One of the last great all-rental Manhattan masterpieces, The Apthorp is slowly but surely carving out a new position in the city’s history as a gilded condominium residence.
A sale of the 163-unit gated haven in 2006 heralded a new beginning for the landmark building as much as it marked an end of an era of rent regulations that had been in place as long as folks could remember.
And despite an at times acrimonious transfer of status, the folks now running the show at The Apthorp have managed to sell almost half the homes to well-heeled buyers after launching one of the most expensive conversions in New York history (according to the New York Times) and offering a whole new generation the chance to create the home of their dreams.
“It’s a completely unique way of selling a building,” said Justin D’Adamo, a Corcoran Sunshine executive who is the director of sales at The Apthorp.
He’s referring to the option buyers have to work out their own, unique floor plan from the plethora of original apartment layouts that are updated as they are sold.
“It lets people see how one space can transform in so many different ways,” explained D’Adamo. “Developers tend to have a formula; when you get to a certain size, you need to have a certain bedroom count. But buyers have specific needs, and we work with them on the floor plans. The beauty is, you can have whatever you want.”
For an example, two buyers opted for different visions on the same ninth floor residence: a 5,877 s/f space. One couple planned to showcase their art collection in an en filade around the center processional. Wikepedia tells us that’s a fancy word for “a suite of rooms formally aligned with each other.”
The other couple sound more like party people: They spread out six bedrooms and entertainment suites all accessible from the foyer.
The Apthorp was built in the Renaissance Revival style by architects Clinton & Russell for absentee landowner William Waldorf Astor between 1906 and 1908.
Millions of New York eyes must have peered through the iconic wrought-iron gates since then to catch a glimpse of the courtyard around which the apartments were built on a full block between Broadway and West End Avenue, 78th and 79th Streets.
It was named after Charles Ward Apthorp, a gentleman farmer who first worked the land back in the 18th century, and is adorned with the kind of great stone embellishments that make little girls wonder if that’s where the mayor lives.
Today, the mayor might want to check it out.
Apthorp Associates LLC — the official name of the partnership comprised of Africa Israel Investments and “several individuals and entities” that now owns the building — brought in some of the best in the business to turn the grande dame into a diva.
BP Architecture designed the major renovations that include the less-than-glamorous things like new HVAC, wiring and plumbing, but also the modern touches that include the new spa and fitness center, yoga studio, entertainment suite and children’s play room as well as the magnificently restored lobbies.
Stephen Sills, the famous interior designer whose client list includes Vera Wang and Anna Wintour, is in charge of interiors.
His most recent models gave us a glimpse into a standard unique home (yes, there is such a thing at The Apthorp.) The entry hall — called a processional there — has a marble mosaic tile floor, and the original details — like mother of pearl switches, fireplaces and cornicing — have been masterfully revived into a fresh, modern home that has garnered Sills as much praise from his peers as it has won over buyers.
Of the 161 units in the building 40 percent of those are occupied by renters (and won’t be available); another 40 percent have been sold; and the remaining 20 percent are available for sale, according to a spokeswoman for the ownership. Prices are averaging around $2,000 per square foot.
Beth Fisher, senior managing director of Corcoran Sunshine, is convinced the options on the table are what is helping The Apthorp mend its somewhat tarnished reputation and attract the kind of buyers who will continue to revere the building’s history while appreciating its re-emergence as a must-have New York address.
“The classic architectural detail changes from room to room,” said Fisher. “One apartment alone features French detail in one room, and Elizabethan detail in the next.
“At this price point, people have very specific preferences. They like the basic framework, and they like the fact they can make slight changes without having to hire a construction crew. It’s a service not typically found in the market.”