Martha Stewart can’t get a break. In recent weeks, the convicted executive’s efforts to unload her 3,300-square-foot penthouse in the Richard Meier tower at 173 Perry Street-just one of the beleaguered diva’s vast real-estate holdings that stretch from Maine to East Hampton-fell through, and the property is now back on the market. Back in January, the New York Post reported that the doyenne of domesticity had sold her unfinished duplex at Perry Street for close to the apartment’s $7.2 million asking price, but, according to real-estate sources who have shown apartments in the building, the deal collapsed at the end of February and the residence is now back up for sale.
A spokesperson for Ms. Stewart declined to comment on the deal.
Ron Teitelbaum, the president of Ron Teitelbaum Properties, the independent broker who is marketing Ms. Stewart’s Perry Street loft, also declined to comment, but he did say that “no contract was ever signed.”
According to the Post , the buyer was Peter Thiel, the co-founder of the Internet company PayPal. Mr. Thiel couldn’t be reached by press time.
Needless to say, the aborted sale comes at a bad time for Ms. Stewart. On March 5, the 62-year-old “arbiter of good taste” was convicted on four counts stemming from her Dec. 27, 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone stock. Last June, after she was indicted, Ms. Stewart resigned as chairman and chief executive of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and on March 15, the dethroned domestic diva resigned her seat on the company’s board(though she still owns 61 percent of the company’s stock and will serve as “founding editorial director”).Now just as Ms. Stewart is no doubt seeking to assess her assets before being sentenced by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum on June 17 (she faces up to 16 months in prison), comes the loss of the sale of one of her trophy properties.
Her Perry Street loft, which she has never occupied, is just one part of a real-estate empire that includes upward of 10 homes. Among her notable properties is the 137-acre estate in Bedford, N.Y., that she purchased in 2000 for $14.5 million (she has since invested some $25 million on renovations); the Turkey Hill colonial home in Westport, Conn.; Skylands, the former Edsel Ford estate in Seal Harbor, Me., that she bought for about $5 million in 1997; a Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre purchased in 1988; and a pair of East Hampton houses, one of which (on Georgica Close Road) is listing for $9.5 million.
But it’s the flashy Perry Street loft that has come to represent so much of the 1990’s exuberance that gave rise to the lifestyle media mogul. (And, indeed, Ms. Stewart’s ill fortune on Perry Street mirrors her travails of late.) In 2000, basking in the glow of her company’s October 1999 I.P.O. that made her a billionaire, Ms. Stewart-joining a bevy of celebrity buyers that now includes Nicole Kidman, Calvin Klein and downtown director Vincent Gallo-purchased the penthouse for about $6 million while the towers were still in the design phase.
But now, like Ms. Stewart, many of the A-list buyers are having second thoughts and are trying to flee the fish-bowl-like building. According to reports in the Daily News , Ms. Kidman wants to dump her $8 million spread, and Calvin Klein’s triplex penthouse at 176 Perry Street is currently listing for $19.5 million. Meanwhile, however, Mr. Meier is betting that there’s still a healthy market for his modernist design. In December, the Pritzker Prize–winning architect broke ground on a third tower, an $80 million building at 165 Charles Street.
When Barbara Lazear Ascher-who’s written extensively about travel for The New York Times on such topics as test-driving a car on frozen lakes in Lapland, hiking with geologists in Death Valley and whitewater kayaking on the Salmon River in Idaho-decided to move last year, she didn’t venture too far from the nest. For the past 35 years, Ms. Ascher lived in this two-bedroom apartment on the corner of 83rd Street with her husband, a doctor who had an office nearby in a one-bedroom apartment at 1 Gracie Terrace (the east end of 82nd Street) which had previously served as his-and later their-home. “I was still in college when I got married to my husband, and I arrived in New York with only a backpack and moved into 1 Gracie Terrace, where he was living,” Ms. Ascher told The Observer over the phone. “I’ve had a long history in this building.” So, after her husband passed away two years ago, the venturesome author-who’s also penned five books-made the decision to downsize by putting the 75 East End Avenue apartment on the market and moving back “home” to the 1 Gracie Terrace apartment. Her fate was sealed when she visited the apartment last year on a starry night. “I decided to move back there when I was sitting out on the terrace and saw the moon rise over the East River. It just doesn’t feel like you’re in the city,” she said. In fact, the terrace views continue to remind her of her globetrotting adventures: “Right now, as I’m speaking, a tugboat is going by,” she said. “It’s like living on the Grand Canal in Venice.”
The buyer of the 75 East End Avenue apartment, a single man who works on Wall Street, was impressed with the apartment’s layout, the master bedroom’s East River views and the convenience of a built-in washer-dryer. Sonya Dunham, Todd Marsh and Bruce Katz, all of Douglas Elliman, shared the exclusive listing.
Recent Transactions in the Real Estate Market
290 West 11th Street
One-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $649,000. Selling: $649,000.
Maintenance: $875; 51 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: two days.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME If you squint your eyes, the leafy West Village would have little trouble passing for London’s posh West End, or the cobblestone streets of Notting Hill. The likeness is why a young couple from London recently fell for this 600-square-foot apartment on a bucolic block on West 11th Street between Bleecker and Hudson streets. When the investment banker and his wife, a graduate student, moved across the Atlantic, they wanted a sumptuous spread that reminded them of the charms of their former home. “It’s like England in the middle of New York City,” said their broker, Arlene Groder of Douglas Elliman. “The building is a Federal townhouse, and it has the most romantic fireplace. The building is very European: When you open up the door, all you see are trees and hear the birds chirping,” she said. Continuing the British theme, the apartment has an English Tudor garden in the back. It also has 12-foot ceilings and an open kitchen. And just in case their new apartment is not enough to stave off homesickness, the couple has only to walk a few blocks over to Soho House, the downtown outpost of that oh-so-hip London scenester club. Alice Barden, also of Douglas Elliman, represented the sellers.