By Liana Grey
When buyers hunt for a glass condo in the sky, most know to steer clear of Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. The block, famous for its prewar co-ops, all of varying shades of brick and nearly uniform height, is a virtual dead zone when it comes to new construction.
So for those seeking Park Avenue cachet, combined with what Leonel Piraino, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, calls “new world comforts,” 949 Park Avenue, a boutique condominium between 81st and 82nd Street, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Built on the site of a demolished two-story rowhouse, which was itself an outlier on Co-op Row, with cream-colored walls and a light wood door, the skinny tower is the first example of new construction between 57th and 82nd Street in recent decades.
Its airy floor-to-ceiling windows and central air conditioning have been enough to lure neighborhood residents out of their prestigious, yet aging, co-ops.
“A lot of people look at 949 Park from other Park Avenue buildings,” said Piraino, who handles sales at the 12-story building, which consists of six duplexes priced between $4.4 million and $5.9 million, according to StreetEasy. “Pipes and electrical fixtures are not rustic, there’s not going to be a problem in the near future,” he said.
One glimpse out the model unit’s living room window, and prospective buyers can see the inconveniences they’ll leave behind when they sell their co-ops. “Looking across the street, there are AC units sticking out of windows,” Piraino said.
Up-to-date structural elements may be the initial lure. But equally modern luxuries, like automated shades, a built-in speaker system, a wine cooler, and a smart panel that monitors temperature and lighting, seal the deal — especially among younger house hunters. “We’re seeing young families come in,” said Piraino. Two of the building’s two-bedroom units are currently in contract.
Although some complained when the tower’s skeleton began to rise two years ago, the developer, Vella Group, was careful to balance 21st century aesthetics with the neighborhood’s history, drawing on experience converting a century-old caster factory into condos on Warren Street, and constructing a brick, loft-like condo elsewhere in Tribeca from the ground up.
Oversized windows aside, “it pretty much blends in,” Piraino said of 949 Park. “It has a limestone façade.” And it’s about the same height as its neighbors, ensuring that the view from the penthouse balcony, which overlooks the roof gardens and ornate cornices of nearby buildings, is a distinctly Park Avenue one. Angled terraces off the back of the building, accessible from each unit’s open kitchen, look onto a neighboring apartment complex.
The building does stand out as being the thinnest on the block — evoking One Madison Park, the soaring condo tower on 23rd Street. But at 20 feet wide, Piraino pointed out, 949 Park is slightly larger than the average townhouse on any of the Upper East Side’s quaint side streets.
The one downside of uniformity on Park Avenue is lack of lively street life — though that can be a blessing for those seeking peace and quiet. Shops and cafes are next to non-existent on the avenue, though excitement is only a block away in either direction. “There are a lot of restaurants on Madison,” Piraino said. One he often recommends to clients is Sant Ambroeus, an Italian bistro known for its desserts, on 77th and Madison.
Nearby entertainment options are important to note, because residents will find their leisure time divided between the city at large and their living rooms. Park Avenue’s understated, old-money approach to luxury is reflected in 949 Park’s amenities list, which has a lone item: doorman service.
There are no concerts there, a la Ohm in far west Chelsea, or decadent lounge spaces like those at MiMa in midtown west. “We kept it very, very straightforward,” Piraino said. “It kept maintenance fees very low.”