January 26th 2011
Condo tower is part of the changing face of downtown
From the outside, 20 Pine Street looks like another handsome commercial office building, typical of the art deco style of the Financial District. Indeed, the tower, built in 1928, served as the headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank, and it was eventually landmarked.
But 20 Pine has since been reborn as an expansive residential condo building, branded as The Collection. Architecture firm Gruzen Samton, LLP oversaw extensive renovations, and the result is a 409-unit project with the legacies of its commercial past, including ceilings of nine to 13 feet, multiple elevators and the bank’s original vault doors.
It came on the market just prior to the recession, arriving with fanfare and a performance from singer John Legend. But like much of the condo market since the downturn, 20 Pine faced its share of controversy. Developer Shaya Bomelgreen, who has since exited from the project, was named in a lawsuit over a loan for the project, and residents complained about unfinished construction of the amenity spaces.
And last October, two buyers that had rescinded their contracts were given the green light to proceed on a lawsuit against the sponsors, citing the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ILSA), which requires buildings with over 100 units to register the project.
Still, most of the building’s troubles appear to be in the past. Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel USA, which had partnered with Bomelgreen to convert the property, took control of 20 Pine in February 2009, bringing financial stability and promising to communicate more with the condo board. The amenities, which include a pool, fitness center and lounge, are now complete, and 20 Pine is over 90% sold, with 32 units left. As 20 Pine enters its final sales phase, Africa Israel USA hired Warburg Realty as the sales agent, replacing brokerage SHVO, headed by Michael Shvo.
Deborah Demaria, a Warburg broker, is also a resident of the building, and was attracted to 20 Pine for many of the same reasons as her clients. Demaria has lived all over the city, but like many of her neighbors, the rapidly changing Financial District was the ideal destination. It’s no longer just bankers that live in the area: 20 Pine has some 12 newborn babies, and Demaria describes her neighbors as extremely friendly and sociable, while also hailing from a variety of different backgrounds and professions.
Buyers at 20 Pine are aware of a neighborhood that has changed as much as their building had changed inside. Coinciding with a population boom since 9/11, FiDi has filled up with grocery stores, retail, restaurants and culture, the latter spearheaded by the Downtown Alliance, the local business improvement district. 20 Pine is near Wagner Park, dispelling the notion that there is no green space nearby.
In comparison to uptown neighborhoods, apartments in the Financial District have lower price points – sometimes $300 per s/f less than some of the pricier areas, such as Tribeca. Studios at 20 Pine are available for under $700,000, two bedrooms start at $1.5 million and three bedrooms start around $2 million. The two remaining penthouses are $2.8 and $3.5 million.
“You can find great apartments that are so much better in terms of light and air and space,” said Deborah Lupard, another Warburg broker. “It’s all about getting people down there.” She said it could still be a challenge to convince prospective buyers to go downtown, but once they walked around, they realized that it is a residential community.
Lupard and Demaria said they both prefer 20 Pine to its downtown neighbors, citing its modernist design, which include 67 floor plans. All apartments in the building have Bontempi-designed kitchens and overhead “rain” showers. The spa, golf simulator and pool are also big draws, representing the boutique features that aren’t available in older buildings. There’s also direct access to the subway, allowing some residents – for example, those who work at Rockefeller Center – to go to work without stepping outside, particularly appealing to residents during recent blizzards.
The atmosphere of the building resonates strongly with Lupard, who describes it as a luxury oasis in the frenetic city.
“You’re out in the hustle and bustle of the world, you come in, and you can breathe,” she said