The 72-year-old Town Club has shuttered its doors for good and left behind its home in the 28,500-square-foot limestone mansion at 9 East 86th Street, which it sold in February for $14.7 million to a private investor and his family, who plan to return the building to a single-family residence. Upwards of eight potential buyers bid on the 52-foot-wide property, according to a source familiar with the sale, before the investor inked the winning deal in late winter. (An earlier report that the property had been sold in November for $14 million, the source said, was inaccurate.) The proceeds will be split among the club’s former members.
The Town Club, known for its indoor swimming pool and competitive bridge games, had once boasted nearly 500 members, but over the years its membership dwindled, and by the time the last of the furniture was auctioned off in February, it counted only 39 members.
“We didn’t have sufficient members to pay the bills,” said Robert Friedman, a Town Club board member and real-estate attorney in Manhattan. “It’s the passing of an era. That kind of facility can never be duplicated-it was so magnificent.”
Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens, who sold the property, declined to comment on the sale.
The six-story mansion has a storied-and tragic-past. Built in 1916 by architects Delano and Aldrich for the prominent Woodward family, the home on the corner of Fifth Avenue was the backdrop for the lavish parties thrown by William Woodward Jr. and his wife Ann. But in the summer of 1955, when the couple was at their estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island, Ms. Woodward mistook her husband for a prowler and fatally shot him in the middle of the night. Life magazine dubbed the incident “The Shooting of the Century,” and though she was later cleared by a grand jury, Ms. Woodward, overcome with grief, committed suicide shortly after Esquire published Truman Capote’s thinly veiled account of the incident in 1975. Beset by the tragic events, the couple’s two sons also committed suicide in later years. The saga was the basis for Dominick Dunne’s 1985 book The Two Mrs. Grenvilles , as well as a TV movie.
The Town Club purchased the limestone mansion in 1957. But by March 2001, with an aging membership and mounting bills, the club put the building-with its grand marble staircase, two elevators and full-service health club-on the block for $27 million with Massey-Knakal Realty. The ornate spread languished on the market for nearly four years, first with Massey-Knakal and then with the Corcoran Group, before Ms. Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens took over the property and set the asking price at $15.5 million.
According to real-estate sources close to the property, the buyer has a renovation planned that will restore the home’s original details while adding modern amenities. The renovated townhouse will have up to 10 bedrooms.
“It needs at least five or six million [dollars] for the renovation, easily,” said Richard Steinberg, a managing director at Warburg Realty Partnership, who has sold similarly priced townhouses on the Upper East Side.
Although it closed far below its original stratospheric $27 million asking price, the sale makes the Town Club one of the latest trophy townhouses to trade above $10 million, and illustrates that the surging market for luxury homes in Manhattan continues apace. A report issued on April 5 by Miller Samuel, a real-estate appraisal firm, showed that the average sales price of a Manhattan townhouse increased 10.1 percent in 2003, to a record $4.04 million.
Michael Koman, a writer for the nightly talkfest Late Night with Conan O’Brien , recently landed a new apartment in the West Village. In February, Mr. Koman scored a 750-square-foot one-bedroom spread at 302 West 12th Street for $755,000. He joins Gwyneth Paltrow and her Coldplay front-man husband, Chris Martin, as well as Vanity Fair editor turned Bush-basher (and smokers’-rights activist) Graydon Carter, in the comely neighborhood.
Mr. Koman didn’t return calls for comment. Lee Zimmerman, a broker formerly with the Corcoran Group who sold the third-floor apartment, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The one-bedroom spread between West Fourth Street and Eighth Avenue has a wood-burning fireplace, city views and four oversized closets. The prewar building has been home to other entertainment A-listers, including Glenn Close and Jodie Foster, and some B-listers, too. Daytime tabloid talker Ricki Lake sold her apartment to Ms. Foster back in January 2003 for $2.3 million, according to a real-estate source close to the building.
The Late Night man is no lightweight. Formerly a writer for Mad TV , Mr. Koman, in 2003, was a member of the writing staff for Mr. O’Brien’s show that won a Comedy/Variety Award at the Writers’ Guild Awards in Los Angeles (not to mention the eight Emmy nominations the show has received since 1996). While Mr. Koman is now settling into his West Village perch, other well-heeled neighbors have apparently been fleeing the leafy neighborhood. Recently, New York magazine reported that fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg put her pair of West 12th Street townhouses-complete with a pool, office and fashion boutique-on the auction block for $30 million.
Recent Transactions In the Real Estate Market
Upper East Side
524 East 72nd Street
One-bedroom, one-and-half-bathroom condo.
Asking: $499,000. Selling: $495,000.
Charges: $628. Taxes: $4,632.
Time on the market: one month.
WEST SIDE STORY New Yorkers are nothing if not opinionated-especially when it comes to Manhattan’s East-West divide. This single attorney from Chicago learned firsthand about the importance of the borough’s geographic distinction when her parents purchased this high-floor one-bedroom off York Avenue last summer. Though the apartment wasn’t short on amenities-like its built-in washer/dryer and marble bathrooms-it just didn’t feel like home. “After living there, she felt too removed from everything, and she ended up liking the West Side better,” said broker Stacey Gero-Kanbar of William B. May, who sold the apartment. Recently, the young lawyer hopped across the park and landed in a one-bedroom on the West Side. The new owners, a family from the Philippines, already had an Upper East Side pied-à-terre , but once they viewed the 577-square-foot apartment, they promptly put their place on the market and snapped this one up. “They were drawn to the unit’s light, high-floor views, and the fact that it’s a real one-bedroom with a window,” Ms. Gero-Kanbar said. Equally attractive were the building’s numerous conveniences, which include a doorman, concierge and health club.
129-131 Fifth Avenue
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $1.165 million. Selling: $1.177 million.
Maintenance: $1,898; 48 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one month.
GROWING PAINS With one child under foot already and another one on the way, this lawyer and his wife made the tough decision to unload their 1,800-square-foot loft on lower Fifth Avenue at 18th Street. “They needed more space; the family was growing,” said Herve Senequier of Douglas Elliman, who had the exclusive listing along with fellow Elliman broker Leonard Steinberg. The two-bedroom apartment, in a renovated building that’s home to the Armani Exchange boutique, has both western and southern exposures, hardwood floors, high ceilings, arched windows and an open kitchen with stainless-steel Viking appliances. A financial planner and his wife, formerly a chef at Citarella, were happy to call the apartment home after leaving their rental on East 20th Street. They, too, were in search of more space for their clan and snapped up the apartment, paying over the asking price. “They’ve already planned a renovation,” Mr. Senequier said. “They really want to transform the place.”