Issue 12, December 2007: The West Village, A Thriving Housing Market

Maintaining Its Character

Once identified as “Bohemian” or “Beat,” the West Village has matured into one of the most stable and exciting housing neighborhoods in the city with prices and demand surging forward as new developments and conversions are sprouting up.

This development is bringing an eclectic architectural excitement to the quiet tree-lined streets of townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings. Many renowned architects are involved creating a modernistic look of glass and steel to blend in with the traditional red brick. Much of the area is part of the Greenwich Village Historic District, a help in preserving the neighborhood’s integrity and character.

While boutiques and upscale food shops have opened, the West Village still has a slow-paced charm and still-cool vibe. This is one of the main attractions to the young, well-healed professionals who are moving into the area. Recently, New York magazine identified the West Village as one of the most solid housing markets in the city, forecasting that apartments would retain their value even during a downturn.

A walk through the almost hidden West Village with its English feel and streetscape of a homey neighborhood shows what is special. In the warmer weather al fresco restaurants and cafes dot the cobble-stoned streets. The beauty and peaceful environment still attracts an interesting variety of people who thrive on the excitement of Manhattan, yet want their own corner to relax. That’s what has always made the West Village so unique and attractive.

The most eye-popping new building in the neighborhood is Palazzo Chupi at 380 West 11th Street, created and developed by Julian Schnabel as a residence for successful, creative people. Among the residents is Richard Gere, the actor.

I recently went on a tour of the pinkish-red building with Brian Kelly who worked alongside his fellow artist, Schnabel, in developing the property. The four units (a triplex, two penthouses and a gallery/studio for Schnabel’s students) have 20-foot Italian palazzo-style ceilings, tiles from Italy and fire mantels imported from the south of France. Bathrooms feature fireplaces and claw-footed tubs. There is a garage and pool.
It’s beautiful, over-the-top, innovative and the fulfillment of a true artist’s vision.

Schnabel’s building stands amid older and newer ones, including several designed by Richard Meier, one of America’s great contemporary architects. The two buildings at 173 and 176 Perry Street are Meier’s first in Manhattan and were completed several years ago. The 16-story towers, with one apartment per floor, are clad in insulating laminated glass and metal panels providing a stark exciting addition to the skyline. The apartments have unobstructed panoramic views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
Across from these two buildings is 165 Charles Street, another 16-story Meier building with 31 units that opened a couple of years ago.

At 166 Perry Street, Asymptote Architecture, the acclaimed architectural design firm, has created an eight-story condo with 24 apartments. An astonishing 60 percent of the loft apartments sold within five weeks.

Another exciting building under construction is Related Companies’ Superior Ink on the site of a 1919 printing plant at 400 West 12th Street. The project, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, includes a 17-story building with 68 super-luxury units and seven condominium townhouses. The townhouses are selling for about $3,000/sf. Among the amenities in the complex are a state-of-the-art fitness facility, a Pilates and Yoga room, private screening room and an entertainment lounge.

The loft condominium at One Jackson Square/122 Greenwich St, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, quickly sold the penthouse for $10 million at $3,432/sf , staggering prices for the West Village.

The whole Village area is booming. For example, to the east, in Greenwich Village, the 17 units in the condo conversion at 31 West 11th Street sold out in three weeks, with the high unit at $2,200/sf.

Some local residents fear that the influx of young professionals followed by the boutiques and fancy food shops will change the West Village’s unique environment. However, the new buildings have brought a contemporary architectural excitement that fits in with the avant-guard tradition and a new populace that cherishes both the old and new West Village.