French Model Unloads Church Condo to Combo-Seeking Couple

From Black Panthers to supermodels and bankers, 135 West Fourth Street has seen it all.

From Black Panthers to supermodels and bankers, 135 West Fourth Street has seen it all.

Washington Square United Methodist Church is no stranger to, shall we say, outré causes. From Vietnam War resisters and the Black Panthers to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Dykes Against Racism Everywhere, the 1860 Romanesque Revival structure at 135 West Fourth Street has been home to a who’s-who of left-wing causes throughout the years.

The building remained a bastion of radical causes until it entered the most conservative phase of its modern history: the condo conversion. The building was sold to Jon Kully and Mick Walsdorf in 2007, who then carved it into condos and rebranded it as the Novare.

Enter Noémie Lenoir, a French model who bought a second-floor sponsor unit in the converted church for $2.7 million. The buy marked a rags-to-riches milestone for Ms. Lenoir, who has posed for Victoria’s Secret and Gap but hails from Les Ulis, a downtrodden and drug-soaked banlieue outside of Paris. Her mixed heritage—her mother is from Réunion, descended from the island of Madagascar; her father was a French electrician—won her an Annie Leibowitz photo shoot as one of the world’s top black models.

While the Novare made an impressive pied-à-terre for Ms. Lenoir, with its 50-foot atrium and original stained glass, the model is probably ruing her decision to buy at the height of the bubble. The two-bedroom condo listed in 2011 for $2.9 million, but languished on the market for almost two years before the sale finally closed this morning, for a paltry $1.99 million, according to city records. It’s unclear who, if anyone, brokered the sale—the property was originally listed with Douglas Elliman, but was delisted back in August.

Renovated churches can be tricky sales, as evidenced by the fact that it sold for only about $1,000 per square foot—a low price for a Greenwich Village location, half a block away from Washington Square Park.

“I’ve had friends who have lived in churches,” said Bonnie Wyper at Corcoran, who has brokered sales in the building in the past but was not involved with this particular unit, “and some people don’t like it—some people feel a little uncomfortable.”

“It’s an unusual space,” she continued, “and whenever something’s unusual, it’s a little more difficult to sell, since you don’t have as wide a market to sell to.”

In any case, Ms. Lenoir’s loss is Ramsey and Sabrina Smith‘s gain. Mr. Smith works as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, making him one of the more button-down owners in the hippie church’s colorful history. The couple already own a unit on the second floor, which they picked up in in 2007 for $2.54 million, and will presumably be combining with their new purchase.