Wild West Village: Townhouse Prices Reach $12.9 Million

The news came on June 1.

The owner of a house on a quiet street near the southern border of the West Village wanted $12.9 million for the place. Now, there’s no way to respectably sell anything in the neighborhood, even by employing what seemed to be the 2000 formula: doubling the going prices of a year or two ago.

“Greed has taken over,” said one broker.

The $12.9 million, three-bedroom house is at 12 St. Lukes Place. The asking price is just $300,000 less than the most expensive Upper East Side house sold by a major brokerage company during the past six months. It’s also $7 million more than the most expensive house that firm has sold in the West Village this year–and that was for the building a few doors down at 8 St. Lukes Place.

“It’s beautifully renovated,” said one broker of 12 St. Lukes Place, which the current owner bought for $2.9 million in 1995. “But still, that’s quite a jump.”

“This house will break records,” said another broker.

The West Village’s uptown prices are catching up with the influx of former uptown residents– New York Times Op-Ed page editor Howell Raines, designer Diane von Furstenberg, models Amber Valetta and Shalom Harlow, actor Wesley Snipes, artist Julian Schnabel, publisher Jonathan Newhouse, musician David Byrne, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter are all West Village homeowners. Fifth Avenue socialite Nancy Richardson has been shopping for a new home in the area for months (though she’s said to be narrowing in on a loft).

Since 12 St. Lukes Place hit the market, Gene Pressman, the former co-chairman of Barneys New York, put his townhouse at 237 West 12th Street on the market for $4.3 million. Mr. Pressman bought the 2,200-square-foot townhouse for less than half that price about a year ago and has completely restored the place, which is only 19 feet wide and 30 feet deep but has three bedrooms, three fireplaces and a planted roof garden.

“The house has no charm,” said one broker familiar with Mr. Pressman’s building. “When he bought it for $1.9 million we were laughing. Everyone was laughing. But these new numbers are just absurd.”

But they said the same thing about the house Linda Evangelista sold in February. The four-story building at 66 Bank Street–which has four fireplaces and a landscaped garden with a willow tree–sold for $5.19 million; Ms. Evangelista paid $2.1 million in 1995.

“We were shocked when we saw the price on this house, even more so when it sold,” said a broker.

Another townhouse at 97 Barrow Street, with less than 3,000 square feet, recently sold for $3.3 million; the seller paid $1.6 million two years ago.

On the other hand, a five-story townhouse at 243 West 11th Street came on the market for $5.2 million in early July. In the first few weeks that the building has been listed, the asking price has already been reduced to $4.95 million. There have been no serious offers.

AMAGANSETT

SHE’LL LIVE ON THE SECOND FLOOR (AND THE FIRST): SUZANNE VEGA’S BEACH HOUSE In an interview with Salon last year, singer Suzanne Vega told a reporter, “If I were not to live in New York I would live on the beach. And dress in black, and stride around in my boots by the water.”

Now she’s making moody footprints in Amagansett. On May 19, Ms. Vega bought a house at 19 Devon Landing Drive, a cul-de-sac off Abrahams Landing Road. The house, which cost the folk singer $525,000, is one of only six on the street and is on less than an acre of land.

One source described the sale as “one of those quiet deals,” and said that no brokers were involved.

Ms. Vega, who turned 41 in July, is a New York City native. She studied dance at the High School of the Performing Arts and got her B.A. from Barnard College. Although she started playing Greenwich Village coffee houses when she was 16, she wasn’t well known until 1987, when the song “Luka”–a catchy tune about child abuse–became a pop favorite. In 1990, another ubiquitous radio tune, “Tom’s Diner,” came out. Ms. Vega continues to record, but has not lately seen the critical success (or ceaseless airplay) that met her first two albums.

Ms. Vega is currently on tour in Italy and was not available to comment.

HARLEM

252 West 137th Street

Four-story, 4,250-square-foot townhouse.

Asking: $560,000. Selling: $535,000.

Time on the market: Four months.

TIME TO STRIP THE MANTELS This 1891 townhouse comes with tons of original details, including a Juliet seat at the top of the stairs, sliding pocket doors and six carved fireplaces, and it is located on an entirely residential block with no vacant lots. The new owner, J. Daniel Stricker, executive director of the Community Research Initiative on Aids, will convert the home from five separate apartments to just two, leaving him and his partner over 3,000 square feet of space for themselves. “That’s more than twice the size of both our old apartments combined,” he said. Mr. Stricker, who just put his 640-square-foot co-op in Hell’s Kitchen on the market, bought his new home on July 5 and moved in on July 7. “I just started stripping my first mantel ,” he reported. Willie Kathryn Suggs, of Willie Kathryn Suggs Licensed Real Estate Brokers, was the exclusive broker on the deal.

UPPER EAST SIDE

470 Park Avenue

Four-bed, five-and-a-half bath, 4,500-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $8 million. Selling: $6.85 million.

Charges: $6,100; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: 15 months.

HOW TO AVOID HOUSEGUESTS Sure, a large apartment like this one sounds nice: three floors, four bedrooms, a 2,100-square-foot terrace. But with space come houseguests. When a couple bought this co-op 10 years ago, visitors were part of the agenda. “They like to entertain and they had a large family and grandchildren that used to visit,” said their broker, Norma Hirsh of Douglas Elliman. But a little over a year ago, the sellers decided they had enough of playing host and hostess. They gave up this duplex with floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, a landscaped terrace and a large curved staircase, and will be moving uptown, closer to their children. Now they get to do the visiting.

WEST VILLAGE

42 West 13th Street

Three-bed, two-bath, 1,600-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $849,000. Selling: $825,000.

Charges: $1,054; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: One month.

GET TO KNOW THE FOLKS NEXT DOOR No one knows for sure how many there are, but everyone agrees that the number of New Yorkers colluding to reduce the total number of apartments in the city is significant. “It’s happening more and more,” said Christopher P. Wilson, director of sales for downtown at Stribling Associates, of people taking over their neighbors’ apartments instead of moving. “But no one can say exactly how much it happens, because 90 percent of the time there is no broker involved.” So it would seem that Scott Saunders, a vice president at Bellmarc Realty and the exclusive broker on this deal, got lucky when he sold this three-bedroom apartment (with a fireplace, a view of the rear courtyard and not much light) to the folks next door. Sure, the sellers got almost $25,000 less than they were asking, but they didn’t have to worry about the board approving their buyer, and the neighbors paid in cash. The resulting apartment will be double the space of the two-bedroom apartment the neighbors started with; and even if they didn’t get around brokers, they did get around the price of a three-bedroom apartment. “Assuming they bought their first apartment at below current market value, and as long as the two layouts lend themselves to combination,” said Mr. Saunders, “even if they paid over the market price for the second apartment, they still got a deal.” Foiled again!