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Where Condos Are as Rare as T-Bones

The New York Times // Oct 25, 2012

IT’S probably not a great idea to come to Manhattan’s meatpacking district in search of meat.

Just five distributors of prime rib and pork chops still stand at the end of West 14th Street, while a decade ago, that number was 75, according to the Meatpacking District Improvement Association, a business group.

The area does have stylish restaurants, hotels and boutiques, which have helped it become a pulsing round-the-clock destination for locals and tourists. But new apartments are as hard to come by as T-bones.

Running roughly from Gansevoort to 14th Street, from Hudson Street to 10th Avenue, the district is still zoned for manufacturing, which means new homes typically aren’t allowed. And in 2003, the area was declared a landmark anyway, meaning that if condominiums are there at all, they tend to be found along the edges.

Finding a way to join the party, then, is no small feat, which is what’s so notable about 345meatpacking, a new 12-story condo.

Developed by DDG Partners at 345 West 14th Street near Ninth Avenue, the building has 37 units, ranging from a 690-square-foot one-bedroom to a 2,100-square-foot three-bedroom. The site of the building, which has been vacant since 2006, falls outside both the manufacturing and landmark zones.

Five of those units are called penthouses, including one with 3,750 square feet of interior space and a 1,930-square-foot two-level terrace.

The finishes seem to have been carefully chosen with an eye to differentiating the spaces. Vestibule walls are made of “board-formed” concrete, which contains traces of the whorls and knots from wood pressed against it when wet.

Thin gray bricks from Denmark are used for terraces; Moroccan tile gleams in guest bathrooms. DDG, a three-year-old local firm that previously developed NoHo’s 41 Bond and uses its own architects, chose bronze for elevator doors.

To mute late-night revelry, walls and windows are thicker than normal, said Joseph McMillan, DDG’s chief executive. “The units will be extremely quiet,” said Mr. McMillan on a recent tour. In the distance loomed the Hotel Gansevoort, whose rooftop pool is a huge draw for revelers in warm weather. “The wind usually goes that way anyway,” he said jokingly, sweeping his hand away from his condo.

Prices, which were approved by the state this month, average about $2,100 a square foot, though less expensive units are available. Indeed, one-bedrooms in the back of the building, which faces an older brick apartment, start at $1.05 million, or about $1,500 a foot; two-bedrooms start at about $2 million. Sales started two weeks ago.

An artsy, international-themed décor is expected. For months, the building’s scaffolding was wrapped in mesh with a swirling gold-and-gray polka-dot pattern stretching to a height of 120 feet and visible for blocks, including from the High Line park.

The unusual public art was based on a painting called “Yellow Trees” by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who had a recent exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Besides honoring an effort by the city to prettify construction sites, the art helped call attention to the Whitney’s new meatpacking district space, which is set to open on Gansevoort Street in 2015.

The art, which is owned by DDG, was removed in October after a two-month run; it is being stored in a warehouse with its future under discussion, Mr. McMillan said.

And the completion of 345meatpacking next spring will close the chapter on a troubled history.

Formerly the home of a bicycle shop and the Chelsea Day School, the site had been eyed during the boom for a hotel by a group of investors who included the hip-hop star Jay Z and the hotelier André Balazs. But they ultimately ceded control of the property to their lender, CapitalSource Finance, before any construction had begun.

In 2010, DDG bought the mortgage note from CapitalSource for a discount, though Mr. McMillan would not disclose the exact amount or the condo’s development cost. A CapitalSource spokesman did not return a call for comment.

To speed along the construction, DDG opted to use the building permits already allotted, which called for renovating the three-story brick structure on the site, instead of razing it and building anew. So, under building department rules concerning renovations, DDG has preserved half of the old building’s exterior walls, though those remnants are not very noticeable.

A few years ago, before the neighborhood became one of Manhattan’s most fashionable, 345meatpacking’s $2,100-per-foot pricing might have seemed high for the area, says Tony Sargent, a broker at the CORE Group who has sold there for a decade.

In fact, Mr. Sargent is listing a two-bedroom at the Porter House, at 66 Ninth Avenue, another rare condo, whose 22 units were completed in 2003. With two and a half baths and 1,740 square feet of space, the unit is listed at $3.75 million, or about $2,200 a foot. And that’s a resale price, Mr. Sargent noted, adding that the seller added double-paned windows to reduce street noise.

Similarly new developments nearby include the Prime, at 333 West 14th Street, a nine-unit condo completed in 2009, and the Caledonia, a huge condo-rental combination, developed by the Related Companies and Taconic Investment Partners on West 17th Street next to the High Line.

But even those who live elsewhere — in, say, Chelsea and the West Village — come to hang out, Mr. Sargent said, explaining that the district has “united together this whole area, and become a real neighborhood.”

Original Article: The New York Times