By Caitlin Abdo
Developer Michael Namer isn’t a doctor, but he is determined to make people feel better.
Chelsea Green, the most ambitious green project Namer’s Alfa Development has undertaken to date, is designed to not only be as healthy as possible, but also to improve residents’ wellbeing.
Namer was inspired by designer Donna Karan and her Urban Zen Foundation, which promotes eastern yoga, meditation and breathing practices as pain management treatments for the chronically ill.
“The idea is that issues of health and well-being begin with everyday choices, relaxation and renewal,” said Namer in promotional material for Chelsea Green.
“I am not a doctor, but as a developer I have the opportunity to affect people’s lives for the better by providing a facility that allows residents to foster their own well-being, whether it is physical exercise, social interaction or simply getting a massage.”
So it was that a wellness center became a key part of the shiny new 51-unit glass tower still under construction at 151 West 21st Street, designed by the Stephen B Jacobs Group.
The center includes a fitness room, spa, sauna, treatment room, lounge and landscaped terrace. “I think that watching the sunset over Manhattan is one of the best ways to unwind after a long day,” said Namer in the building brochure.
Pre-opening sales show that the feel-good factor has struck a chord with busy New Yorkers. To date, 48 apartments are under contract. “I think we have the right product,” Namer said of the sales success. “We have something for everyone.”
For that celebrity chef inside all of us, there’s a first-of-its-kind kitchen by chef Eric Ripert, of the five-star Le Bernardin fame. Namer ran into Ripert during a skiing vacation in Utah. It turned out both were not only big foodies, but big environmentalists, too.
“I actually like to cook myself and have been a bona fide foodie,” said Namer, adding that the kitchens Ripert designed for Chelsea Green are built around sustainable appliances, aesthetics, and convenience.
Cabinetry is recycled or certified wood produced without the use of carcinogens. The Miele induction cooktop uses magnetic fields to transfer heat directly to desired cookware, keeping the surrounding area cool to the touch. And the marble for the countertops is America-sourced.
Chelsea Green is the second apartment building in Alfa Development’s Green Collection (the other is Village Green on East 11th Street). In 2007, Namer said he “drew a line in the sand” after dabbling in eco-friendly construction for years.
He and his late brother Izak began Alfa Development converting Soho lofts 30 years ago. The pair came to the U.S. as refugees from Cuba, through a Jewish relief organization in 1961. “My life was an epic movie until I moved to Queens, then it was a sitcom,” he joked. “But I have seen Manhattan change over those years.”
He said the light-bulb moment that was inspired by Donna Karan sparked a well-being movement at Alfa. From that point on, he decided, every building the company develops will target LEED Gold certification.
After Village Green came the restaurant Alison Eighteen, and then the under-construction Mott Hotel. The company also just bought the Hotel Grand Union at 34 East 32nd Street, but has not yet discussed any possible green make-over there.
And as the Alfa Development portfolio grows, so too does Namer’s green ambition.
The United States Green Building Council recently re-classified its standards, meaning Chelsea Green won’t just be eco-friendly, it’ll be a BFF of sustainability.
The building has high efficiency floor-to-ceiling windows that reduce UV rays and don’t allow heat in or out, a heat recovery system, a filtration system that circulates fresh air, and a smoke-free policy.Some 65 percent of the hot water for the building is heated via solar energy.
With 40 percent of greenhouse gases produced by residential buildings, Namer said Chelsea Green is a step toward an energy efficient living space that “decreases greenhouse gases, increases energy savings, and improves quality of life. “It is not a gimmick; it is the right thing to do. It is the way we have to build in the future.”
With aesthetics ranked just as highly as sustainability, Namer added, “The direction is to build a better building. The outcome is to have a sustainable building. The ultimate goal is seeing buyers happy with where they live.”
Corcoran Sunshine is exclusively marketing Chelsea Green. The three units still available are the penthouse, priced at $8.388 million, unit 11B ($2.7 million) and 12B ($2.8 million). Occupancy is expected in late 2013.