Just six weeks before the city selected him to design the World Trade Center transportation hub, famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava decided to put his own imprint on another Manhattan property: a Park Avenue townhouse.
In mid-June, Mr. Calatrava paid $7 million for a five-story limestone building at 713 Park Avenue, according to city records. The 20-foot-wide townhouse sits directly next-door to a townhouse that Mr. Calatrava already owns, at 711 Park Avenue. The architect’s new holding at 713 Park last housed the offices of the philanthropist Paul Mellon, who died in 1999. The buildings are two of only a handful of townhouses on Park Avenue.
Reached by phone, Mr. Calatrava’s wife, Robertina Calatrava, declined to comment on the purchase, as did the exclusive broker on the deal, Barbara Anderson Terry, principal of Anderson Realty. But according to real-estate sources, the Calatravas made the purchase so they could work in one building and live in another.
The New York Times ‘ architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, recently called the Zurich-based Mr. Calatrava, who is in his early 50’s, “the world’s greatest living poet of transportation architecture.” Aside from his widely hailed European bridges, airports and train stations, Mr. Calatrava’s projects include the Athens Olympic Sports Stadium and the addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, his first major American work. The Port Authority announced in late July that it had selected Mr. Calatrava to design the new transportation hub at Ground Zero, the centerpiece of which will be a PATH train terminal.
Mr. Calatrava will presumably be using his new combined perch at 711 and 713 Park Avenue to mastermind the planning of the new transportation complex.
The longtime owner of 713 Park Avenue, Paul Mellon, was the son of Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), the famed financier and Secretary of the Treasury. Over Paul Mellon’s lifetime, he donated an estimated $1 billion to artistic and charitable causes, notably to the National Gallery in Washington. According to real-estate records, Mr. Mellon purchased 713 Park Avenue in 1969. The 8,500-square-foot building, which has a backyard garden, hit the market in 2000.
Mr. Calatrava bought his first Park Avenue building, No. 711, in May of 2000 for $7.2 million from the estate of Robert L.B. Tobin, a member of the board of the Metropolitan Opera, and chairman of the board of his family’s company, Tobin Surveys Inc., the largest map-maker to the oil industry.
NEIGHBORS BY DESIGN: JEAN-GEORGES RECRUITS YABU PUSHELBERG FOR $2.45 M. PERRY ST. PERCH
The new units at Richard Meier’s twin glass towers on Perry Street are just barren concrete boxes, but the building’s newest owners won’t be hiring any designers to construct their 4,000-square-foot living space. That’s because the owners are designers themselves, and you’ve probably seen their work around Manhattan: the W hotel in Times Square, the Victoria’s Secret flagship store in Herald Square, the restoration of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store and Carolina Herrera’s first salon on Madison Avenue, among others.
They’re Glenn Pushelberg and George Yabu, and in mid-July they closed on the second-floor unit in the complex’s south tower for $2.45 million. The two designers, who have been domestic and business partners for over 20 years, learned about a vacancy in the Perry Street building by talking to two current owners in the building.
“I was talking to [restaurateurs] Phil Suarez and Jean-Georges Vongerichten,” said Mr. Pushelberg, “and I asked them if there were any floors left in the building. They said, ‘There’s the second floor,’ and I said, ‘Hmmmmm …. ‘” Asked to comment on the sale, Mr. Meier, the building’s architect, exclaimed, “That was the last apartment to go!”
The Canadian couple’s Toronto-based firm, Yabu Pushelberg, is also responsible for the redesign at Bergdorf Goodman, Steve Hanson’s Dos Caminos and Blue Fin restaurants, and the Kate Spade shop in Soho.
The boys from Toronto will likely be seeing a lot of the two men who told them about the Perry Street apartment. Mr. Pushelberg and Mr. Yabu are currently constructing a bar and lounge for nightlife impresario Rande Gerber on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the same floor where Mr. Vongerichten and Mr. Suarez will be launching their own restaurant.
Messrs. Pushelberg and Yabu will still maintain their primary residence in Toronto, where their firm’s headquarters are home to 55 designers and architects. They also have a vacation getaway in Miami. But after years of frequenting hotels like 60 Thompson and Bryant Park, the two men decided to buy in the West Village because of its proximity to their firm’s New York office on Spring Street. Mr. Pushelberg said he and his partner are relishing the blank-slate design task that awaits them at their Manhattan perch.
“It’s always interesting to design your own place, because you’re much more methodical with what you do, because you have to live with it,” he said. “Right now it’s a shell, which appeals to us because you can do anything you want. If it was an existing apartment, knowing us, we’d rip everything out.”
For starters, they plan on using a 4,000-year-old bog oak to panel their main living room. For the uninitiated, bog oak is an oak tree that has been half-submerged in a swamp, making it gray on one end and brown on the other. This gives the wood a gradient effect-from gray to brown-along the length of the trunk. They already used part of the same oak in their place in Toronto.
Still, Mr. Pushelberg said their design-which will also incorporate tobacco-colored limestone floors-will more or less harmonize with the austere look of the Perry Street project.
“Because the Richard Meier building is very modernist, we’re going to make an interior that is complementary to that,” he said. “Not something over the top-[maybe] a little bit warmer than the building is.”
RECENT TRANSACTIONS IN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET
UPPER EAST SIDE
315 East 72nd Street
Three-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $1.795 million. Selling: $1.7 million.
Maintenance: $2,588; 48 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three months.
TEX APPEAL In many ways, a co-op board operates like the Supreme Court: The board members act like a panel of judges, a would-be buyer takes the guise of a petitioner, and the buyer’s broker operates as a lawyer. But a co-op board is similar to the Supreme Court in at least one more respect: The judgments it hands down are final. If you get rejected by a co-op board, you’re out of luck. This deal, however, proved the exception to that general rule. The would-be buyer is the general counsel for a major oil company. He’s based in Texas, but wanted to pick up a retirement home in Manhattan. According to one of his brokers, Howard Margolis, a vice president at Douglas Elliman, the oil lawyer made a very healthy salary and had millions in the bank. “He was exceptionally qualified … but the board rejected him,” said Mr. Margolis. As usual, the board gave no reason for the rejection. But Mr. Margolis and his partner on the deal, Bruce Solomon, also a vice president at Douglas Elliman, turned to a Deep Throat on the board. It turns out the board rejected the oil lawyer because too much of his money was tied up in bonuses and deferred payments. And though there is no real protocol on resubmitting a rejected board package, Mr. Margolis and Mr. Solomon did so anyway. This time, the oil lawyer agreed to take out a smaller mortgage on the apartment, thus making him a less risky tenant. The gamble worked; the board reversed itself. “We were thrilled,” said Mr. Margolis. “It should have gone through the first time … but perseverance pays off.”
65 West 13th Street
Two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom condo.
Asking: $2.8 million. Selling: $2.7 million.
Charges: $1,471. Taxes: $3,064.
Time on the market: 10 months.
BUNKL’ING UP The 32-year-old bachelor who just purchased this penthouse, Ari Ackerman, is the grandson of financier Meshulam Riklis, who married, and then divorced, Pia Zadora. Mr. Ackerman ended up at the Greenwich because, he said, “my position in life allowed me to buy a new place.” For the most part, the position he’s referring to is his business, which he said is booming. Mr. Ackerman founded and runs Bunk1.com, which allows parents to see pictures of and send e-mails to their children at summer camp. Mr. Ackerman said his company is currently serving about 2,000 camps, and he’s already branching off into new ventures-like Campalumni.com, a sort of Friendster for ex-summer-campers. The 2,700-square-foot terrace of his new apartment is actually about 100 square feet bigger than the interior. It was the last sponsor unit to close at the newly converted building, called the Greenwich. “I had been looking for about two or three years, and then I saw this place at the Greenwich and I thought, ‘Holy crap!'” he said. And despite his enthusiasm, Mr. Ackerman agreed to postpone his closing date so the building workmen could use his terrace as a marshaling area to do maintenance on the building. “It was a very generous and nice thing for Ari to do that he certainly did not need to do,” said Roger Creer, who marketed the apartment with Jim Brawders, both of the Corcoran Group. Bonnie Chajet, a senior vice president of Ashforth Warburg Associates, represented Mr. Ackerman.
114 Christopher Street
One-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $300,000. Selling: $287,000.
Maintenance: $684; 46 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: five months.
COT FOR TEACHER Jennifer Weirich, 22, started out with a laughable premise: She wanted to find a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village for under $300,000. “Most brokers wouldn’t even talk to her when they heard her requirements,” said an agent who did talk to her, Noah Sferra of Benjamin James Soho. Ms. Weirich told Mr. Sferra that she wanted to find a two-bedroom unit to split with a friend, and that her parents would be helping out on the entire purchase. A recent graduate of the University of Miami, Ms. Weirich teaches at Manhattan Village Academy, an alternative liberal-arts high school on West 22nd Street. By any measure, her task was a daunting one. It’s hard to find a one-bedroom unit in the West Village for under $300,000, let alone a two-bedroom place. But Ms. Weirich had an ace in the hole: her physical fitness, which allowed her check out this sixth-floor walk-up without breaking a sweat. Once up there, she discovered that the relatively high-floor apartment was drenched with sunlight through three exposures. Plus, the one-bedroom unit-about 500 square feet-was configured perfectly to erect a wall and make a second bedroom. Which is exactly what she did. Now two teachers from the Village Academy are in residence.