Lucille Roberts is not a woman in a hurry. The womens-only-health-club-owner panted over the former mansion of Barbara Hutton (4 East 80th Street) from two doors away for 12 years before buying it for a measly $6 million in 1995. It’s taken her five years to renovate the French Renaissance-style home, commissioned by Frank Woolworth and built by C.P.H. Gilbert around 1915. Now, with a $10 million deal to sell her current home at 8 East 80th Street, Ms. Roberts is beginning to consider actually moving.
With 18,900-square-feet, 4 East 80th Street is the grande dame on a block that’s the mother lode of single family homes. In 1901, Mr. Woolworth built a home for himself on the northeast corner of 80th Street and Fifth Avenue; his neighbors were Warburgs and Bloomingdales. He then lined his daughters up across the street at 2, 4 and 6 East 80th Street. Ms. Hutton, the original poor-little-rich-girl, grew up in the middle–at No. 4, the largest of the three.
Ms. Roberts, who wouldn’t divulge her age, but according to reports is 55, said she has left “no stone unturned,” in her extensive restoration, renovation, redecoration. “Have you seen Clueless ?” she asked, trying to explain her new closet that will feature an electronic clothing rack–resembling a dry cleaner’s. A spare bedroom was chopped up to accommodate the device that Alicia Silverstone made famous in the 1995 cult film about a teen with too many credit cards.
Ms. Roberts’ architect is Hottenroth and Joseph and her designer is John Robert Moore II, who used to work with Sister Parish and also designed her old house. Also consulting is her close friend Eunice Gardiner, the wife of Robert Gardiner, whose family owns Gardiner’s Island. Watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for decorating tips, her friend told her. On April 25, Ms. Roberts went one step further when she toured the long, empty Cartier Mansion at 15 East 96th Street which has its own $13.5 million price tag.
The fruits of her research are an honorary Cary Grant Suite, a bedroom named after the actor who was married to Ms. Hutton for three years, and a six-foot-high John Malkovich Room overlooking the kitchen. Another highlight: The solarium with skylights just off the dining room on the first floor.
Ideally, she and her husband, Bob Roberts, will move their personal offices from the ground floor and basement of 8 East 80th Street to a similar location at 4 East 80th Street. Upstairs there will be at least three bedrooms.
The 35-foot-wide house’s last incarnation was as the Young Men’s Philanthropic Society, where a gentleman might have found a mean game of bridge. The association put the house on the market for $12 million in 1990. Now the neighbors include philanthropist Frederick Koch at No. 6, former “21″ owner Marshall Cogan at No. 18 and Ms. Roberts and her husband, Bob Roberts, who bought 8 East 80th Street for $1.7 million in 1983. They put it on the market for $7.95 million after acquiring No. 4.
About 50 people looked at 8 East 80th Street, a five-story limestone mansion with offices and a conference room on the basement and first-floor level as well as six marble fireplaces, an elevator, a top-floor apartment complete with kitchen and three bedroom suites. Ms. Roberts recalls about 10 people making offers to buy the house–including Whoopi Goldberg for just under $7 million.
“She wanted to be in, like tomorrow,” said Ms. Roberts, who has also owned a house in South Hampton for 20 years. “And we couldn’t get our act together that fast.” This was a recurring problem. “Every time someone came up to bat and raised the price, were weren’t ready to move.”
The asking price of the house was raised to $8.9 million in 1998 and to $9.9 million last February. After a bidding war that took place while the Roberts were traveling in India, a $10 million contract was signed on March 10 by a couple of software executives after they had sold their company and cashed in all of their stock options.
The new buyers will inherit the Lucille Roberts Bathroom, a “heavily Frenchy” boudoir that she had modeled after one she saw in a suite at the Ritz in Paris to which she was upgraded without her permission, sans discount. She moved to a different room, but not before following the Robin Leach rule: She took several pictures which became the basis of her favorite room at 8 East 80th Street.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG IS SELLING HER EAST 79TH STREET CO-OP. WILL DEDE BROOKS BE NEXT? Though Whoopi Goldberg didn’t get Lucille Roberts’ townhouse at 8 East 80th Street, the 50-year old comedian, actress and Hollywood Squares ringer purchased the 15th floor apartment at 151 East 79th Street for $2.9 million in 1996. In mid-April, however, Ms. Goldberg circulated a letter to all of her neighbors–including ousted Sotheby’s chief executive Diana (Dede) Brooks–giving them first dibs as she plans to unload the 13-room, 4,200-square-foot apartment with four bedrooms, four bathrooms and three maids’ rooms. With no takers, the apartment went on the open market on May 1 for anybody with $5.6 million to spare.
Ms. Goldberg, who grew up in Chelsea, has had a mansion in Tuxedo Park since 1997. It has French paneling in the living room and library, marble baths and a wood-burning fireplace. She bought the place from Franklin Hobbs, the former chairman of Dillon, Read & Company, an investment banking firm.
“It’s a tough board,” said one broker about the building “And it’s a great building.”
Next up for grabs in the building, brokers speculate, is the 10th-floor spread of Ms. Brooks, who put her Greenwich, Conn. house on the market for $3.995 million in early March through Sotheby’s International Realty. The only problem, according to sources, is that the exclusive right to sell apartments in 151 East 79th Street is under lock and key by broker Edith Tuckerman of Brown Harris Stevens, the company that manages the building and that is the New York affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates, the real estate division of the London auction house. Neither Ms. Tuckerman nor Ms. Brooks returned phone calls for comment.
164 East 72nd Street
Three-bed, 3-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $1.9 million. Selling: $1.7 million.
Charges: $2,772.67; 48 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 10 days.
DUCK! COUPLE HOPPING THE POND He’s over 6 feet and she’s at least 5-foot-8. The rule was they wouldn’t consider any apartment where he could touch his hand to the ceiling. Apparently, Carnegie Hill and the ’60′s failed and they ended up across the street from the apartment they were renting. The elegant prewar building, between Third and Lexington avenues, has a garden, three apartments per floor and mail delivered to the front door. Douglas Elliman Realty represented the sellers, investment bankers who had been relocated to London. Julie Friedman of Bellmare Realty represented the buyers. The sale was Ms. Friedman’s third in three months in which the sellers were hopping the pond.
JAY-Z’S SUMMER RENTAL IS NO SWEAT FOR HOMEOWNER RUSSELL SIMMONS Last summer, 29-year-old Grammy-winning rapper Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) and his business partner Damon Dash, 28, paid $60,000 to rent Goose Creek, an eight-bedroom estate with indoor and outdoor pools and a 110-seat screening room in Wainscott, for two weeks. But this season, after Mr. Carter was indicted for allegedly stabbing record executive Lance Rivera, 33, on Dec. 1, the duo is spending $120,000 on the East Hampton house where hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, 43, lived last summer, at 323 Georgica Road. The house is currently on the market for $1.395 million.
But don’t pity Mr. Simmons. He and his wife, model Kimora Lee, bought a five-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath house at 20 Gericho Road for $2.5 million and an adjacent 1.85-acre vacant lot for $785,000. There’s just the house and a pool on the two lots, but Mr. Simmons purchased the two properties in different names, leaving open the possiblity of further construction.
Said Peter Turino, a broker at Dunemere Associates Real Estate, East Hampton law is such that you want to buy two adjacent pieces of property separately so “it’s safe to build on it one day.” If they’re under the same name, it’s illegal.
According to another broker, Mr. Simmons’ new heated pool was surrounded by large boulders when he bought the house. “It looked like the Flintstones were living there.”
Mr. Simmons would not comment.
UPPER WEST SIDE
124 West 87th Street
Four-story, 5,000-square-foot town house.
Asking: $1.975 million. Selling: $1.92 million.
Time on the market: Three months.
WALL STREET THREESOME SHACKS UP The city is starting to feel more and more like the shows on the WB. Two guys and a girl bought this townhouse together and are going to split it three ways. Yes, they work on Wall Street. “They’re very good friends,” said their broker, Lloyd Parodneck of Bellmarc Realty. “They all travel quite a bit, so they will all be looking out for each other’s apartments when the other is away.” The guy with the dog is going to take the two bottom floors–a duplex apartment with 14-foot ceilings on the parlor floor and a garden out back. The lady is going to combine the one-bedroom and studio on the third floor. And the other guy is going to take the fourth floor and turn it into a duplex, adding an extra story onto the roof. Eventually they want to convert the building into a co-op and own their separate apartments individually. According to Mr. Parodneck, the town house, built in the late 1800′s, needs a lot of work. “The bones are there, but it hasn’t been updated for 30 years,” he said, citing electric-blue shag carpet on the ground floor, Formica finishes in the kitchens and 1970′s wood built-ins in the living rooms, as the “not very contemporary or traditional” decorating touches of the former owners. The new buyers will do extensive renovations including facade work. The deal was co-brokered by Robert Knakal, Chairman of Massey Knakal.
534 Hudson Street (Kimberly)
Three-bed, 3 1/2 bath, 1,870-square-foot condo.
Asking: $1.25 million. Selling: $1.255 million.
Charges: $1,136. Taxes: $141.
Time on the market: Approximately two months.
THE BIG BONUS FROM N.Y.U. LAW Columbia University may be one of New York’s biggest landlords, but New York University may be the nicest. Earlier this year, the New York University Law Foundation, the board of trustees for N.Y.U. Law School, bought this condo and handed it over to Stephen Perry, a visiting professor of tort law from the University of Pennsylvania. And Mr. Perry, whose one-year stint is ending and who is in the process of finishing a book in his area of expertise, can stay as long as he wants, apparently. “N.Y.U. has made me an offer to stay at the law school permanently,” Mr. Perry told the Observer. “And if I stay at N.Y.U. then I will stay on at the Kimberly.” The apartment, of course, is part of the bait. “Rather than give them salaries that are off the charts they buy them houses,” said a University source about the packages N.Y.U. Law has been presenting to prospective high-profile faculty members lately. The seven-story brick building has a 24-hour concierge. All but seven of the apartments, which range in size from 860 to 2,400 square feet, have terraces or balconies. Mr. Perry, who is 44 and has taught tort law and legal philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania since 1996, seems taken with the free pad. Other than a leak when he first arrived, he said, “it is a great building, and a great location. The developer did a superb job. Very impressive.”