Fame is fickle, even for buildings. And nobody in New York knows it better than 30 Crosby Street, the unassuming brick building that fought its way out of its upbringing as a simple paper factory on a backstreet of marginal Soho to becoming the celebrity dormitory of the new millennium, with Page Six as its bulletin board.
Now, 30 Crosby Street is slowly settling into a new identity as one of many nameless, faceless loft buildings housing the merely rich. Hedge-funders, lawyers and bankers are at the door, clutching recent bonus winnings. Wealthy retirees are knocking, looking for quiet glamour close to shopping and restaurants.
The old guard—least of all troubled rocker and widow to modern-rock history Courtney Love—didn’t go quietly.
“The last time I saw her, she went out strapped, handcuffed to a gurney, screaming and kicking,” said Laurence Isaacson, a neighbor in the building.
Since then she has sold her apartment—to a retired couple.
Mr. Isaacson, the acclaimed British theater director who is also the co-owner of the West Village restaurant Paris Commune, is leaving, too.
“I should put the price up now that she’s left,” Mr. Isaacson said.
When the 13-unit building was a new development and its sales office opened in 2000, Denzel Washington, Claudia Schiffer, Rosie O’Donnell, Cindy Crawford and Sean (Diddy) Combs were all interested. Liv Tyler purchased a sponsor unit, but due to the building’s growing publicity (or perhaps notoriety) as a celebrity dorm, she traded it for low-key townhouse living in the West Village. It was prescient of her: When Ben Stiller used a third-floor model unit as a location in his 2001 film Zoolander, the building arguably completed its journey toward self-parody.
“We had tons of celebrities trying to buy in there,” said Edward Baquero, one of the building’s developers. “We had people trying to persuade us to kind of break contracts” with other celebrities to let them buy in instead.
A far cry from the scene there last week. Mr. Isaacson had the real-estate brokers and wealthy prospective buyers take off their shoes before coming in. It was slushy out in the streets of Soho, and Mr. Isaacson had delicate pine floors to protect.
These stocking-footed visitors were not celebrities. (Though on separate occasions, according to Mr. Isaacson, celebrities like Billy Joel and Kate Hudson have come by to take a look—which is probably the exception that proves the rule.)
Because of the particular kind of fame it briefly enjoyed, 30 Crosby is in rehab now. In fact, more than a third of the original residents are preparing to leave the building they made famous.
Lenny Kravitz is (again) redecorating his duplex penthouse before it re-enters the market; Mr. Isaacson is moving to a nearby luxury condominium; the building’s other penthouse is on the market for $13.7 million; and a fifth-floor spread is now asking $6.485 million.
And finally, Ms. Love’s fourth-floor apartment is under contract. It took long enough.
In March 2001, Ms. Love dropped $2.6 million on a 4,200-square-foot loft. Tabloids quickly seized upon her bizarre behavior—she reportedly wandered up and down the cobblestone street, begging for cigarettes and looking into parked car windows. With her air conditioning turned off, Ms. Love would fan herself on the windowsill, smoking cigarettes and pitching the butts several stories down into a street filled with gawkers and well-heeled shoppers. Neil Strauss famously documented a three-day “slumber party” at 30 Crosby for Rolling Stone, which consisted primarily of Ms. Love watching Boogie Nights repeatedly while performing acupuncture on herself in the squalid setting.
“I managed to fall over Courtney Love in the lobby,” Mr. Isaacson told The Observer. “It was when she was opening her case in the lobby and searching for—she had her underwear all over the lobby—something she desperately needed.” He chose not to elaborate.
In December 2004, Ms. Love put the apartment on the market for $6 million after slightly more than three years in the building, with the final asking price dropping to $5.25 million a little over a year later. The apartment was listed with Wilbur Gonzalez of the Corcoran Group.
Also in 2004, Mercury Capital Corporation, a mortgage company, filed suit against Ms. Love for lack of payment in hopes of foreclosing on the apartment. (Ms. Love is currently out of the country and could not be reached for comment).
Finally, in 2006, Ms. Love—who already had moved to Los Angeles to be with her daughter, Frances Bean—caught a break.
On Jan. 27, an offer was accepted, with the contract signed on Feb. 10, according to a shared system used by real-estate brokers. Although the New York Post reported a contract signed six days later, things didn’t actually run so smoothly.
“They couldn’t find Courtney or someone to sign it,” said Holly Parker of Prudential Douglas Elliman, who represented the buyers. “It was in the paper that it was signed—we were so not done at that point.
“It wasn’t a plus that it was her apartment,” Ms. Parker added, describing the thinking of her clients, the retired couple relocating from the suburbs who bought Ms. Love’s apartment. “They’re older, and they don’t know her music or anything. The condition that it was left in wasn’t great. She left it kind of filthy.”
Said another downtown luxury broker eager to sell other apartments suddenly open in 30 Crosby: “With her being out of the building, it will be easier to sell an apartment.” The broker believes that apartment seekers were hesitant to commit with tenants like Ms. Love still lurking. “The building had a negative connotation.”
Days of Wine and Lawsuits
Every raucous party has to come to an end sometime.
In 2001—long before the current selling frenzy—30 Crosby opened its doors as one of the first full-service buildings catering to the downtown celebrity set. (This was years before Richard Meier’s glass-and-steel fishbowl took shape nearby in the far West Village.)
Not long ago, this little-trafficked cobblestone block between Broome and Grand streets would have been far better known for scurrying rats than high-end condo buyers (complete with entourages).
“We actually located the property in 1998,” said Mr. Baquero, now managing director of Coalco, a real-estate investment firm that owns several properties, including Diane von Furstenberg’s West 12th Street townhouse and studio.
In the late 1990’s, Mr. Baquero developed the former 19th-century paper factory along with Stephen Touhey, while both were partners at Landmark Development.
“At the time, it was considered the other side of Soho,” said Mr. Baquero. “A lot of my peers didn’t even want to get out of the car.”
Because the Loft was not on a boutique-friendly block across Broadway, Mr. Baquero had to stop by 30 to 40 banks in search of financing.
“We kept hearing no and people didn’t believe what we were doing,” said Mr. Baquero, who broke ground in the summer of 1999. “We did the first real concierge-and-doorman [building] downtown. We made this huge 30,000-capacity wine cellar.”
For private dinners and wine tastings, residents can reserve the Enoteca room, which features a long table, limestone fireplace, vaulted ceilings and a concrete spittoon. And for the New Age contingent—and what celebrity doesn’t have a New Age side?—an aromatherapy system pumped various scents into the building’s lobby.
These little star-friendly niceties aside, Mr. Baquero’s relationship with his buyers went south quickly. Not long after the building sold out, Mr. Baquero and his partner found themselves the target of a lawsuit numbering in the millions of dollars, lodged by the star-addled condo board and laced with charges of negligence, fraud and breach of contract. The developers have countersued, and litigation is still pending years after the fact.
Ms. Love was among the first to actually close a deal in the building. At the time, Mr. Baquero admits, he thought Ms. Love “might bring negative attention,” but another famous rock star who was mulling over an $8 million purchase of the building’s two duplex penthouses assuaged the developer’s fears.
“Lenny Kravitz said, ‘If I was concerned, I’d tell you,’” said Mr. Baquero. “He said that she was a really nice person—that the public persona is different from reality.
“Although it seems like she did do some crazy things subsequent of that comment,” Mr. Baquero added. “That was early on, when he was contemplating buying the place. Lenny visited the place maybe 30 times before he actually bought it.” (Mr. Kravitz once went up to the penthouse at night to judge whether it was suitable enough to enjoy a glass of champagne.)
“[Mr. Kravitz] took a very personal involvement in the building,” said Mr. Baquero. “He saw it when it was just a rooftop. I expressed to him what we were doing. He got it. He’s a great guy.”
But if Ms. Love’s difficulties in the building were soon to be tabloid-fodder, so were Mr. Kravitz’s.
First it was his elaborate design for the place: the giant swing with the rabbit-fur seat; the glass staircase; the glass-encased terrace with a hot tub; the undulating walls; the ostrich-feather-covered lamps.
Then it was the rock-star parties with guests like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones.
Finally, Mr. Kravitz made the tabloids when his toilet overflowed. (They’re just like us!) Two insurance companies filed lawsuits over damages resulting from the accident. Bolt Inc. chairman Daniel Pelson and retired executive Joel Disend both claimed damages to their apartments, at $9,387.87 and $333,849, respectively.
Home, sweet home, right? But Mr. Kravitz very quickly began to toy with the notion of selling the place, and the protracted attempt to make a deal has been the dominant news from him at 30 Crosby Street for years now, at one point tantalizing the real-estate obsessed when he toured a $50 million townhouse on the Upper East Side.
In July 2002, Mr. Kravitz listed his apartment for a staggering $17 million; it was reduced a few times, most recently to $12.95 million. At one point in 2003, when the listing was also available as a high-priced rental, a recently divorced Nicole Kidman moved in while she waited for her apartment in a newer, hipper-sounding celebrity dormitory—the glass towers on Perry Street designed by Mr. Meier—to be finished up.
Earlier this year, Mr. Kravitz’s apartment was pulled off the market again. Was he deciding to stay?
“It’s temporarily off the market,” said Andrea Wohl Lucas, of the Corcoran Group, who had listed the apartment along with Bruce Lucas. According to Ms. Lucas, the apartment will be put back on the market in a few months, after Mr. Kravitz is done redecorating it. (Mr. Kravitz couldn’t be reached for comment).
But if wealthy buyers can’t wait for Mr. Kravitz to tone the place down for a less celebrity-worshipping buyer, the penthouse next-door is currently on the market for $13.7 million with Susan Wires, of Stribling and Associates.
Paresh Kanani, who already relocated with his family to London two years ago, first listed the penthouse for $14.95 million in April 2004. After next being reduced to $13.5 million, the price was raised slightly $13.7 million last October.
“A lot of people have confused this penthouse with Lenny Kravitz’s, because they couldn’t believe there would be two,” said Ms. Wires. “Aesthetically, it’s completely different. In my opinion, this is the better of the two penthouses.”
Although Ms. Wires said her clients really want to sell, the penthouse can also be had for $60,000 a month, currently the highest-priced rental in Manhattan.
The New 30 Crosby
During last week’s open house at Mr. Isaacson’s, the elevator traveled numerous times from the penthouse level down to the ground-floor maisonette. Although vastly different, Mr. Isaacson’s and Mr. Kravitz’s apartments have something in common: designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz.
Once inside, the initial feelings of warmth quickly turned to awe, after gazing upon the 82-foot-long mirrored wall, the columns limned in silver leaf, the large projection television that drops from the ceiling, and the signed letter from Queen Elizabeth adorning the wall.
This is not your average Manhattan apartment. And though, at 30 Crosby, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, we can expect the building to become just that in short order.
“I am quite a flamboyant creature,” said Mr. Isaacson. “When you have people like Lenny Kravitz in the building—and we’ve just lost Courtney Love—you have to hold your own.”
He did more than that.
“Lenny and I used the same designer,” said Mr. Isaacson. “I used him first. Lenny came down to see the work that Benjamin had done on my apartment.”
When Mr. Kravitz came downstairs, he got more than he bargained for.
“I showed him my dropdown TV/Cinema screen,” said Mr. Isaacson. “I showed him a DVD of Celine Dion. He thought the screen was sensational. He didn’t say much about Celine.”
“When I first met the owner about five years ago, he wanted something with a wow factor,” said Drew Glick, of Prudential Douglas Elliman, who sold the apartment to Mr. Isaacson for about $1.78 million in 2001. Now, Mr. Glick is listing it with his colleague Richard Ferrari. A co-exclusive, the apartment is also listed with Brian Babst and Daren Herzberg of the Corcoran Group.
“It was clear that this building would be unlike just about anything on the market,” said Mr. Glick.
Three thousand miles from his native England, Mr. Isaacson may not have the name recognition of Mr. Kravitz or Ms. Love, but his parties—which included members of the royal family—certainly kept up with 30 Crosby’s star-studded atmosphere.
“I have parties with very glamorous people, from princes to paupers,” said Mr. Isaacson, who also maintains posh homes in London, Portugal and on Fire Island. He also just closed on a $2.6 million apartment in André Balazs’s new development, One Kenmare Square, according to deed-transfer records.
At 30 Crosby, Mr. Isaacson’s apartment included three bedrooms and four baths. Showcased in Interior Design Magazine, the apartment features 13-foot ceilings, a metal and Lucite staircase, and a 400-square-foot garden (with lifelike plastic trees that provide the requisite verdure all year round).
However, one unique feature that Mr. Isaacson regularly used actually belongs to the entire building. Located just outside his apartment, Mr. Isaacson frequently held court in the Enoteca room, “feel[ing] very much like Richard III.”
“I think the type of person who buys it will be a creative person,” said Mr. Glick. “Or, these days, a hedge-fund person.”