Beaux-Arts Beauty

020606 article transfers Beaux Arts BeautyCurrently, the Museum of Modern Art is holding an exhibition by the renowned architect and designer Emilio Ambasz entitled The House of Spiritual Retreat.

The MoMA exhibition materials describe the unique structure—designed with two white walls that meet at a 90-degree angle—as “a surrealistic reverie, a mythic, phantasmagorical dwelling”—arguably the opposite of the Beaux-Arts limestone mansion on East 62nd Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues, that Mr. Ambasz purchased over a decade ago.

The palatial home has just come on the market for $31 million.

In a way, it’s nothing new: Mr. Ambasz has listed the limestone mansion a few times over the past six years. But now, the time seems right: In the exclusive $20-million-plus townhouse category alone, since just last fall, five townhouses have closed and two are currently under contract.

“Right now, he really wants to sell it,” said listing broker Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens. “In the past, he was somewhat testing the market.”

In 1897, architect John H. Duncan was commissioned to design Grant’s Tomb after winning a national competition. Following the creation of the well-known landmark, Duncan quickly found himself sought after by several distinguished families, including Philip Lehman, Otto H. Kahn and, in 1902, by Thomas J. McLaughlin, the original owner of Mr. Ambasz’s house.

“He was quite amazing,” said Ms. Del Nunzio of Duncan. “He did this all in a few short years [and] became incredibly prolific.”

The 14,700-square-foot mansion has a curved limestone and wrought-iron staircase, original mantelpieces, fireplaces and a formal dining room that receives ample light.

“It’s just an amazing building, with these tall windows overlooking the public gardens,” said Ms. Del Nunzio. “Usually, a massive house is kind of like a dungeon in the back.”

And at least one other artistic innovator must have agreed: The late fashion photographer Richard Avedon lived there in the 1950’s, according to Ms. Del Nunzio, although he later moved to an East 75th Street townhouse where he lived and worked for more than three decades.

In 1992—long after Avedon had vacated the mansion—Mr. Ambasz purchased the landmark residence for $3.2 million. Over the years, Mr. Ambasz has used it as both a residence and an office for his architectural firm. Despite the dual use of the building, Mr. Ambasz has tried selling the property a few different times—although always for a substantial profit.

Initially, he put it on the market for $22 million, in January 2000. In the four months that followed, the asking price actually climbed up to about $24 million. It came on and off again with various brokers in subsequent years, but as of Jan. 17, Ms. Del Nunzio has had a signed exclusive to sell it.

According to Ms. Del Nunzio, the owner simply “doesn’t need such a huge property in New York.”

Currently overseas, Mr. Ambasz couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Great Lindemann Sell-Off

Adam Lindemann is still unloading expensive properties onto the Manhattan real-estate market.

On Jan. 1, the wealthy investor and art collector placed his former apartment at tony 730 Park Avenue—the one he shared with his now-estranged wife, Elizabeth—on the market for $21 million, as reported in The Observer.

Now, Mr. Lindemann is selling his East 77th Street carriage house for $14 million. It has been listed with Sotheby’s International Realty brokers Roberta Golubock and Serena Boardman. (Ms. Boardman, incidentally, shares the listing for the Park Avenue co-op, too.)

Reportedly, Mr. Lindemann has temporarily left the Upper East Side behind and currently resides in a midtown high-rise apartment with his girlfriend, Amalia Dayan, the granddaughter of the late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan. There, Mr. Lindemann—who is writing a book on contemporary art collecting—shares the apartment with a few of his prized acquisitions by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst.

Despite renovations underway at the East 77th Street address—and one high-end broker’s contention to The Observer that Mr. Lindemann had planned to relocate there—it seems that he is instead flipping the property.

In May 2004, Mr. Lindemann paid only $6.75 million for the Beaux-Arts residence, through a family trust. So the savvy investor could turn a significant profit in less than two years’ time.

Built in 1897 by the architect Alexander M. Welch, the limestone-and-brick carriage house is located between Fifth and Madison avenues. Edward S. Finkelstein, the former Macy’s chairman, owned the house for eight and a half years.

Ms. Boardman couldn’t be reached by press time.

Hungry Like the Wilf

Over the July 4 weekend two years ago, developer Orin Wilf ventured out to architect Peter Marino’s Southampton estate in hopes of convincing him to design an entire apartment building, something the architect had never done.

According to Mr. Wilf, Mr. Marino responded: “Many people have come to visit me at my house here. No one’s ever left with me doing their project. It must be your lucky day.”

Now, Mr. Wilf—a 31-year-old developer from a prominent New Jersey real-estate family—stands proudly on the roof of a nearby building overlooking the construction of 170 East End Avenue, a luxury development between 87th and 88th streets. By spring 2007, occupancy should begin for the 110 “couture homes” that will fill the 20-story development, comprising two stone-and-glass structures.

Mr. Wilf believed all along that the project—slated to go up right next-door to Gracie Mansion—needed an important designer not just for the exterior, but for everything (from the fitness room on down to the hidden toilet-paper dispensers). And Mr. Marino is no stranger to catering to the whims of the wealthy, having previously renovated Stephen Schwarzman’s penthouse at 740 Park Avenue and David Martinez’s roughly 17,000-square-foot combined unit at the Time Warner Center, as well as designing retail stores for Armani, Chanel and Fendi.

Mr. Wilf has been on a steep learning curve over the past decade. After graduating from Roger Williams University, he initially expressed interest in pursuing law, before changing his mind and following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.

However, before he could take part in multimillion-dollar deals, there was a catch.

“Before you can go into the family business,” Mr. Wilf recalls his father saying, “you have two years ahead of yourself to do some stuff.”

That “stuff” included spending two years visiting all of the family’s properties—about 285 in all, spread throughout the country. And now, having observed the construction of shopping centers in Illinois and rental units in central New Jersey, Mr. Wilf is focused on the city.

“I fell in love with this area,” said Mr. Wilf, who lives with his wife and two young children only a few blocks from the building site, which was formerly the Beth Israel Hospital Singer Division. “You’re in New York, but it’s quiet and peaceful.”

When a broker showed him the property a few years ago, Mr. Wilf claims he knew immediately that he was going to buy it; however, the hospital needed to be demolished first, which took about seven months.

“I’ll only buy a site if I feel it is A-plus-plus-plus,” said Mr. Wilf, enthusiastically. “Even if it’s an A, I won’t buy it.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Wilf is moving his family to the tower’s 19th floor next year.

About one month ago, the sales office at 170 East End Avenue opened, with prices for units starting at $1.495 million for the one-bedroom apartments, up to $8.25 million for a 3,619-square-foot, four-bedroom apartment.

Mr. Wilf may have been able to convince Mr. Marino to take part in the project, but now he has another challenge: The full-service building is chock-full of sleek amenities—but will that be enough to attract the deep-pocketed snobs who won’t venture east of Lexington Avenue?

“What I call this project is redefining East End Avenue, making people aware of what you have over there,” he said.