While murmurs of a downturn contort brokers’ usually plasticene enthusiasm for the state of the real-estate market, Kelly Ripa continues to smile and rake it in as though it’s all just a bad dream grown-ups have.
Last summer, the perky talk-show host and her husband, Mark Consuelos, bought a Soho duplex for $9.5 million. It was just one floor above the full-floor loft the couple had purchased for $2.8 million in 2002. But rather than creating an awe-inspiring triplex, the couple put their full-floor loft on the market for an eye-popping $7.5 million.
That was on Oct. 26. Now, less than four weeks later, the 5,000-square-foot apartment is under contract with a finance professional. (Wall Street bonus bounce, perhaps?)
Although Ms. Ripa’s broker refused to tell The Observer the final selling price, a source confirmed that it sold at asking or slightly less.
How’d she turn an almost $5 million profit on the apartment in three years?
“I had seen the other lofts in the area, and I don’t fool around,” said listing broker Alida Rubin of the Corcoran Group. “It was priced right, and it was in new condition.”
The 5,000-square-foot condo includes three bedrooms, three and a half baths, a library/den, office and small gym. It also features 22 oversized windows and sleek appliances by Sub Zero and Gaggenau.
“This loft reflected two beautiful people,” said Ms. Rubin. “It was immaculate.”
And the buyer apparently agreed—at least about the “immaculate” refurbishment.
“I had a buyer that was very anxious to secure something in a short amount of time,” said broker Neil Levine, also of the Corcoran Group. “He didn’t want a project, and the renovation on this was exquisite.”
Architect Deborah Berke was hired to do the renovation at an estimated cost of $860,000, according to permits filed with the Department of Buildings. Ms. Berke’s firm was recently employed to design the new Marianne Boesky Gallery in Chelsea, as well as complete work on another flashy residential project—Jon Stewart’s $5.8 million duplex in Tribeca.
But the buyer wasn’t chasing after celebrity leftovers; he was actually unaware of who the owner was when he put in an offer, according to both brokers. The buyer also didn’t know that the Soho building once housed Nicole Kidman and is currently home to film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who purchased a 5,000-square-foot loft a few floors down for around $7 million last spring.
Me Wanna Own Home
Kelly Ripa seems to have had more luck than everybody’s favorite 50’s calypso star.
After spending 46 years in his West End Avenue co-op, singer Harry Belafonte put the 17-room spread on the market last August for $15 million. Since nobody seemed to wanna go home to the Upper West Side address at that price, the singer has just reduced the price to $13 million.
“Primarily, we thought it was a little more market-friendly,” said Maria Pascal of Prudential Douglas Elliman, who is listing it with her colleague, Richard Mortimer. “The buyers are not jumping on any apartment, irregardless of the cachet attached to it.”
We don’t know about cachet, but there’s historical significance aplenty. Despite his incredible rise to fame and fortune in the late 1950’s, Mr. Belafonte was blocked from purchasing the apartment because he is black; although the landlord permitted black tenants (including Lena Horne) to live in the building, he would only rent to them, not sell.
So in 1961, Mr. Belafonte initiated the purchase of the entire building, later converting it to a co-op, a story The Observer reported in August. But there is a bit more to this real-estate victory.
“I was there in the summer when this whole acquisition happened,” said Dan Rottenberg, an author and journalist.
Mr. Rottenberg’s father, Herman, along with Sidney Scheiner and Mr. Belafonte, couldn’t convince the landlord to sell the building to them individually. So they set up a dummy corporation named Julenara to acquire the property. (The corporation’s name came from the names of their wives, Julie, Lenore and Sara.)
“It was one of the first co-ops in New York,” said Mr. Rottenberg. “It didn’t occur to them to make money; it was just to buy the building. The landlord was the Dominican Realty Corporation, which was a front for [Dominican Republic dictator Rafael] Trujillo.”
Although Mr. Scheiner passed away shortly after the deal and Mr. Rottenberg has since moved to the Majestic, Mr. Belafonte remained there for more than four decades.
“At the high point of his celebrity, he would take one step out of the building and he would be mobbed,” said Mr. Rottenberg.
Since Mr. Belafonte couldn’t easily leave the building, it’s no wonder that he wanted to maintain a grand lifestyle at home.
Eventually, he combined two units into a 7,000-square-foot spread. There are seven bedrooms with en suite baths, two powder rooms and dressing rooms with walk-in closets. Other features include four wood-burning fireplaces, a library and billiard room.
Dem Moneybags Get New Party Pad
Just in time for Hillary Clinton’s Senate race, Democratic fund-raisers Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel are moving into a bigger place.
The power couple put a 17th-floor apartment at 720 Park Avenue on the market for just over $20 million, according to real-estate sources. Broker Kathleen Sloane, of Brown Harris Stevens, confirmed that she is listing the apartment but declined to identify her client.
They’re not moving far. According to real-estate sources, the couple has just signed a contract on a grand apartment 10 floors below in the same exclusive, Rosario Candela–designed building—one that has been asking (coincidentally) $20 million.
That apartment came on the market on Nov. 13, listed with Nancy Elias of Brown Harris Stevens. Ms. Elias didn’t return calls for comment. A contract was signed on Dec. 1—which is extremely fast for such a rarefied building. But the buyers obviously already had an in with the co-op board.
The seventh-floor apartment includes five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, two maids’ rooms, a library, a dining room, a living room, and a powder room with a private sitting area.
A noted preservationist, Ms. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the author of The Landmarks of New York. Mr. Spielvogel, a former advertising executive, previously served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Slovakia.
The Brown Harris Stevens listing mentioned that the apartment is “a perfect place for staging formal dinner parties,” certainly an added bonus for the new buyers. In their upstairs apartment, the couple have held numerous Democratic fund-raisers and lavish parties, attracting the likes of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, former Senate leader Tom Daschle, New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. and, of course, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Spielvogel declined to comment.
The $2 M. Sweet Spot
Similar to Mr. Belafonte’s price drop, two other luxurious residences had reductions of $2 million in the past week.
At 50 Central Park South, Upper Deck C.E.O. Richard McWilliam has reduced the price of his full-floor, 11-room apartment from $35 to $33 million. One of 11 full-floor apartments above the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Mr. McWilliam’s pad includes five bedrooms, seven and a half bathrooms, a library, a breakfast room and a study.
If he gets that asking price, Mr. McWilliam will still make an enormous profit. The sports-card executive paid $20.8 million for the apartment in August 2004 (a reduction from an original asking price of $28 million). A little over a year later, he put the property on the market, listed with Heide Mamouris of Prudential Douglas Elliman. Still, a $13 million flip in 16 months won’t be so bad.
Over on the Upper East Side, the 70th Street townhouse once owned by philanthropist Paul Mellon has just dropped in price from $26.5 million to $24.5 million. The 9,400-square-foot mansion is listed with brokers Kirk Henckels and Jo Hardin of Stribling and Associates. Mr. Henckels declined to comment.
Since the townhouse entered the market in August, five other $20-million-plus townhouses have either sold or are currently under contract—so expectations are high that the Mellon House could move fast at the slightly reduced price.
With three high-end properties each getting a $2 million haircut, it will be telling to see if this is a just market correction, or a harbinger of economic troubles.
Aussie Author Jennings To Sell on East 72nd Street
For over 20 years, Australian author Kate Jennings called a prewar building on East 72nd Street home. Initially a renter, she became an owner after a condo conversion in the mid-1980’s.
But now Ms. Jennings is planning to downsize, and has recently put not one but two separate apartments on the market. There’s a two-bedroom available for $1.35 million, and the adjacent studio asking $485,000. However, an enterprising buyer could buy both units and combine them.
“I thought the two-bed, one-bath condo, smack in the middle of 72nd Street, would have been a perfect pied-à-terre for someone,” said broker Sharon Held, who is listing the apartments with her Corcoran Group colleague, Penny Davidson. “I am seeing, whether it’s individuals or empty nesters, that buyers are looking at the combination.”
Ms. Jennings once desired to combine the two units, but decided to put the project on hold. Her husband, Bob Cato, a renowned graphic designer for CBS-Columbia Records who worked with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis, passed away in 1999 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Ms. Jennings held onto the studio and rented it for several years.
“She’s downsizing because she travels around the world,” said Ms. Held. “Her life takes her all over the world, so that she really didn’t need the three-bedroom.”
For anyone not traveling the world, the larger apartment offers a renovated kitchen, a floor-to-ceiling window and, not surprisingly, custom-made bookshelves. The 420-square-foot studio apartment is a rare find, being located on a high floor.
Ms. Jennings is best known for her novel, Moral Hazard, which—based partly on personal experience—depicted a writer’s view of the ugly side of Wall Street. The director Phillip Noyce—a fellow Aussie—is slated to direct an adaptation of the book. Mr. Noyce already has several blockbusters to his credit, including The Bone Collector, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.