A Condo Board Sinks Soho Swimming Pool of Venture Capitalist

When Roger Evans paid $8.65 million for a brand-new-and practically barren-apartment at 56 Crosby Street last September, he thought he was buying the right to do with it what he wanted. In fact, the price included not only the 9,500-square-foot penthouse-which was sold “raw,” meaning there weren’t even any bathrooms-but ownership of the nearly 4,000-square-foot roof. But after Mr. Evans and his architect had spent three months planning to dramatically redesign the place, the condo board of the building-still in its infancy-complained and put a halt to the entire project.

Granted, what Mr. Evans, the British-born, Cambridge-educated venture capitalist, had in mind was an architectural magnum opus. Out of the 8,000-square-foot space, with weathered red brick walls and large windows providing views of the World Trade Center, the bridges spanning the East River and urban rooftops, Mr. Evans wanted to create an elaborate mezzanine-level master-bedroom suite suspended from the ceiling; two dramatic sweeps of stairway leading to two doors in the skylights on either end of the apartment, leading out in turn to large decks on the east and west sides of the roof; and, to top it all off, an outdoor swimming pool.

Now Mr. Evans has walked away from the project. And the broker who sold him the place is trying to find a new buyer for his condo construction site-for $9.5 million. But, more urgently, his architect wants to finish the masterpiece he started-or at least most of it.

Creating the monstrous residence was to be Mr. Evans’ first step into New York from Palo Alto, Calif., where he has been a general partner at the private venture-capital firm Greylock since 1989, when the company sold his 13-year-old data communications company for $150 million to Nortel. Mr. Evans has helped ink deals for Sycamore, Siemens and Intel, mostly for the purchase of promising start-up communications companies. In January 1999, he helped engineer the purchase of Ascend Communications Inc. by Lucent Technologies-a $20 billion sale and an industry record at a time when Lucent was still ascending.

Mr. Evans’ New York ambassador was none other than Lot 61 owner Amy Sacco. “I found him the broker, apartment, the architect and the interior designer,” Ms. Sacco told The Observer , referring in part to Douglas Elliman’s Helene Luchnick, maven of the raw downtown loft, and Rafael Viñoly, an architect with several large New York projects under his belt, including designs for the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, still in development.

The apartment Ms. Sacco takes credit for is the breathtaking space at the pinnacle of 56 Crosby, a seven-story building between Spring and Broome streets that was converted to seven condos last year. The developer hollowed out every floor and sold space in the building for prices starting at $1.95 million. Mr. Evans and Mr. Viñoly started drawing up plans last September. Shortly after all of the apartments at 56 Crosby were sold-by the end of October-the new owners met and appointed a condo board.

Mr. Evans had begun to do some work, but was mostly preparing the space for the construction, brokers involved say, when the condo board of the building expressed objections to the designs. “The condo didn’t want them to do plans that are this extensive,” said Jan Hashey of Douglas Elliman, who is now selling the apartment for Mr. Evans. “It was an issue.”

The board did not just object to the pool. The interior renovations were also “ambitious,” said Ms. Hashey, referring to Mr. Viñoly’s dramatic designs for the space. Mr. Evans and his architect did have neighborliness in mind: The plans also called for a special layer of flooring that would soundproof the apartment, even though, Ms. Hashey said, he is no party animal. “It was just for normal household noise,” she said. “He’s a very considerate man.”

Mr. Evans declined to be interviewed for this story, but one broker familiar with the deal said he quite liked several members of the board and was reluctant to fight hard over their objections. By all accounts, Mr. Evans is not a pugnacious fellow-“He is a gentleman!” said Ms. Sacco; “A real wordsmith,” said Mr. Evans’ assistant-and relations with the board were cordial. But the whole project turned out to be too much for this busy man, sources said.

“It was a combination of factors,” including the ones outlined above, that made Mr. Evans decide to sell, said broker Jan Hashey.

Mr. Viñoly would not comment for this story either, but one source familiar with the apartment’s status said there is one potential buyer who hired Mr. Viñoly to build a house in the Hamptons.

If she bought the apartment, that could mean avoiding a return to the drawing board, and Mr. Viñoly’s vision for the space might be in the hands of someone more willing to negotiate with the condo board on his behalf. The very large space is also being marketed as two separate apartments: one at 4,142 square feet with half the roof space, the other at 3,800 square feet with the other half of the roof. But Ms. Hashey said it would be a shame to see the ambitious plans cooked up by Messrs. Evans and Viñoly discarded entirely.

These days, one of the glass doors to the roof hangs suspended over the space with no stairs leading up to it. “The condo doesn’t understand, because they’re all first-time buyers, that this person would have been an ideal single owner of the penthouse, and Viñoly’s plans could only make the building more valuable,” she said. “In fact, he would have put on a very expensive whole new roof, which the building I’m sure would have benefited from.”

GRAMERCY PARK

CITIGROUP SON SEEKS A KILLING IN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET Marc Weill can’t keep out of the market for long–the real estate market, that is. Back in November, the 44-year-old son of Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill quit his job directing a $113 billion investment portfolio for Citigroup, citing the need to seek help for his drug dependency. Then in January, Mr. Weill bought a $1.935 million loft at 5 East 17th Street–a raw space save for a chef’s kitchen and one bathroom. But on March 6, Mr. Weill put the fourth-floor loft back on the market seeking a $500,000 profit. Violet C. Boe of Douglas Elliman is selling it.

The 5,600-square-foot condo is a “live/work space” with a private keyed elevator, four exposures, new plumbing and a video intercom. (Charges are $1,155; taxes are $1,024.) Broker Jeffrey Smith of the Corcoran Group said that, like Mr. Weill, the couple who had sold the loft to the financier never moved in. They lost about $200,000 on the deal, including real estate taxes.

Mr. Weill has been on the move since August 1999, when actor Nathan Lane spent $1.695 million on the 3,000-square-foot duplex loft on N. Moore Street in Tribeca that Mr. Weill had leased for two years, at $8,500 per month, from an Asian corporate trust. The fifth-and-sixth-floor apartment had two bedrooms, a library, three baths, double-height ceilings in the living room and arched palladium windows. Mr. Weill didn’t return calls seeking comment.

112 East 19th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.499 million. Selling: $1.3 million.

Charges: $1,415; 44 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: three months.

YESTERDAY’S LOFT IS TODAY’S GUT REHAB This building is one of the few loft buildings in the immediate vicinity of Gramercy Park, and, as befits an older loft, the woman who recently sold this apartment was an artist who lived and worked there; she had combined two bedrooms into a space that served as her studio. But after 20 years, she decided to sell the apartment. Last October, she put the place up for sale with Richard Ferrari and Drew Glick, both of Douglas Elliman. It took a few months, but eventually buyers were found with some artistic vision of their own. “They saw the potential in the apartment,” said Mr. Glick, referring to the couple with a growing family who wound up buying the place. “Although, in order to make the space work for them, they basically have to do a gut renovation.” The 12-story building, between Irving Place and Park Avenue, went co-op in 1973 and has 24 apartments and a rooftop terrace. The deal closed in February.

UPPER EAST SIDE

230 East 73rd Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,150-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $825,000. Selling: $810,000.

Charges: $1,500; 47 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

WALL STREETER FLEES CITY FOR GRAD SCHOOL After riding out Wall Street’s bubble, the young woman who bought this apartment about a year ago decided she’d better find a cheaper place to live and start applying to nonprofessional grad schools. She put this two-bedroom apartment, which she had bought freshly renovated, on the market in mid-October and found a buyer in less than a month. The place, which broker Bill Costigan of Douglas Elliman describes as being in great condition, has a sunken living room and high ceilings. The seller had done some decorating, adding bookshelves and sponge-painting the walls so they were a mix of yellow and white. The buyers, a couple from the suburbs, will use it as a pied-à-terre. “They weren’t even empty-nesters,” said Mr. Costigan. “Their kids still live at home, but they are both professionals and spend a lot of time in the city. It was just a little treat for themselves.”

MIDTOWN

254 East 49th Street

Four-bed, 5 1/2 bath, 5 1/2-story townhouse.

Asking: $2.3 million. Selling: $2.3 million.

Taxes: $13,000.

Time on the market: 1 1/2 years.

TOWNHOUSE TAKEOVER Back in 1996, a Bermuda-based corporation called Eckington Ltd. bought this townhouse, between Second and Third avenues, for $757,000 for investment purposes. They poured some more cash into sprucing up the building’s two residential duplex apartments-each with two bedrooms and a terrace-and ground-floor commercial space, but then never rented it out. Four months ago, Eckington sold the house to Park Lock Realty, a real estate company; the deal closed in late February. Phyllis Lerner of Leslie J. Garfield & Co. Inc. said the townhouse had been on and off the market while the sellers were completing the renovations and the building recently got a residential certificate of occupancy. “There’s some air rights,” said Ms. Lerner, who added that the apartments were “ready” for tenants. But she wasn’t sure what the new owners’ plans were. “They may change the whole building,” said Ms. Lerner. “I have no idea.”

WEST VILLAGE

345 West 13th Street

Three-bed, three-bath, 2,100-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.85 million. Selling: $1.95 million.

Charges: $743. Taxes: $998.

Time on the market: three months.

LITTLE RED TOWN HOUSE If you walk out the back of the lobby of the condo tower at this address, you get to a small patio. Beyond the patio is this two-story brick townhouse, built in 1890. “When the developers converted this building [in 1999], they left this little house in the middle,” explained Lauren Muss of the Corcoran Group, who was the listing broker for the property, near Hudson Street. The house-now a condo unit-has an open living room, kitchen and dining room and one bedroom on the first floor; upstairs are two bedrooms and two baths. The basement level has a large playroom, two offices and a laundry room. A couple with twins bought this apartment back in 1999 for $895,000, but put it back on the market in early October for $2.15 million when they were transferred to Australia. They dropped the price to $1.995 million on Oct. 25 and lowered it again in early December to $1.85 million. Finally there was a bidding war, and a deal for $1.95 million was made at the end of December. The sale was final on Feb. 8.

Though the place was in excellent condition, the buyers are currently gutting it, much to the doorman’s dismay.