They’re Condo Crazy! Another Big One Sells at The Ritz-Carlton

SIDNEY KIMMEL SECURES CONDO AT 50 C.P.S. FOR $29 MILLLION There are six full-floor apartments still up for grabs atop the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 50 Central Park South. They start at $21 million and 5,800 square feet, but so far, no one seems to be getting nervous–least of all Sidney Kimmel.

Mr. Kimmel, the 73-year-old founder and chairman of Jones Apparel Group, signed a contract to pay $29 million for one of the 11 apartments at 50 Central Park South in December–the same month he married socialite Caroline Davis at his Palm Beach mansion. Mr. Kimmel owns two other apartments within three blocks of the place, both of which are now on the market.

On Jan. 11, Mr. Kimmel put his apartment at 781 Fifth Avenue (the Sherry Netherland Hotel) on the market for $10.75 million. He bought the apartment for about $5 million five years ago from Robert Meister, vice chairman of Aon Risk Services Companies, the global insurance-brokerage arm of the Aon Corporation, and then had it renovated by designer Juan Montoya.

Mr. Kimmel had tried to sell the Sherry Netherland apartment once before, in March of 2000, for $8.75 million, after purchasing a 5,000-square-foot duplex on the 38th and 39th floors at 515 Park Avenue for about $15 million. He had begun renovating the kitchen and adding maids’ rooms when he changed his mind, taking his Sherry Netherland apartment off the market and putting the one at 515 Park on the market instead. He asked brokerage owner Alice Mason to sell it for $20 million. (At 515 Park, many folks bought apartments simply to flip them for staggering profits. According to brokers, all of the original apartments have sold but only 12 people have moved into the building.)

But Mr. Kimmel’s apartment at 515 Park hasn’t sold yet. “Those are heavy numbers,” said one broker about the $20 million asking price. “He’s asking too much.” There are four other duplexes in the building that are also on the market, ranging in price from $16.5 million to $18 million, said a source.

After Mr. Kimmel settled on a place at 50 Central Park South, he put his Sherry Netherland apartment on the market again, this time for $10.75 million. “It’s a pretty apartment,” said one broker. “It’ll sell at that price.”

Assuming Mr. Kimmel plans to move into 50 Central Park South with his new bride, his future neighbors will include Mitchell Rales of the manufacturing conglomerate Danaher Corporation; Larry Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle Corporation; and Christopher M. Jeffries, principal and founding partner of Millennium Partners, who has claimed a 9,906-square-foot duplex in the building, complete with a double-height ballroom and $39 million price tag.

Mr. Jeffries, incidentally, has also put his former home, at 1 Lincoln Square–a Millennium Partners’ development, also known as 150 Columbus Avenue–on the market during the first week of October for $12.5 million. One broker described it as a “spectacular” place with a 38-foot-high living room.

Mr. Kimmel’s latest apartment is the fifth one to sell above the new 35-story, 300-room Ritz hotel, which is being developed as a joint project by Ian Schrager Hotels and Millennium Partners and is supposed to be completed late this year. “People are working with designers” already, said Matthew Hall, director of corporate communications for Millennium Partners, “to start work on how they want the space built.” The apartments feature over 100 square feet of Central Park views and range in size from 5,000 to just under 10,000 square feet.

Mr. Kimmel did not return calls.

UPPER EAST SIDE

838 FIFTH AVENUE OWNERS DO INTERNET TINKERING TO RAW SPACE

Blame it on the legal troubles of developer Alfred Taubman if you want, but the 10 luxury condos being built at 838 Fifth Avenue will not be delivered to their owners exactly on schedule. However, the hotshot future residents don’t seem to be banging down the doors; instead, they’re sitting tight and drawing up floor plans–on the Internet.

The newest among them, investor Michael Price, paid $13.7 million for the 10th-floor apartment in November. That leaves two apartments unaccounted for–well, really four, when you consider that the late Edmond Safra was already trying to resell his seventh- and ninth-floor units before he passed away in December 1999.

The seventh- and ninth-floor apartments were both originally priced at $14 million. The late Mr. Safra, the founder of Republic National Bank, bought them with an investor in this building in the hope that he would eventually be able to get his hands on the eighth-floor unit in order to make a triplex. But the triplex idea proved more difficult to execute than expected: Brokers say the eighth-floor unit is the most desirable one because it has the highest ceilings; it was also the second-highest-priced unit in the building, at $16 million.

According to one source, Safra offered the original buyer $21 million for the apartment, but he wouldn’t sell. Eventually Safra gave up and put his seventh- and ninth-floor apartments on the market through Maria Torresy of Brown Harris Stevens in July 2000–but not without the hope of making a little profit. The seventh-floor apartment is now listed at $15.5 million, and the ninth-floor apartment–which has a terrace–is now on the market for $16 million.

Meanwhile, the second and fourth floors, asking $8 million and $10.5 million respectively, are still for sale by the sponsor. Brokers say that these units are overpriced considering they’re on such low floors. “You look out into the trees,” said one source on why the units have been so slow to sell. “It’s not enough view for the money.”

Roughly half of the multimillionaires who will live in the former office building have asked that their condominium units be delivered as raw space so their own architects can build the interiors. Either way, a spokesperson for the Athena Group said that all of the units–ranging in size from 4,523 to 5,423 square feet, and in price from $8 million to $18 million–are still mostly raw. The developers, through the technology of a company called iScraper, have created a secure Web site where owners can keep tabs on the progress of their apartments.

Charles Bronfman, the co-chairman of the Seagram Company Ltd., is paying $18 million for the penthouse duplex on the 11th and 12th floors, and Lillian Goldman, the widow of real estate mogul Sol Goldman, is paying $9 million for the third-floor apartment. The buyers are not expected to move in until late spring or early summer of this year.

50 East 89th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,300-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $735,000. Selling: $725,000.

Charges: $1,285; 48 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

MAYBE YOU COULD STILL BABYSIT Anticipating lots of visits from grandma, a couple living in this full-service building decided to buy her a place of her own just a few floors away. But after a few years, it became clear that their free baby-sitter would not be making as many visits to New York as they’d thought, and so the couple put the apartment up for sale. At the same time, a woman about to retire was being pushed out of her rental apartment. She contacted Sarah Ford of the Halstead Property Company to help her find a place to move. This was the second apartment Ms. Ford took her to, and although it fit all the woman’s criteria, she didn’t jump on it immediately. “We kept looking on the East and West Side and downtown just to educate her a little,” said Ms. Ford. “Even though this apartment was really what she wanted, a lot of times when you take a buyer out they feel they don’t have enough information to make a decision.” But after about four weeks of education (and pressure from her landlord), the retiring woman came back here and made an offer that was accepted. The 33-story building, built in 1974, has a 24-hour doorman and a garage.

UPPER WEST SIDE

91 Central Park West

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $775,000. Selling: $800,000.

Charges: $1,354; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: four months.

A HOLY HOME In 1654, a group of 23 Sephardic Jews, mostly from Portugal and Spain, started Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan. It was the first Jewish congregation in North America. In 1961, over 300 years later, the congregation bought this apartment, in a building that had just gone co-op less than a block away from their synagogue on Central Park West at 70th Street. The apartment housed successive rabbis until the synagogue, about to start renovations to another building they owned on the same block, decided to sell it. A broker in the congregation tried to find a buyer, but had no luck. Eventually, the broker recommended that they hire Susan Ruttner of the Halstead Property Company. “They wanted to use an outsider,” explained Ms. Ruttner. It took her a while to sell the property, which has Central Park views from the master bedroom and a view of the synagogue to the north. Eventually the place was sold, to a young couple engaged to be married. They will do some renovations, but nothing too extensive.

SUTTON PLACE

415 East 54th Street

Three-bed, four-and-a-half-bath, 4,000-square-foot condo.

Asking: $4.3 million. Selling: $3.7 million.

Charges: $2,907. Taxes: $1,300.

Time on the market: five months.

NOT READY FOR LOWBALLERS YET A single woman, the first person to see this high-floor duplex with a maid’s room and a library, quickly offered $2.6 million for it–almost $2 million less than the asking price. But Marie Okada of Douglas Elliman said no. Over the course of the next five months, the single gal gradually raised her offer in order to be ahead of whatever new offer had come in, eventually getting up to $3.6 million. Just as Ms. Okada was about to call it quits and let the pesky lady take the place for almost $1 million under the asking price, a middle-aged couple that already lived in the building swooped in and offered $3.7 million. Ms. Okada dropped the lowballing lady and signed a contract with the middle-aged couple, who loved the building but wanted a larger space. The deal closed in 45 days. The building, St. James Tower, was built in 1982 on the site of Le Club, the first private discotheque in New York. It has the usual amenities, including a gym, sundeck and bicycle storage room, but also some extras, including a high-tech lighting system in the halls that brightens when the doors open and casts spotlights on the door locks.