Feeding Frenzy

The Carhart Mansion, formerly one of several Upper East Side townhouses belonging to the Lycée Français de New York, is being converted into private residences-and things in the Manhattan real-estate market are going a lot better for the developers than they did for the Lycée. There are buyers for three out of the four luxury condos, which carry a combined total asking price of $61.3 million.

The long and contentious residential conversion of the Lycée’s former Parisian-style school building at 3 East 95th Street just off Fifth Avenue is nearly complete, and according to the project’s broker, Carrie Chiang of the Corcoran Group, buyers have submitted letters of intent for three of the four apartments, all at their asking price.

“We have buyers for three apartments. There has been incredibly strong demand,” Ms. Chiang said. “The only one left is the ground-floor unit. There are no other apartments like this in the city.” Ms. Chiang added: “We don’t negotiate on the sales price in the offering plan.”

Under New York real-estate laws, developers may not take payments from buyers until an offering plan is approved by the Attorney General’s office. But brokers may hold letters of intent from buyers wanting to claim units before they officially go on sale. While letters of intent are non-binding and no money changes hands, they often indicate demand for a project.

Ms. Chiang said the Carhart Mansion is within days of receiving an approval from the city. And when it does, some of the city’s most ornate private residences will officially be sold. The 33,955-square-foot mansion was carved into four luxury condos: a five-bedroom apartment asking $19 million; two four-bedrooms at $18.5 million and $14 million, respectively; and a three-bedroom apartment listed at a bargain-basement $9.8 million. The residences will be ready by March 2005.

The pending sale of the Carhart Mansion marks one of the final chapters in a real-estate saga that is uniquely New York-one that has, for the past two years, roiled the waters of the city’s elite community of French expatriates and even made its way back to the floor of the French Senate in Paris. First built in 1913 for Marion Carhart, the wife of banking and railroad magnate Amory S. Carhart, and later home to troupes of blue-blazer-and-polo-shirt-clad élèves , the residences will now be woven into the limestone and granite fabric of the Upper East Side.

Back in October 2001, the Lycée sold the landmarked Carnegie Hill townhouse for a mere $15 million, as part of an ambitious financing plan to fund the construction of a new state-of-the-art school on East 75th Street with $94.1 million in bonds underwritten by J.P. Morgan. The Lycée had first listed the 33,955-square-foot mansion for $29.8 million in August 2000, before selling at nearly a 50 percent discount off the original asking price in the real-estate downturn that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The pointed debate over the financial prudence of the school’s construction plan flared up again when the building hit the market just several months after the Lycée unloaded it, this time with a combined $61.3 million asking price-a nearly 400 percent mark-up.

But now that the renovation is well underway, the lofty asking price-and the buyers’ willingness to pay the full amounts-clearly reflect the luxury details being installed by the renowned London architect John Simpson. When complete in March 2005, the Carhart residences will include five powder rooms, a wine vault and a wet bar, private storage, 11-foot ceilings and two butler’s pantries.

Recent Transactions In The Real Estate Market

Upper East Side

166 East 95th Street

Five-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse.

Asking: $4.25 million. Selling: $3.85 million.

Time on the market: three months.

FLYING THE COOP After 12 years living with a house full of kids, this empty-nest couple decided to downscale from their 18-foot-wide townhouse between Lexington and Third avenues when the last of their three children tramped off to college. With 3,500 square feet and a private garden all to themselves, the doctor and his wife felt it was time to find a more compact spread. They’re now happily ensconced in a nearby Carnegie Hill apartment. They found a young couple, also a doctor and his wife-who happens to be the daughter of the owner of the popular Burger Heaven restaurant chain-eager to take over their former four-story townhouse, one of the 17 prized residences lining leafy East 95th Street. Apparently the house is family-friendly, since they’ll be living there with their own two children. Jed Garfield, of the Upper East Side brokerage Leslie J. Garfield, represented the seller; Rachel Lustbader of Warburg Realty represented the buyer.

207 East 74th Street

Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.

Asking: $575,000. Selling: $575,000.

Maintenance: $1,119; 60 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES It’s good to have friends in New York: They can tip you off to hidden restaurants not barraged by diners after appearing in The New York Times ‘ “$25 and Under” column. They can alert you to coveted sample sales. And, as this case shows, they can even find you a new home. This single woman, a vice president for a major bank, wanted to relocate from her Upper East Side rental. Her friend recommended her to the co-op board, and she traded up to this 1,000-square-foot spread. The previous owner, a married couple, needed to find a larger space for their growing clan and had decided to sell. They landed at Sutton Place and, when they listed their former spread, they got multiple bids on the place. The apartment closed for the asking price, but the bank executive won out. “Her profile for the co-op was stronger than anyone else’s,” said exclusive broker Gina Serman of the Corcoran Group. The apartment, in a postwar building on 74th Street between Second and Third avenues, had full city views, parquet floors, central air conditioning and a modern kitchen. “This was really good space for the money,” Ms. Serman said. Feeding Frenzy