In case there was any doubt, computer geeks are taking over the city. First, Amazon.com’s chief executive Jeffrey Bezos spent $7.65 million on three contiguous Central Park West condominiums, to be used as a pied-à-terre for his parents. Now Marc Ewing, the chief technical officer of the Durham, N.C.-based software company Red Hat Inc., has gone into contract for a 12-room co-op at 1120 Fifth Avenue for an estimated $7.9 million.
At 30 years old and with an approximate net worth of $670 million, Mr. Ewing is the youngest self-made member of the Forbes 400 list of the country’s richest people. In 1993, the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native founded Red Hat–a software company that distributes Linux, a popular computer operating system–with a couple of buddies in Durham. After six years of rapid growth, the company floated 6 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 11, nearly quadrupling their initial offering price by the end of the first day of trading. Red Hat’s I.P.O. was one of the most successful of last summer.
Mr. Ewing lives with his wife, Lisa Lee, and young son in Chapel Hill, N.C. In 1997, the Ewings spent $60,500 for 2.4 acres on Chapel Hill’s High Hickory Road, where they erected a 4,328-square-foot house, with porches and a large deck, the following year. (Assessors for Orange County, where the house is located, estimated the value of the property to be $355,221.) However, a source familiar with Mr. Ewing’s plans said that with his co-op purchase, the software executive plans to relocate completely to Manhattan, and establish a corporate presence here as well. (Through a publicist, Mr. Ewing declined to comment on either the apartment purchase or his business plans.)
That move is pending the approval of the board of 1120 Fifth Avenue when it reviews the Ewings’ application during the week of Oct. 25. A source close to the deal expressed the fear that Mr. Ewing might be too young to be approved by the old-line co-op board of 1120 Fifth Avenue, a 1920’s building near 93rd Street. Still, as one real estate executive put it, money talks: “If you can show the net worth, more power to you. You deserve to be here.”
The apartment Mr. Ewing is in contract to buy is the current home of Hugh Blakeway Webb, the former chairman of Laura Ashley P.L.C., his wife and their young children. Real estate records indicate that the couple bought the co-op, which at 4,000 square feet contains four bedrooms, five baths, three maid’s rooms and a library, for just over $4 million in 1997. At that time, the apartment was newly renovated.
“It’s pretty,” said a broker familiar with the space, “but I wouldn’t call it, you know, mint.”
The Blakeway Webbs put the property on the market for $7.9 million in the fall of 1998 and were able to snag that entire amount from Mr. Ewing, who signed a contract to buy the place in early October. “Upper Fifth Avenue prices have just appreciated more than any other part of Fifth Avenue,” sniffed one real estate executive. Asked for comment, Mr. Blakeway Webb said, “I don’t talk about my private affairs.”
UPPER WEST SIDE
215 West 91st Street (DeSoto)
One-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $329,000. Selling: $312,000.
Charges: $959; 44 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one week.
PILOT AND STEWARDESS FLY THE COOP. About a year ago, an American Airlines pilot and his stewardess (sorry, flight attendant) fiancée bought this 10th-floor apartment in the full-service DeSoto, built in 1917 and converted to co-op in 1980. But now they’ve gone on to greener pastures: They decided that they wanted horses and lots of land, so they loaded up the truck and moved to Arkansas. Their apartment faces south, has a dining room, a window in the kitchen, hardwood floors and original large tub and bathroom tiles. A busy, efficient doctor–head of intensive care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital–who had no time to waste on browsing came to see the apartment, and made an offer right on the spot. Broker: Corcoran Group (Dorothy Zeidman, Robbie Gould).
322 Central Park West
Two-bed, three-bath, 1,850-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $795,000. Selling: $710,000.
Charges: $1,867; 50 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: four months.
ONE WOMAN’S PERSONAL ARCHIVE DISPERSED. If you live somewhere for 50 years, and in those five decades fail to throw out a single piece of paper, when you’re ready to sell your apartment, you may find a tough sell on your hands. Such was the case with a woman who had occupied this place since 1945. She raised two daughters there and remained in the apartment alone after her husband, a noted psychiatrist, died about a decade ago. One of her daughters, a psychologist, recently decided to move her mother to a senior residence near her own home in Huntington, L.I. Getting the apartment in selling shape was a job. The broker helped out by hiring professionals to remove the junk–even the bathtub had been used to store papers. Eventually, the place was tidy enough to walk through. Although this is a second-floor apartment, it’s got park views, a maid’s room and a fireplace; the living room and master bedroom face the park. The building is quiet and very private. Uniformed attendants operate the elevators. Multiple offers were submitted on the apartment so the sale went to a sealed bid situation. The winners are an engaged couple–he’s an investment banker, she’s an attorney–who are currently renting. They’ll be able to occupy their new home after extensive renovations are completed, including a new kitchen and new bathrooms, and ripping up the linoleum tiles throughout the apartment, which cover the original parquet hardwood floors. Broker: Orsid Realty Corporation (Olga Fisher).
165 West End Avenue (Lincoln Towers)
One-bed, one-bath, 800-square-foot-co-op.
Asking: $292,000. Selling: $277,000.
Charges: $793; 49 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one week.
75-YEAR-OLD SCHOOLTEACHER RETIRES AS PLAYGIRL. A retired middle school teacher lived happily with her husband on Long Island for 40 years. But after he died, she decided it was time to ditch their 5,000-square-foot house and have some fun. Her new bachelorette pad, close to Lincoln Center, has a renovated kitchen and lovely views. Her building has many amenities for a senior citizen on her own, including a doorman, private security, on-site dry cleaning, parking garage and health club. Turns out she’s got some friends in the complex, and though one of her children lives in Westchester, she’ll be close to the other, who lives in Manhattan. Broker: Corcoran Group (Dave Abramson).
UPPER EAST SIDE
400 East 70th Street
Three-bed, 3.5-bath, 1,600-square-foot condo.
Asking: $795,000. Selling: $750,000.
Charges: $1,156. Taxes: $980.
Time on the market: three months.
COUPLE UNWILLINGLY CROSSES EAST OVER THIRD AVENUE. O.K., so it’s not Park Avenue, but therein lies its appeal. The Kingsley is a well-maintained building, about a decade old, with a doorman, concierge, parking garage, washer and dryer on each floor, and a gym. It’s close to the park, the river and good schools. It’s also off First Avenue. Perhaps some people insist on being west of Third Avenue, but those who seek a good deal know better. The young couple who bought this place was willing to compromise on the snootiness factor in the interest of getting more for their money. For under $800,000, they’ve got an apartment that needs a fair amount of work, but it’s awfully big, and it comes with hardwood floors, a proper dining room, a balcony, river and bridge views, and plenty of sunlight since it is located on the 25th floor. The apartment had been owned previously by a Japanese-based company whose president lived there. Brokers: Douglas Elliman, Corcoran Group.
MATT DAMON’S LOFT HUNTING LEADS TO CLUBHOUSE ON LAFAYETTE STREET. After months of searching for the perfect loft, Matt Damon is finally close to joining his thespian friends below 14th Street. According to real estate sources, the 29-year-old actor, who spent the summer combing the real estate listings of lower Broadway, the West Village and NoHo with girlfriend Winona Ryder, is close to finalizing a $2.4 million deal on a 7,000-square-foot duplex on Lafayette Street near Astor Place.
At that address, Mr. Damon will be within spitting distance of his best buddies, on and off screen: Ben Affleck, his hometown friend and co-star in Good Will Hunting and the soon-to-be-released Dogma , owns a TriBeCa loft; Gwyneth Paltrow, who will appear with him in The Talented Mr. Ripley , bought a West Village town house for $1.6 million last summer; and Ms. Ryder, who played a large role in Mr. Damon’s apartment search–that of girlfriend who might one day want to move in–owns a prewar co-op on lower Lexington Avenue near Gramercy Park, a neighborhood she became enamored with after filming The Age of Innocence in 1993. (However, her co-op is not, as of now, for sale.)
Brokers familiar with Mr. Damon’s real estate meanderings said he began looking for downtown property by sending a real estate agent out equipped with a video camera last spring. By the middle of the summer, he was touring through apartments in person and hoping to keep the figures low. “[Mr. Damon] was sort of looking for anything and was really bummed out about what he’d seen in the $1 million to $2 million range,” said a source. Another broker added that Mr. Damon had two main requirements: that the apartment be a loft and that it have some sort of terrace or roof access. “Outdoor space was the common denominator of what he looked at,” the broker said.
The co-op apartment, located in a small artists-in-residence loft building near the Public Theater, was on the market for $2.2 million. It is a duplex dubbed in real estate listings as a “work-live space” containing two offices, a pool room, a conference area, an exercise room and 15-foot vaulted ceilings. The seller paid just $400,000 for the property a year ago, buying it from an estate. Sources close to the deal said the deal is supposed to become final in a few weeks. A publicist for Mr. Damon would say only that the actor had bought an apartment in downtown Manhattan.
23 East 10th Street (The Albert)
Two-bed, one-bath, 780-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $345,000. Selling: $345,000.
Charges: $1,038; 60 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: four weeks.
COUPLE OF WRITERS HOLE UP IN OLD HOTEL. A married couple lived in this apartment for 10 years before craving more space. Their fifth-floor apartment has hardwood floors, north and south exposures, and a dishwasher and microwave in the kitchen. The building, the Albert, built in 1923 as a hotel, has a 24-hour doorman, common roof deck, laundry room and elevator. The buyers, two married journalists without children, had been shown nearly a dozen other apartments before seeing this one. They liked the layout and location, so they offered the asking price for the place and were accepted immediately. Broker: Corcoran Group (Alex Nicholas, Gabriella Winter).
317 Sixth Avenue
Three-bed, one-bath, 1,600-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $435,000. Selling: $435,000.
Charges: $400; 25 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: six weeks.
ESCAPE FROM THE BIG, BAD REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS. Try getting this kind of space for this kind of money in Manhattan. (Actually, don’t try this, as your efforts will prove futile.) The spoiled sellers, a married couple, are buying a house in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. He’s a banker and she’s an assistant city commissioner; they have no children. They did a lot of renovation work to their home, restoring many of its gorgeous prewar details, but never actually moved in. The apartment–23 feet wide by 70 feet deep–has a formal dining room with built-in cabinets, bay windows and wainscoting; a library; a new kitchen and bathroom, designed in replica Victorian style; a laundry room and refinished floors. The apartment is located in the center of Park Slope and boasts harbor and skyline views from its private roof deck. The lucky buyers are a professor and his high school teacher wife who had been renting a West Village loft but were displaced by big, bad real estate developers. Broker: Corcoran Group’s Brooklyn Landmark (William Stephen).