fact, a female doctor owned this condo. She bought it in 1987, but she lives primarily in North Carolina, said her broker Stacey Gero of the William B. May Company. After some convincing, a couple from out of town bought it. “Now, [they] couldn’t be happier,” she said. The apartment features marble bathrooms, nine-foot ceilings and cherrywood floors.

515 Park Avenue

Two-bed, three-and-a-half-bath, 2,520-square-foot condo.

Asking $3.8 million. Selling: $3.5 million.

Charges: $2,204. Taxes: $2,484.

Time on market: seven weeks.

PARK AVENUE TEASES $3.5 MILLION OUT OF BUSINESSMAN A Brazilian executive has been patiently waiting for an apartment on Park Avenue. “He’s been looking for something for many years,” said broker Marcos G. Cohen of Douglas Elliman, who has been surveying the available real estate on Park Avenue with the Brazilian gentleman all that time. “This fit the bill.” But he’s still waiting. No. 515 has been under construction for over a year. This apartment is said to have a library and limited Central Park views. The prewar building also promises full concierge services, a doorman, a conference room, a party room and super-duper wiring for the Internet. “It’s very modern,” said Mr. Cohen. “He didn’t think twice about buying it. He said, ‘This is a good investment.’” Even when the building is finished, the Brazilian will have about another two months of renovations ahead of him before his waiting is over.

UPPER WEST SIDE

101 West 67th Street

One-bed, 1 1/2 baths, 1,000-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.95 million. Selling: $2.85 million.

Charges: $1,100. Taxes: $300.

Time on the market: two months.

FELLA PLAYS HARD TO GET AND MAKES A MILLION MORE You know how no matter what, every time you get really, really comfortable in your overstuffed Shabby Chic sofa and you’ve found a classic episode of Frasier on TV and you remember which button puts that little box of college hoops scores up in one corner of the screen, the doorbell rings and it’s some little computer nerd with a measuring tape in one hand and cash in the other? Well, that’s about how the former owner of this 56th-floor penthouse felt. Apparently, he didn’t want to sell the place, but the new owners made him an irresistible offer-well, three irresistible offers over two months. The deal closed for $900,000 more than the seller’s if-I-had-to-pick-a-number-off-the-top-of-my-head price. “They wanted it right away,” said the seller’s broker, Sachiko Goodman from Sumitomo Real Estate Sales Inc., who used to live in the building. Lucky for the seller, he owns two other apartments just down the hall. The penthouse has a small balcony, easterly exposures and park and skyscraper views. The 4-year-old building, called Millennium Tower, is located between Broadway and Columbus Avenue, and features a 24-hour doorman and concierge. Sotheby’s International represented the buyer.

CHELSEA

10 West 15th Street

Two-bed, one-and-a half-bath, 1,000-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $395,000. Selling: $390,000.

Charges: $1,001; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one day.

RESIDENT REVISITS CO-OP BOARD: THEY STILL LIKE HER “The price was a little higher than we expected,” said Edward Enck, a broker with William B. May Real Estate who represented the woman who sold this apartment. “We thought it would go for $360,000.” Instead it went for $30,000 more, even though the seller accepted the lower of two competing offers. The buyer was a stronger candidate, partially because she had already been approved by the co-op’s board once; she had been living in the building when all of the tenants were informed that this 14th-floor apartment was up for sale. She saw it on a Sunday and made an offer later that day. “The building has a very good reputation,” said Mr. Enck. “Tenants love the neighborhood; they never move out of the building, so we made sure that everyone in the building knew about it.” The building has entrances on 14th and 15th streets, a doorman and a dry cleaner. The buyer put down 40 percent in cash and passed the co-op board in December-after the members rechecked her financial standing.

GREENWICH VILLAGE

7 Bond Street

One-bed, one-bath, 1,400-square-foot condo.

Asking: $670,000. Selling: $665,000.

Maintenance: $498. Taxes: $420.

Time on the market: 30 weeks.

EAST VILLAGE RENTERS UPGRADE INTO LOFT She’s a teacher, he’s an engineer, and they were ready to move out of their East Village rental. Every open house they checked out was within three blocks of this loft between Broadway and Lafayette Street, and they finally closed the deal on Jan. 27. Downstairs is an art store and a clothing boutique. “It’s very trendy,” said broker Shelly Russell of the Corcoran Group, who met the couple at one of her open houses. “They love the neighborhood.” The apartment features a sleeping loft and one true bedroom, 14-foot-high ceilings, southern exposures, three huge windows with open city views, and hardwood floors. “It’s very cute and in an up-and-coming neighborhood,” said Ms. Russell about the six-story building, dating from circa 1904, that boasts a roof deck available to all 18 apartments. The buyers have already moved in and the sellers, another married couple, bought a loft just a few blocks away.

TRIBECA

39 Vestry Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,150-square-foot condo.

Asking: $675,000. Selling: $640,000.

Charges: $408. Taxes: $5,244.

Time on the market: six weeks.

AT LEAST THEY CAN ACT THE PART The married actor and actress in their 30′s who bought this loft between Greenwich and Hudson streets insisted on moving to TriBeCa. Their new five-room loft has an open gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, hardwood floors, high ceilings and oversize double-paned windows overlooking Vestry Street. The seller, the original buyer of the loft when it was converted to a residential space two years ago, moved out of the city. Broker Shaun Osher, vice president of Douglas Ellimann, told The Observer that he had shown the loft to a couple of interested parties. The deal closed on Feb. 7, and the couple has moved in. “They won’t be doing any renovations,” he said.

Correction

In the issue of Feb. 28, this column incorrectly stated that the original buyer of a town house at 245 East 48th Street lost his down payment by forfeiting the deal. In fact, he did buy the apartment in December, then sold it for $1.95 million in January. Another buyer purchased the house at the end of January for $1.95 million, and the original buyer’s down payment was refunded.