Return to C.P.W.: Donna Karan Lands $11 Million Co-op

Just as her six-month lease on a Wooster Street loft is about to run out, Donna Karan, who has been

Just as her six-month lease on a Wooster Street loft is about to run out, Donna Karan, who has been searching for a permanent Manhattan home for years, has finally found one. According to sources, the fashion designer signed a deal to buy a 16-room co-op at 55 Central Park West from record executive Seymour Stein for just under $11 million in mid-September and the building’s board approved her application on Oct. 25.

The move to 55 Central Park West, an Art Deco building near West 66th Street, should be a big relief to the fashion designer, who in the last year has gained something of a reputation for capriciousness in the high-end real estate market. Though Ms. Karan and her husband, sculptor Stephan Weiss, spent two years happily ensconced in a rental at the San Remo, a co-op at 145 Central Park West near West 74th Street, her desire to buy a home took on newfound urgency on June 30, when their lease expired.

Ms. Karan faced some heartbreak when she was asked to leave Central Park West, considering the lengths to which she had gone to make the rental apartment photogenic enough for glossy magazines. But according to comments by Ms. Karan in The New York Times –which published some shots of the place, post-mortem, on Oct. 24–every last detail was transportable, further illustrating her homeless status. From the San Remo, she moved into a 5,000-square-foot loft on Wooster Street, where she’s been cooling her heels.

“She’s been looking for four years, since before she moved into the San Remo,” said one of the half-dozen brokers with whom Ms. Karan has worked this year.

“Someone said to me she’d been looking for 15 years,” quipped another broker who also devoted time to the designer’s search.

After a couple of disappointments–the San Remo lease, which expired when the owner balked at Ms. Karan’s desire to buy; a turn-down by the prestigious co-op at 10 Gracie Square, where she was in contract for a 15-room apartment costing $5 million–the designer seemed poised to buy a condominium at the Alfred, a high-rise building at 161 West 61st Street, last July. But Ms. Karan never signed the contract for just over $5 million on the property. By the end of the summer, she was back on the market, represented by a broker from Edward Lee Cave Inc.

Around Labor Day, Ms. Karan and Mr. Weiss looked at the 16th-floor apartment of Seymour Stein, the chief executive of Sire Records Group and an on-and-off resident of the building for about 10 years. The apartment, a full-floor swath being marketed by broker Linda Stein, Mr. Stein’s ex-wife, for $11 million, is 6,000 square feet and has incredible views of Central Park. However, the property needs a good deal of work: Mr. Stein bought two neighboring apartments in succession with the intention of combining them, but never really got around to it. “There’s a hole in the wall so you can walk through,” explained a source familiar with the space, underscoring the fact that it needs some imagination.

Considering the building’s history, the co-op board could hardly turn Ms. Karan and her husband down based on their celebrity status. Over the years, 55 Central Park West has been home to designer Calvin Klein, who sold his penthouse apartment to Steve Gottlieb, the president of TVT Records, for $8.6 million in February; media mogul Jann Wenner and his boyfriend Matt Nye, who rented another, four-bedroom apartment owned by Mr. Stein several years ago; and ABC News correspondent Forrest Sawyer, who bought the Wenner-Nye apartment in 1996, after the couple moved out, for $3.2 million. (Mr. Sawyer sold his property late last year.) Restaurant reviewers Nina and Tim Zagat also live there.

Still, the co-op’s board members became infamous for splitting legal hairs earlier this year, when they twice rejected power couple Diane Sawyer, currently the co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America , and her filmmaker husband Mike Nichols on their contract to buy what is now Mr. Gottlieb’s penthouse.

“Look, if she’s got the money and the assets and all that, I don’t see any reason that she shouldn’t have the apartment,” said a broker familiar with Ms. Karan’s plans. “And she’s looked long enough that she’s identified what she wants, and I think that’s a good one for her. And it’ll get two people who took a long, long time to make up their minds resettled … every broker who knows of them will get a chuckle.”

Ms. Karan’s publicist declined to comment.


PAT McENROE CARRIES MELISSA ERRICO OVER THRESHOLD AT 285 LAFAYETTE STREET. Doubles tennis player Patrick McEnroe and his new bride, actress Melissa Errico, purchased a two-bedroom apartment at 285 Lafayette Street for $1.53 million in August. The couple now shares an address with rock star David Bowie and supermodel Iman.

Mr. McEnroe is the 33-year-old kid brother and sometime doubles partner of tennis pro John McEnroe. He owns an apartment at the Eldorado, a co-op at 300 Central Park West near 90th Street, where his brother’s ex-wife, the actress Tatum O’Neal, lives along with other celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. Now a tennis commentator for ESPN and CBS Sports, Mr. McEnroe recently married Ms. Errico, a Broadway actress who had a role on the failed TV series Central Park West in 1995.

The couple’s Lafayette Street apartment is one of a group of newly renovated properties atop a classic artist-in-residence loft building between Prince and Houston streets. Their 2,660-square-foot space, which carried an asking price of $1.5 million, is similar in character to that of Mr. Bowie, who bought two contiguous apartment units: All the new condos have Rutt custom cabinets, polished nickel vanities, Brazilian hardwood floors and restored turn-of-the-century details. During the construction process, which was completed in the middle of the summer, the couple was allowed to tweak the décor, such as choosing the finish on the floors, which they darkened, and opening up the kitchen walls a bit.

“The apartment has a lot of charm and has an old yellow pinewood beam running through the ceiling, which has been stripped and left exposed,” said a source familiar with the property. “It’s very quiet, and has a view of the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” on Prince and Mott streets.


4 East 62nd Street (Curzon House)

Two-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,400-square-foot prewar condo.

Charges: $1,500. Taxes: $1,600.

Asking: $1.595 million. Selling: $1.5 million.

Time on the market: six months.

BORN TO RENT, THEN SELL. Talk about a rebound! Ten years ago, when she was divorced from rocker Bruce Springsteen, actress Julianne Phillips bought this condominium off Fifth Avenue for a mere $300,000. Right around that time, the building’s management refurbished all the apartments, and Ms. Phillips wound up with a swank property that she began to rent out, most recently to an executive at a major investment bank for $13,000 a month. But when Ms. Phillips elected to sell the condo, it became a little less fabulous: the tenant was always in residence–in the course of six months, only three potential buyers actually passed through. The good news was that two of the three shoppers were interested. In the end, the apartment went to a couple in their 50’s who were moving across town from their town house off Central Park West. They have a dog, they didn’t want to give up the park. Plus, Joan Rivers lives right across the street. Broker: Sotheby’s International Realty (Dolly Lenz).

455 East 86th Street (Channel Club)

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,325-square-foot condo.

Asking: $650,000. Selling: $650,000.

Charges: $765. Taxes: $1,016.

Time on the market: three days.

APARTMENT SWAP, MINUS THE LITTLE GIRL. The sellers lived in this 25th-floor apartment for about five years, but apparently East River views, a south-facing balcony, washer and dryer, customized closets and a fully equipped kitchen (with microwave and dishwasher) just weren’t enough. So the couple (he’s a managing director at Brean Murray & Company, the investment banking firm; she works for Forbes magazine) and their daughter are moving on. Their apartment sold in just three days at full asking price. The buyers are an American attorney and his French graduate-student wife. His stepmother, a broker, tipped them off to the sale, and they made an offer immediately upon seeing the apartment. The former owners will be moving into a spacious apartment, also in the Channel Club, which went up in 1987 and has a doorman, concierge, indoor pool and gym. Très bien! Broker: Douglas Elliman (Branko Vujanic).


210 West 21st Street

Two-bed, one-bath, 900-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $300,000. Selling: $300,000.

Charges: $802; 60 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one day.

TELEGRAM MAN ANNOUNCES NEW ADDRESS. A sales representative with Western Union paid $175,000 for a one-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of 233 West 21st Street, a cozy block between Seventh and Eighth avenues. After a paint job and a few improvements to the bathroom, the apartment was nice enough, but at 600 square feet, it was still a little bit cramped. Moreover, the owner had fallen in love with a Columbia graduate student, and the couple wanted a place to share. The sales rep called broker Mark Midensky, who had found him the one-bedroom apartment, for advice. Lucky for him, Mr. Midensky was in the process of trying to sell an apartment just across the street with two bedrooms, an office and an open living-dining area. Before long, the couple had crossed the street, and a Wall Streeter, fresh out of business school, had taken the smaller apartment off their hands. Broker: William B. May Company (Mark Midensky).


10 Jay Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,350-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $535,000. Selling: $490,000.

Charges: $1,001; 45 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: six months.

TAKE TWO ON THE COBBLESTONES. A cinematographer and his producer girlfriend were living in the Village and wanted to stay there, but couldn’t find anything acceptable within their price range. After some disappointing excursions, their broker, Linda Partland, took them to TriBeCa, where she told them they would be able to afford more space. Whatever! But Ms. Partland’s hunch proved to be accurate: The couple was instantly enamored of this building, recently converted to a co-op, on Jay Street, a cobblestone block between Greenwich and Hudson streets. The sellers were a family of four who, after 10 blissful years of downtown living, were relocating to Australia; their imminent move, combined with the apartment’s need for a facelift, allowed the buyers to shave $45,000 off the asking price. To create a more loftlike space, they intend to take down some walls and expose the apartment’s inner columns–which should allow a little more light to filter in, even in the back of the building. Broker: Corcoran Group (Linda Partland and Perrie Gurfein); Douglas Elliman (Mike Chapman).


Fordune Drive

Two-story house.

Asking: $2.35 million. Selling: $2.385 million.

Time on the market: four months.

HOTEL HEIR GIVES HIS FAMILY HAMPTONS ROOM ASSIGNMENTS. After a year and a half of searching for just the right Southampton, L.I., fix-me-up, real estate executive Rick Hilton, his wife, Kathy Hilton and their four children settled on this two-story property in the estate section of Water Mill, right on the border of Southampton Village. The 10-year-old house, which was half-built when the seller purchased it (he oversaw the rest of the construction process, customizing along the way), has seven bedrooms and seven and a half baths, so everyone gets his or her own room. There’s also a swimming pool, a three-car garage and hedges surrounding the 2.7-acre property for privacy’s sake. Still, the place needs renovations, so the idea is to get it ready for weekend use by next summer. The family maintains residences in Manhattan and in Los Angeles, where Mr. Hilton (the son of Barron Hilton, chairman of the eponymous hotel-management conglomerate) runs a real estate firm entitled Hilton & Hyland. This past summer, while they were waiting for the contract on their Water Mill house to close, they had to rough it by touring through Europe. Broker: Allan M. Schneider Associates (Sandi Pullman); Mrs. Condie Lamb Agency (Kim Hovey). Return to C.P.W.: Donna Karan Lands $11 Million Co-op