The 22-apartment loft building at 7 Essex Street was always fashioned to be a luxury residence. But the roster developing there is now banishing late-stage skepticism whether people with real money-not just trendsters with a $1,000 rent allowance from their parents-would actually be willing to live on the still-gritty thoroughfare.
The most recent émigré to the narrow lanes of the Lower East Side is the French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, who closed on a $1.06 million loft in the 11-story building abutting Seward Park two months ago. Ms. Lacombe-most famous for her celebrity portraits and photographs, which have appeared in such image-focused titles as The New York Times Magazine and GQ -now joins Belgian supermodel Ingrid Seynhaeve in the imposing brick structure.
Exclusive broker Tamir Shemesh of Douglas Elliman declined to comment on the sale.
Like the luxurious 21-loft development at 285 Lafayette Street some years ago that pulled in David Bowie and Iman, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Patrick McEnroe, theater scion Eric Nederlander and hotelier Ian Schrager-or the Police Building at 240 Centre Street, which once was home to supermodels Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista-7 Essex Street has become an upper-crust outpost in a neighborhood of historically bohemian sensibility. Along with Ms. Seynhaeve, the two-year-old building now counts the television actress Amy Carlson, who has appeared on NBC’s Third Watch and will soon appear on Law and Order: Trial by Jury , as well as an entertainment executive and a troupe of Wall Street bankers as residents.
Ms. Lacombe’s loft covers 2,000 square feet, and according to a real-estate source close to the building, the photographer, celebrated for her snaps of Hollywood’s biggest names (including Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Martin Scorsese) intends to configure the raw space as a two-bedroom loft.
Developed in 2002 for $15 million by the Vesta Development Group, 7 Essex Street is well south of the throbbing crowds spilling over from Keith McNally’s Schiller’s Liquor Bar and the towering glass-and-aluminum mass of the 20-story Hotel on Rivington (now taking reservations). Well south of Delancey Street, it occupies a different psychic territory from trendy Clinton Street or rowdy Ludlow: More Fine Fare than Fairway, the espresso is cheap around here-and likely to come from a Dominican family restaurant.
“We’re seeing a number of things happen indicating the neighborhood is becoming more attractive,” said Joseph Cunin, executive director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.
“That part of Essex Street is coming up in the world,” confirmed Lower East Side blogger Lockhart Steele, who has closely monitored every new neighborhood arrival, from Les Enfants Terribles to Sasha Petraske’s East Side Company Bar.
But are he and other Loisaida enthusiasts being naïve when they insist that what happened in fashion-victim neighborhoods like the meatpacking district can’t happen in their own ‘hood?
“I don’t think there’s enough luxe housing stock on the Lower East Side to get worried yet,” Mr. Steele said.
“The neighborhood is not like Tribeca or the meatpacking district, where every apartment is new and high-end,” Mr. Cunin said. “Essex Street is pretty much Chinatown. I think this neighborhood is still kind of a ‘real New York.’ You still have local retailers and shops that haven’t gotten pushed out. We won’t see a bunch of Starbucks here in five years.” Mr. Cunin pointed to the 19th-century tenements that still comprise much of the neighborhood’s residential mosaic. As he put it: “You can renovate the hell out of them-they’re still tiny apartments.”
Recent Transactions in the Real Estate Market
237 West Fourth Street
Seven-bedroom, six-bathroom townhouse.
Asking: $2.4 million. Selling: $2.4 million.
Time on the market: nine months.
BELGIAN WAFFLES ON N.Y.U. The Olsen twins rocked the Manhattan media world when they purchased four penthouses at Morton Square for $7.3 million and combined the apartments into one gargantuan N.Y.U. “dorm.” (Note: one down, one to go!) But they aren’t the first N.Y.U. students to bunk down in style. In 1997, Marc Alloul of Douglas Elliman sold this 20-foot-wide townhouse with an elevator to a Belgian real-estate heiress so her son could have a place to crash when he attended N.Y.U. But after several months in school, he went back to Europe and never returned. They’d been renting it out until recently, when the owner decided to sell the townhouse between West 10th and Charles streets and cash in on the crest of Manhattan’s brisk real-estate market. “With high prices, it was time to sell,” said Mr. Alloul. The seller purchased the townhouse for some $800,000 in 1997 and turned it for $2.4 million at the end of September. The buyer is the owner of a prominent downtown salon who snapped the place up so he could transform the garden floor into a salon and live on the upstairs floors. The townhouse is currently configured as a duplex with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two fireplaces and a 20-by-40-foot garden. The third and fourth floors are floor-through apartments with two bedrooms and a fireplace on each floor. The townhouse first hit the market in December 2003 at $2.1 million, before a five-way bidding war pushed the price to $2.4 million.
Lower East Side
383 Grand Street
Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $585,000. Selling: $585,000.
Maintenance: $624; 38 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one day.
MOVIN’ ON DOWN The newlywed twentysomething couple who bought this Lower East Side perch seemed to have everything going for them: They were recently married and worked in flush finance jobs-except for one problem: They still lived at their parents’ homes in New Jersey. After saving up money, they abandoned the bridge-and-tunnel lifestyle and settled on this 1,000-square-foot apartment with a balcony, exposures with views of Seward Park, a windowed bathroom and an eat-in kitchen. The postwar co-op also has amenities including a gym, a full-time doorman and an in-house laundry. The seller sold after his wife passed away and he decided to move closer to family in Queens. Robyn Carvey and PJ Safit, both of Manhattan Apartments, had the exclusive.
47 Plaza Street
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $739,000. Selling: $739,000.
Maintenance: $1,529; 23 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 10 weeks.
PARK SCHLEP, PART DEUX Moving to Park Slope was never about celebrity sightings, though a few old stalwarts are still there-think John Turturro-and actress Jennifer Connelly and Senator Chuck Schumer were spotted kibitzing in front of the election booth at P.S. 321 on Seventh Avenue on Election Day. But that’s not what this move was about anyway. The buyer of this two-bedroom apartment “was relocating from Toronto and wanted to be near a park,” said broker James Cornell of the Corcoran Group. “She often worked late into the evening and wanted a building that had full services and the security of a white-glove doorman.” Her new apartment has two bedrooms, parquet floors, a kitchen with dishwasher and two renovated bathrooms. The sellers, on the other hand, did a reverse migration of their own: Originally from Manhattan, they’d settled in Park Slope and added a baby to their growing clan, but after two years of subway commuting became a hassle, they settled back on the island to spend more time with their child. “In the end, they moved back to a rental in Manhattan so they could spend more time at home. They took advantage of a strong rental market in the city and a strong sales market in Brooklyn,” Mr. Cornell said. And then: “It was a win-win situation.” Minette Stokes of Corcoran shared the listing with Mr. Cornell; fellow Corcoran broker Tracey McLean brought the buyer to the deal.