Last year, Lisa Lippman, a senior vice president at Brown Harris Stevens, nearly secured a buyer for a $19.5 million listing at 535 West End Avenue, Extell’s prewar-style condo development on the Upper West Side.
“The prospective buyer’s money is stuck in the European debt crisis,” Lippman explained. So she and her team continued to market the six-bedroom mansion in the sky. “All sorts of people are looking,” said Lippman, who has overseen a number of sales on the Upper West Side and was named Brown Harris Stevens’ West Side Broker of the year in 2010.
A pair of empty nesters checked out the 6,637 s/f behemoth, and found it too large. Then, a pied-a-terre seeker showed interest, before deciding the apartment wasn’t big enough, despite its staff quarters, library, eat-in kitchen with three ovens, and a floorplan that sprawls over the entire 16th floor of the development.
At a broker’s breakfast held last week to promote the unit, visitors wandered through maze-like hallways, peeking into sparingly decorated children’s bedrooms and adjacent white marble baths. “No two bathrooms are the same,” Lippman said. She also showed off a 1,800 s/f wraparound terrace decorated with shrubs, and a window overlooking a sliver of the George Washington Bridge.
Only three units are still available at 535 West End Avenue, including a third-floor unit with a rustic-style kitchen — also being marketed by Lippman — and a penthouse that has yet to come onto the market.
Throughout October and November of 2010, about $46.5 million in sales were completed at the building, which offers four- through nine-bedroom units. According to the real estate blog Curbed, actor Matt Damon was spotted checking out the building at one point, and was even rumored to have purchased a $20 million unit there.
“The recent response to 535 West End Avenue has been phenomenal,” Extell president Gary Barnett said after the robust sales streak. “It is the only property offering this caliber of expansive space and style on the Upper West Side.”
The building, which opened in 2008, is one of only a handful of new developments on West End Avenue, including 200 West End, a 173-unit tower near Lincoln Center designed by Costas Kondylis.
Much of the avenue is lined with ornate, historic apartment houses, some within the bounds of small historic districts. Preservation groups, including the West End Preservation Society, have been lobbying for a larger swath of the thoroughfare to be granted landmark status.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission hasn’t made a final decision on the matter. But last year, it released a map of a potential historic district in the neighborhood, spanning 70th to 109th Street. And in a letter to the Commission, a handful of state senators and assemblymen argued for the protection of West End’s historic gems.
“Designed by prominent architects like George & Edward Blum, Rosario Candela and Clinton & Russell, these buildings are among the finest examples of New York City’s early 20th Century multifamily dwellings and form a cohesive and uniquely ‘New York’ model for upper-middle class living,” the group wrote.
“Buildings on the avenue embody a tremendous sense of place, with consistent height, cladding materials, and buildout to the lot line. Nestled between these are a number of diverse and impressive churches, ranging in style from English Gothic to Neo-Flemish.”
The Real Estate Board of New York has voiced its opposition to the landmark plan, saying more meaningful financial incentives for the renovation and revitalization of existing structures would be a better approach to the retention of neighborhood character.
Architecture aside, one of West End Avenue’s biggest appeals for buyers, particularly those with young children, is its strictly residential vibe; the nearest shops are a block away on Broadway, and Riverside Park is a short walk to the west.
If York and East End avenues are the “suburbs” of the Upper East Side, as Shari Cohen of Citi Habitats jokingly told Brokers Weekly several months ago, then West End Avenue serves the same role for the blocks on the other side of Central Park.
During a tour of unit 3A at 535 West End Avenue last week, virtually no cars passed down the stretch of the avenue visible through the living room’s curved windows, and the sidewalks were empty.
The apartment, which has five bedrooms and a price tag of $8.95 million, is so quiet that prospective buyers may indeed mistake it for a suburban home – or perhaps an actual pre-war apartment on the Upper East Side.
On an episode of HGTV’s Selling New York filmed at 535 West End last June, Michele Kleier remarked that the building could “easily be on Fifth Avenue.”
Indeed, with its brick exterior and other nods to pre-war architecture, the building contrasts sharply with other Extell developments on the West Side; rather than boasting glass-curtain walls with sweeping river views like the Aldyn over on Riverside Boulevard, or the Ariel on 99th Street and Broadway, 535 West End offers quintessential New York views of water tanks and the facades of neighboring buildings, and blends with the historic character of West End Avenue.
Because they overlook a courtyard used regularly for resident gatherings, the children’s bedrooms in unit 3A aren’t nearly as flooded with light as the living room, which faces the street.
But throughout the building, marketing efforts have focused not so much on views, but on luxuries like a working fireplace, or side-by-side washers and dryers, as well as amenities that include a heated swimming pool and lounge; some of the bedroom windows were draped with curtains to keep the focus inward, highlighting the glamour of the apartment rather than the surrounding city.
“The stove is really the centerpiece,” Athenis Bauza, Lippman’s colleague, said during the tour of 3A, pointing out a rustic-looking appliance in the unit’s expansive eat-in kitchen. “This kitchen could be in the suburbs.”