‘Historic’ Doesn’t Rule Out ‘New’

The New York TimesMay 09, 2013
Since it was designated a historic district in 2001, the Madison Square North neighborhood, with its row houses and Art Deco-style towers, has undergone a striking transformation. Hotels and offices have replaced many of the warehouses and garment showrooms that once populated the 10 blocks around the northern end of Madison Square Park.

But although the character of the tenants has shifted, the historic neighborhood, which some call NoMad (for North of Madison Square Park) and which is bounded by 25th and 29th Streets, between Madison Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, has seen very little new construction since the Great Depression.

Now, one of the first new condominium developments is nearing completion. The 20-story glass tower at241 Fifth Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, will have 46 units ranging from one-bedrooms to three-bedroom penthouses when it is completed by midsummer or early fall.

The area is still home to many wholesale shops that specialize in costume jewelry and wigs, but the opening of upscale boutique hotels like the Ace Hotel on 29th Street in 2009 and the NoMad Hotel on 28th in 2011 helped set a new standard of trendiness. Both hotels, along with other developments in recent years, have been conversions of late 19th- and early 20th- century buildings.

The new condominium is a project by the New Jersey developer Victor Homes, a unit of Eclogue Management of Israel; the interior and exterior were designed by the architecture firm ODA. In 2011 Victor Homes paid $20 million for the original structure — a four-story commercial building known as the Fifth Avenue Bazaar, which had mirrored glass tiles.

Ran Korolik, the vice president and a managing partner in the United States of Victor Homes, said the company began construction on the project, now valued in the $100 million range, in November 2011. A lengthy approval process ensued, with the Landmarks Preservation Commissionweighing in, because the property sits within a historic district.

Although the building is one of the first new condominiums in the district in many years, conversions are also under way. At 242 Fifth Avenue, the developer Pan-Brothers Associates is converting a landmark building into rentals and adding a floor, for a total of six. And just outside the historic district, the Witkoff Group is creating condos in the former International Toy Center, better known as the Toy Building, and renaming it 10 Madison Square West.

A number of buildings that struggled during the downturn have also been revived. At 39 East 29th Street, east of Madison Avenue outside the historic district, a new condo opened in 2007, but sales soon stalled. The developer Espais Promociones Inmobiliarias of Barcelona, Spain, rented out its unsold sponsor units but has now sold them all, according to Richard J. Steinberg of Warburg Realty, which represents the building.

As for 241 Fifth, it will have one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and there will also be one alcove studio. The three-bedrooms, ranging in size from about 1,360 to 1,700 square feet, will be priced from $2.4 million to just over $3 million. The two-bedrooms will range from 990 to more than 1,200 square feet and will be priced from $2 million to about $2.75 million. The one-bedrooms, with 560 to 640 square feet, will start at $1.2 million, and the 500-square-foot alcove studio will be priced at $950,000. The condo will have two full-floor penthouses: one, a 3,000-square-foot unit on the 20th floor with panoramic views of One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, will be priced in the high $7 million range. The other, a 2,700-square-foot penthouse on the 15th floor, has a setback for a large terrace and will have indoor and outdoor fireplaces; it will be priced in the high $6 million range.

The developer has raised prices about 20 percent since the first units went on the market in April. “We had a wait list of about 350 people when we launched sales,” said Doron Zwickel, an executive vice president of CORE, which represents 241 Fifth, adding that more than half of the units are already in contract or have contracts out to buyers.

Several units have terraces, and the building will also have an amenities floor, with a gym, a yoga room, a massage room and a lounge, as well as a garden. Apartment finishes include oak floors, teak wall accents and Zucchetti plumbing, as well as Miele appliances and Sub-Zero wine storage. The ceilings are mostly 9 and 10 feet high; in some areas, like the kitchens, they drop to 8. And while many of the units, especially those above the 16th floor, offer soaring views, the lower floor units with southern exposures face an interior courtyard.
The building also has a 3,500-square-foot retail space on the ground floor. “Time is on our side,” said Mr. Korolik of Victor Homes, who doesn’t expect to market the retail space until this summer. “This is a high-end boutique building, so we will be a bit picky about who we want to put in it.”

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