For architect Dan Ionescu, rebuilding the nest of Pale Male and Lola, the red-tailed hawks evicted by the co-op board from their lavish 927 Fifth Avenue home, was a very tough task.
Construction only took two days, but the design needed to satisfy wealthy residents (including Mary Tyler Moore, Paula Zahn and Bruce Wasserstein), the New York City Audubon Society, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, angry protesters and, most importantly, the two lovebirds. Now that the two mates have returned, and Lola is expected to lay eggs this spring, the volatile storm has passed.
“This is as crazy as it comes in our line of work,” said Mr. Ionescu, the principal architect at his firm. Dan Ionescu Architects were already familiar with the posh co-op, having renovated the lobby last year. In mid-December, after a bitter public-relations battle following the birds’ eviction, the firm was contracted to design a new nest that preserved the building’s landmark façade, while alleviating tenants’ concern over the rat and pigeon carcasses lobbed from the 12th-floor perch.
Mr. Ionescu’s design included a detachable structure elevated above the terra-cotta pediment, which could be removed for future maintenance or inspections. The original pigeon spikes-integral to building the nest-were saved from the eviction and returned for the new construction.
Sure, Pale Male looks majestic soaring above Central Park, but not very glorious after he finishes dinner. And what was to be done with those unsightly, partially consumed rodents left behind for the building’s lavish tenants? “The metal rods create a platform that extends past the pediment, thus creating a contained area so carcasses would not fall off the nest area,” said Mr. Ionescu.
“Dan really saved the day with his piece that perfectly balanced the needs of Pale Male and Lola with the concerns of the building,” said E.J. McAdams, executive director of the New York City Audubon Society. During the design process, Mr. McAdams was on hand to ensure that the hawks’ concerns were vocalized as loudly as the protesters’ and tenants’. “It’s very exciting,” said Mr. Ionescu. “When we built the nest, we didn’t know if they would be back or not, but this is the proof.”
Real-estate developer Dominion Management just added another tony property to its Upper East Side domain, purchasing a townhouse at 115 East 70th Street for $11.4 million. The 17,000-square-foot property originally listed at $15 million and was on the market for three months. It finally closed earlier this month.
The six-story Neo-Georgian townhouse-currently split into six separate units-will be converted into a luxurious, single-residence mansion. The home was originally built for I. Townsend Burden, the cousin of iron and steel magnate James Burden, and features high ceilings, original moldings, hardwood floors and intricate iron work. “It’s one of the most beautiful houses in New York,” said Richard Steinberg, managing director of Warburg Realty, who represented the buyers. Cheryl Nesbit of the Corcoran Group represented the seller. In the last few years, Dominion has been busy purchasing exquisite properties to renovate extensively before reselling. Its portfolio of recent purchases includes the Henry T. Sloane House at 18 East 68th Street, a six-story mansion at 20 East 65th Street and a 50-foot Beaux-Arts townhouse at 3 East 75th.
The company’s first renovation project, at 12 East 73rd Street, was reportedly snapped up by a hedge-fund manager for close to the listing price of $18.5 million. There are still lingering disputes over some of the specifics-but Dan Kingsford, a Dominion associate, assures that they are being addressed, and the renovation should be complete in the coming months. The prewar mansion once belonged to the Lycée Français de New York, which started selling off six Upper East Side properties to raise money for a modern school. Developer Aby Rosen first bought it for $8 million, and quickly resold the building to Dominion for close to $10 million. The 11,000-square-foot, 22-foot-wide townhouse was then renovated into a five-story single-family home.
Dominion hopes to tap into a trend of restoring large townhouses close to their original design.
“There is a very good upper-end market for these special buildings,” said Mr. Kingsford. For the townhouse at 115 East 70th Street, he’s looking back to the original floor plans, obtained for him by The New York Times’ “Streetscapes” columnist and architecture expert, Christopher Gray. Mr. Kingsford plans to restore the staircase that was removed in the 1930′s when the building was converted into separate apartments. Dominion will also gut the house, removing barriers that were erected to compartmentalize the townhouse for several different occupants. Mr. Kingsford expects the project to take about nine months.