trading spaces / (lots of) loft on West 19 Street for (lots of) light + terrace on Gramercy Park

one of those 8 million stories
I mentally filed away an Observer piece from July 30 some time ago for a future post. The Observer observed because it involves a celebrity. Voyeur that I am, Manhattan Loft Guy is interested because it shows someone who tired of deluxe loft living on a gritty Flatiron block in a mixed-use non-doorman building, and who traded it in for the opportunity to gut renovate a smaller Gramercy Park prewar apartment with wrap terraces and forever light and views in a "prestigious" coop with (white glove?) staff. Interesting choice.

The celebrity is Stone Phillips. The future is now!

Here’s the guts of Chloe Malle’s observation:

Several weeks ago The Times reported that the former Dateline NBC co-anchor Stone Phillips and wife, Debra, nabbed a rarely available Gramercy Park North penthouse–the two-bedroom was last on the market in the 1960s. Due to a bidding war, the sale went over the $4.75 million asking price and finally sold at $4.9 million. …

Now … the former Yale football quarterback and philosophy major, has sold his over 4,000-square-foot apartment at 8-10 West 19th Street, only a few blocks away. Mr. Phillips, whose Ken-like features placed him in the canon of all-American newsman Adonises, bought the apartment for $4.4 million in 2005, and originally listed the loft in the fall of 2009 for $4.995 million…. The price dropped to $4.65 million in April, before selling two months later for a clean $4.5 million.

The full-floor loft, whose audio, video, central air, fireplaces and curtains are all conveniently operated by wall-mounted Crestron panels…. [and] the master suite … includes a fireplace, Brazilian Paduk flooring, his and her closets (one of which is an over-sized walk-in), and a windowed spa bathroom with heated flooring, an "extra large" steam shower and Jacuzzi tub. When not in the bedroom, the kitchen is "a cook’s delight," and includes a built-in coffee/cappuccino maker; and the library has custom floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Perhaps most seductively with the current thermostat, the "high velocity air system" promises to keep the entire custom wood-paneled apartment Stone cold in August climes.

what he lost
Let’s look at that loft, #8 at 8-10 West 19 Street. This condo is an interesting building, with 11 full-floor lofts, floors 1 through 6 of which are commercial spaces, and 7 through 11 being residential. The city thinks the lofts are "3,781 sq ft"; the listing description claims approximately "4,100 sq ft". While the footprint is rectangular, it is more squat (at 46 ft wide) than a typical Long-and-Narrow loft building, and has the huge advantage for a rectangle of four exposures. But on the 8th floor just off Fifth Avenue, the effect is probably more "light" than "views", as implied by the listing description’s failure to brag on either.

I can’t find a listing from when the media guy bought this loft in September 2005, so I don’t know if it was in the deluxe condition when he bought it. I have to hope so, and not just because this media guy would then have been lucky to have bought a loft that the previous owner had already installed a "high tech media room [that] is soundproof with electric shades and custom space for a 65 inch plasma TV".

I have to hope so because this media guy just sold (June 29) for $4.5mm what he paid $4.4mm for in September 2005. Assuming he put no money in it whatever, that’s a rounding error level "gain" of 2% for the five years of ownership. That’s a mild ouch if he sold it as he bought it, but a major OUCH if he bought it then renovated.

opportunity, missed (drip, drip)
The media guy was asking $4.995mm in October, but didn’t find his buyer until after dropping the price to $4.65mm in March (the contract at $4.5mm followed five weeks after the price drop). But he also tried to sell at The Peak; no telling what he might have gotten then, at the right price, had his luck been better.

The history of his 2008 listing is poignant, if not downright tragic. On the market for 3 days in February until a leaky faucet upstairs caused enough water damage to require it to be taken off the market until May 10, and then only for 6 weeks. With this limited marketing period, it is hard to say if The Market rejected the $5.495mm asking price, or if that price was simply too high, even for The Peak.

My guess is that the media guy probably would have generated a contract off that asking price had he been on the market continuously from February 2008, so that was a very costly leak.

While that unfortunate leak damage may have been limited to "limited areas" of the loft, a comparison of the floor plans in 2008 and 2009 shows that the storage and bar structure towards the back of the loft was re-shaped and moved about ten feet, costing him an entertainment / billiards area. I imagine the upstairs neighbor’s insurance picked up that out-of-pocket expense.

The market hit from being off the market at The Peak came out of the media guy’s pocket. In retrospect, he hurt himself by staying off the market from June 2008 until Lehman in September, but that’s got to hurt.

what he gained
The media guy won’t be moving in to his new apartment for a while, as he bought #PHA at 45 Gramercy Park North as a bring-your-architect project. At least here, his timing was good. He signed his contract to sell the loft on April 15; he pounced when Penthouse A came to market on April 26. As the Observer observes, his purchase price of $4.9mm exceeded the $4.75mm asking price, suggesting a bidding war from April 26 to the May 16 contract.

This penthouse has high ceilings for a prewar apartment building (built, 1929), but will probably seem like it has few and small windows after the huge windows in the West 19 Street loft. But maybe the architect will design fewer walls and more windows to have visual access to the amazing views from the huge wrap terraces. This coop is (typically) coy about size, but the 2 bedrooms, the dining room and the living room are all pretty big (so far as "apartments" are concerned) and those terraces are probably more than 50% of the interior space.

So the media guy sold a "4,100 sq ft" exquisitely done loft for $4.5mm, then paid $4.9mm for the opportunity to spend another half million or more on a renovation. I wonder if he will include a custom space for a 65 inch plasma TV. Or if he will get his billiards room back.

years of therapy pay off
I no longer take it personally when people reject lofts for apartments. Honest. In this case, the media guy trades in a huge space, beautifully finished, that was all about being in that space.

With no doorman, no amenities, and a lobby shared with workers and visitors to six floors of businesses, the West 19 Street lifestyle was more gritty, less refined (more anonymous?) than life will be in "in one of Gramercy Park’s most prestigious co-ops", with its doorman, concierge, elevator operator and 39 neighbors. He won’t be able to entertain quite as many folks as in the loft, but — especially if he can open up some walls — this soon-to-be-beautifully-finished apartment will be all about the great outdoors.

Enjoy, media guy!

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply