Since restaurant mogul Warner LeRoy’s death in February 2001, the fate of his palatial apartment at 3 Lincoln Center has remained in limbo. One month after his death, the grand Upper West Side residence hit the market with a whopping $24 million price tag and refused to budge. Although the price was reduced several times and the property was subsequently split into two separate units, only in the past month has the LeRoy estate closed the deal.
LeRoy was one of Manhattan’s most celebrated restaurateurs, with high-end establishments such as Maxwell’s Plum, Tavern on the Green and the Russian Tea Room. And while his fabled restaurants held legendary gatherings, the apartment itself was also a place where the cultural elite wined and dined.
After he died at age 65, LeRoy left behind the 8,600-square-foot, 16-room penthouse apartment for his estate to sell. The lavish spread included eight bedrooms, eight-and-a-half bathrooms, a private gym and an office. The screening room was a popular sight for entertaining, and films were never in short supply. (Mervyn LeRoy, his father, directed dozens of films and produced classics like The Wizard of Oz, while his mother, Doris Warner, was the daughter of Harry Warner, one of the founders of Warner Bros.) LeRoy’s parties attracted many notable personalities, such as Alfred Taubman, Paul Goldberger, Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace and Art Buchwald.
Previously, LeRoy had lived for 23 years at the Dakota with his wife Kay, but in the mid-1990′s the couple became embroiled in a messy, public divorce over the restaurant fortune. As a result of the separation, LeRoy purchased five units on the 59th and 60th floors at 3 Lincoln Center for $6.37 million and assembled them together into his own mighty pleasure dome.
It is along the original lines that LeRoy’s construction was recently deconstructed, and the five units were listed with Triumph Property Group last year, ranging in price from $1.6 to $2.95 million.
In late 2004, a few units found buyers, and unit 59-C recently sold for $2.3 million in March, according to deed-transfer records. Just shy of 2,000 square feet, the two-bedroom condo features Mongolian black granite flooring, a modern kitchen with a Viking stove, a built-in Thermador oven and a triple-wide SubZero refrigerator and freezer. The postwar building’s other amenities include a garage, health club, pool, laundry room and valet parking.
Despite the apartment’s cultural cachet, buyers looking to spend in excess of $20 million were scarce. It was first listed with the Corcoran Group; next, Brown Harris Stevens obtained the exclusive listing. As a year passed, the asking price steadily dropped from $18 million to $16 million, and finally down to $14.5 million.
In late 2002 the apartment was offered in two pieces-with the 5,300-square-foot unit priced at $8.75 million, and the 3,300-square-foot unit listing for $5.95 million.
Still unsold nine months later, LeRoy’s daughter Carolyn brought in Tiger Koehn of Triumph Property Group as both broker and redeveloper.
Rather than simply adjusting the prices and square footage per unit, Mr. Koehn sought to redevelop the entire project, enlisting the efforts of a contractor and architect to complete the job.
Beginning in September 2003, he sought approval from the building’s condo association, but didn’t break ground until March 2004. Following the original apartment line, the walls were returned to the spot before LeRoy assembled the units together, creating the massive apartment that provided a refuge for New York’s social set.
One reason Mr. Koehn believes the spacious duplex lingered for so long on the market was because of the original broker’s initial steps.
“First of all, the furniture shouldn’t have been taken out of the original apartment,” he said. “The apartment was designed around Warner LeRoy’s furniture. Then you were left with an apartment that looks like Liberace’s apartment empty.”
After Mr. Koehn installed a working bathroom and kitchen in each apartment, he arranged for a temporary certificate of occupancy instead of selling the units completely finished.
With the permits now in place, the new buyers will use Mr. Koehn’s contractor to design the apartment to meet their personal specifications.
“In order for this to work, it had to be marketable to the general public and also cost-effective for the LeRoys to break it down.”
Now, finally, the LeRoy estate can step aside, and Mr. Koehn remains on as project manager until there is a permanent certificate of occupancy for all the apartments.
Mr. Koehn, who moonlights from the real-estate world as drummer in the seminal goth band the New Creatures, sees a need for creativity when tackling projects like this one.
“The reality is it was kind of like a coup,” said Mr. Koehn. “It was beyond brokerage, it was property development.”
Singer Lisa Stansfield has been all around the world, and she just found her prewar condo for $1.91 million, according to deed-transfer records. The English-born soul singer will be sharing the Chelsea apartment with her husband, music producer Ian Devaney. The couple made beautiful music together in the late 1980′s with Blue Zone before Ms. Stansfield embarked on a solo career. They later wed in Washington Square Park in 1998.
The pied-à-terre condo-the couple maintains residence in Ireland-is located in the fashionable Chelsea Mercantile, a 21-floor condominium that was originally built in 1906, and underwent a large-scale conversion in 2000. The building features a full-service garage, garden, health club and roof deck. And best of all, there is a Whole Foods on the ground floor (yet with Time Warner Center flourishing and the Avalon Christie opening soon on Houston Street, this particular amenity is beginning to feel commonplace).
The Chelsea Mercantile has been the sight of other celebrity buys in the past few years, including actress Penélope Cruz and actor Kyle MacLachlan with his publicist wife Desiree Gruber.
Although Ms. Stansfield has sold over 20 million albums worldwide, she is probably best known for the 1989 single “All Around the World.” The subsequent release of Affection in 1990 solidified her standing as a pop star, and led to numerous awards. Since then, there have been a few more albums, some remixes and then a brief hiatus. However, the soul singer is making a comeback, releasing The Moment on ZTT records in September 2004, and is planning an upcoming tour.
Ms. Stansfield could not be reached for comment.