If a typical break-up calls for vats of Ben & Jerry’s and repeated viewings of The Notebook, then we suppose a highly publicized divorce from a top Hollywood actor and devout Scientologist calls for a cross-country move and a gorgeous new apartment. That’s pretty much what Katie Holmes got last summer when she took up residence at the Chelsea Mercantile—the spectacular, star-infused, 21-story building at 252 Seventh Avenue. The actress reportedly signed the lease just a few days after announcing her split from husband Tom Cruise in June 2012.
Most celebrities scrupulously shield their real estate purchases through a web of limited liability corporations, and most brokers steadfastly refuse to discuss their bold-faced clients. Not Matthew Modine: when he wanted to sell his Chelsea pad at Loft 25, he made a video.
Mr. Modine didn’t get the full $2.29 million for the one-bedroom-with-office duplex at 420 West 25th Street, but his video was quite a hit, according to Halstead broker Mark Friedman, who had the listing. “It definitely got more hits than any other video we’ve done in the history of Halstead.” And Mr. Modine and wife Caridad, did walk away with $2.1 million—a respectable premium over the $1.73 million they paid for the 1,668-square-foot spread in 2008.
When Sheila Nevins first started at HBO as “Director of Documentaries,” the cable network had only done one, and she only signed a 13-week contract. Over three decades later, and save for a three-year diversion in the ’80s, Ms. Nevins is still at HBO, and is still heading up the channel’s documentary division. We can only hope the contract she just signed at the Chelsea Mercantile has as much staying power.
And this is nowhere near Ms. Nevins’ first purchase in the condo building. In fact, it’s at least her eighth.
Dumb as a Doornail
Thieves don’t exactly have to break doors down to get into Chelsea apartments.
According to DNAinfo, there has been a recent increase in robberies in the area—burglars have been breaking into apartments by snapping those pretty, antique doorknobs in Chelsea apartment buildings right off residents’ front doors.
Who knew that locating a buyer for a $16 million loft conversion in Chelsea would be as hard as finding the Ark of the Covenant? Indiana Jones, a.k.a. Harrison Ford, has certainly had a lot of trouble pinning down buyers for his four-bedroom, 4.5-bath spread at 206 West 17th Street.
The actor first listed his 5,664-square-foot condo for $16 million back in December 2010. Now, some two years later, Mr. Ford is finally in contract, according to the Olshan Luxury Market report. Certainly, it’s not the longest time a property has lingered on the market. But let’s face it, this place was not moving at the speed of light, or even the speed of a competently-wielded light saber.
Let's Not Make a Deal
Penthouse A/B at 129 West 20th Street appears to be a place where nearly anyone would want to live. Flicking through the multitude of listing photos from the many brokerages and brokers who have tried to sell the 4,500-square foot Chelsea loft, one sees an apartment that seems to embody the dream of downtown luxury living: five bedrooms, four mosaic-tiled baths and two expansive terraces pinwheeling off the home’s showy heart: a sun-flooded double-height living room/dining room with 22-foot-high ceilings, two wood-burning fireplaces and an open staircase of wood and steel. The only problem is that it’s a dream no one wants to buy.
The home, which made its market debut at $8 million in April 2006, in the midst of massive renovation intended to set buyers’ hearts aflutter, has lingered there ever since. A handful of renters have come and gone, but none have wanted to sign the deed. Not for $8.5 million (the highest ask), not for $6.45 million (the lowest and most recent ask) and not for anything in between. It’s now listed for rent at $25,000 a month.
When The Observer visited 129 West 20th Street on a recent afternoon, we found an apartment that was many of the things it has claimed to be over the years: “glamorous, dramatic and refined,” just as the first Corcoran listing had promised, as well as “cinematic in scale and scope” like the Prudential Douglas Elliman listing bragged a few years later. (It had, in fact, starred alongside Keira Knightly and Eva Mendes in Last Night and Mariah Carey in an AT&T commercial.)
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It can be hard to pinpoint the moment when a neighborhood passes from one phase of gentrification to the next—was it the wine bar that opened on the corner, the coffee shop that only served espresso, the French language pre-school? But the West Village, whose change has been a source of constant hand wringing for at least the last two decades, has undoubtedly crossed a new threshold: the gentrification of even the XXX establishments.
The Villager reports that the new owner of a seedy 24-hour adult video store at Clarkson and West Streets is looking to revamp the space into a high-end topless bar for an upscale audience. The new place will reportedly be “classy.” Or at least way classier than a XXX video store with a naked dancer on duty in the back. In fact, the owner is so serious about turning the space into a sophisticated establishment for gentlemen (and are not all men who visit such establishments gentlemen?) that he has ended the naked lady’s gyrations.
Gettin' High Line
It is an unusual and yet utterly New York paradox that to glimpse the natural world in Manhattan you must visit an unnatural place.
That is part of the appeal of the weirdly beautiful High Line. Not the manicured park, with its concrete boardwalk and hordes of tourists but what came before on the 1.5-miles railroad trestle, the despoiled beauty of Mother Nature set loose in the wilds of Chelsea, undisturbed for decades but for the occasional trespasser.
More than 10 million visitors have taken in the breathtaking views of the city’s skyline and the Hudson River and traipsed through its minimalist landscape of historic tracks and native grasses since the High Line park opened in 2009. It has encouraged development in Chelsea and Meatpacking, inspired artists and filmmakers, and managed to polarize the surrounding neighborhood before it has even been fully restored.
Yet the thin strip of pre-post-industrial wildlands that made that all possible is about to disappear.
Gettin' High Line
The High Line. Rejuvenator of neighborhoods, destroyer of neighborhoods.
Those are basically the two media narratives surrounding the elevated park on Manhattan’s West Side, which just held the groundbreaking for its third and final phase today. Most of the attention in the past has been on how great the design-y new park is, but as locals learn to live with the millions of visitors who flock to the park each year, some of them have started to complain, most notably in the Op-Ed pages of the Times, that the High Line has actually ruined, or at least Disneyfied, the neighborhoods surrounding it.
Asked about these changes today, Mayor Bloomberg did not necessarily disagree with the situation, just the sentiment.
Much of the debate around the expansion of the Chelsea Market has centered around not the former Nasbisco factory turned popular shopping center (and subsequent tourist attraction), but the old railroad trestle next to it.
Part of the justification for expanding the market by 25 percent was that, in addition to providing construction jobs and new office space for the city’s booming tech sector, the developer of the project, Jamestown Properties, would pay about $19 million to the High Line, to help fund ongoing maintenance. But there was also great community outcry over the fact that much of the new addition would be built on the 10th Avenue side of Chelsea Market, directly overhanging the High Line.
Earlier today, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the project’s expansion, and addressed a few of these concerns.