If it’s wonderful to be young and beautiful, ’tis certainly better to be all that and in the market for a multi-million-dollar condo in West Chelsea. In a telling reflection of the developing demographic in the neighborhood of art galleries and the High Line it’s not always possible to tell the college students from those hunting for a condo around the $3 million mark—sometimes one and the same.
“You never know who has the millions,” said the doorman at 100 11th Avenue, skeptically sizing up the young reporter spellbound by Jean Nouvel’s vision machine. “You could have $3 million for all I know.
“We’re considering asking for a deposit at the door,” he deadpanned with his hand extended. “Let’s say $500,000.”
This Sunday’s open house crowd at the Vision Machine included chic architecture buffs with eyewear and a prominent developer; so it wasn’t the 30-year-old man in jeans accompanied by his mother whom you’d expect to be the afternoon’s serious buyer. For Wiener Cyril, though, who works in the hedge fund industry, $3.5 million-plus for a two-bedroom is a small price to pay for a condo practically handmade by Mr. Nouvel, who made his mark on everything from the potted plants to the bathroom faucets.
“It’s awesome—I’m a big fan of Jean Nouvel,” said the native of France, delivering the starchitect’s name in a pitch perfect accent.
Mr. Cyril and his wife went looking all over the city for something modern and fell in love with a floor-to-ceiling view of the Hudson that you have to see to believe, which explains the steady traffic of architecture tourists. “It’s not really functional,” said Mr. Cyril of the condo designed with no interior columns and no overhead lights. He couldn’t see himself living there with kids. Instead, he said, “It’s like buying a piece of art.”
Of the singles and families who’ve bought into the building so far it’s a mixture of people, including artists, architects and fashion designers, said broker Philip Tabor. “It’s not just hotshots with money,” he said.
There are already plans for a restaurant downstairs that, according to Mr. Tabor, will also have the star power to become “a real destination,” though he wouldn’t reveal more.
The building’s singular design tends to appeal less to Americans and more to Europeans, “who get it,” said Mr. Tabor. Many foreigners have invested in a place in the building as a pied-a-terre. Although, as Peter Donhauser, an architecture historian and one of Sunday’s casual browsers, noted, “Americans and New Yorkers are not necessarily to be equated.”
ACROSS THE STREET FROM the Nouvel New York was a sweet reminder of the old New York, in some airy lofts in the former Life Saver Building at 120 11th Avenue. There was, of course, free candy. And if sweets aren’t enough to lure buyers in the midst of the recession, a sweet deal on a three-bedroom condo, originally listed for $3.95 million and now selling for $3.15 million, just might be.
SLIDESHOW > TOUR A LISTING IN THE LIFE SAVER BUILDING
Mark Graham, a single Internet entrepreneur, was looking for a condo with character. He’s checked out both Brooklyn and West Chelsea. Living on 11th Avenue, he said, “feels like Flatbush or Atlantic Avenue with all the Manhattan amenities.”
Mr. Graham currently lives on 20th Street, in more central Chelsea, but said he came over to look at a rare brand-new loft. “It feels like the old New York,” he said. “But you’ve got a heck of an interesting commute,” he noted of the trek from 11th Avenue, past art galleries and public housing, to the rest of Manhattan.
At 450 West 17th Street they were giving away a free BMW to anyone who came to the open house and signed a contract in the next two weeks. Still, it was a quiet afternoon, with only a few buyers stopping in to look at the $4.75 million four-bedroom. “If you’re spending this much on a condo,” said broker Shea Thomas, “you’re not going to get that excited about a free car.”
Down the street at 456 West 19th Street, all they were giving away was free popsicles. But for most college juniors willing to settle on the free popsicle, that plus a one-bedroom condo for up to $2.5 million doesn’t seem like a bad deal.
Erica Min, 19, a theater major at the New School, came with her boyfriend and mom to check out some seriously post-dorm living. Ms. Min, originally from California, sized up the multi-million-dollar loft with the nonchalance of a buyer who’s seen plenty of double-height ceilings by the age of 20. “It’s a standard loft,” she said, “small, but pretty luxurious.”
The life of a college student in West Chelsea surrounded by millionaires is lonely. But her mom thinks the East Village is too crowded.
“I like the area,” mumbled the young Ms. Min, about Chelsea, staring at her lime green sandals. “The food is good … and stuff.”