New Project Pushes Chelsea Frontier West

To jaded Manhattanites, the residents of western Chelsea\’s newest condominium development once belonged in distinguished company think Lewis and Clark or Vasco de Gama in the pantheon of explorers in unknown territory. The westernmost reaches of the neighborhood were the last frontier.

Aileen Grossmann, director of sales for The Heywood, a new luxury condominium conversion of a prewar printing house on Ninth Avenue and 26th Street, doesn\’t go that far, but admits mention of the area still raises an eyebrow or two.

\”A lot of people look at us like we\’re pioneers,\” she says. \”It\’s like with the Chelsea Mercantile when it opened on 25th Street and Seventh Avenue. People said, \’I don\’t want to live way over there.\’\”

The building\’s location in western Chelsea is an interesting one. It\’s near a large low-income housing project, and steps from the greatest concentration of contemporary art exhibitions in the world.

According to Fionn Campbell, an independent Chelsea broker, \”the city buildings haven\’t prevented over 240 art galleries and very chic restaurants from moving here.\”

Campbell\’s was the first sale made at The Heywood, a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot corner apartment to an international artist seeking a New York pied- -terre.
The project is developer Henry Justin\’s second conversion of an historic commercial building into a luxury condominium. He also converted the Cass Gilbert at 130 West 30th St., in the mostly commercial garment district. That development saw 45 luxury apartments snapped up in 45 days the fastest selling project in the history of Douglas Elliman, according to the company.

The conversion of the Gilbert, named for the great architect who designed it, was performed under Landmarks Commission supervision, after \”two years, four dozen meetings with planning boards, the planning commission, Landmarks, the city council and subcommittees,\” says Justin.

In contrast, \”The Heywood comes to me as a gift,\” Justin says. \”Here I had a 10-story architecturally significant building with 50-unit approval from the Buildings Department. My love is doing restoration of turn-of-the-century buildings, turning them into high-end residential units.\”

Built in 1913, the building is a monument to prewar durability. \”It has four feet of concrete between floors,\” says Grossman. \”The city could go under, but this building will stay.\”

Within reason, Justin\’s restoration is trying to keep to prewar standards. \”In Manhattan, most people like to sheetrock their ceilings,\” he says. \”I have four guys, arms flailing eight hours a day, putting close to six coats of PlasterWeld, StructureLite, a full coat of gypsum and four coats of compound. I want to give them the building as close to the way it was made 100 years ago as possible.\”

The Heywood\’s marketers hope its prewar dimensions may sway some prospective buyers to trek another few blocks north and west. Its commercial past means it has 12-and-a-half- to 13-and-a-half- foot ceilings, as well as a healthy number of eight- by 13-foot windows. The smaller windows let in lots of light at eight by 10 feet.

Once Justin decided on the footage for the apartments, opting for five loft-style units per floor, he turned to Shamir Shah, the New York designer who also designed 260 Park Avenue South, who was so enthusiastic he purchased an apartment in the project for himself. \”Henry seems to favor larger, more spacious apartments where so many projects squeeze on the square footage,\” Shah says.Shah calls the interiors stylistically \”transitional.\”

\”They are to a degree informed by the history of the building,\” he says, \”but they take advantage of new and interesting materials, and the detailing on the inside tends to be streamlined and modern,\” in keeping with artistic North Chelsea and its \”younger, fashion forward sort of crowd.\”

Amenities include four-inch-wide white oak flooring, Shaker-style eight-foot doors, central heating and air conditioning and washer-dryer units. The oversized kitchens contain custom handcrafted white oak cabinetry, limestone countertops and Sub-Zero refrigerators. Master baths will feature marble countertops and tub decks with large soaking tubs and Toto water closets.

The Heywood offers four ground floor duplexes, ranging in size from 2,140 to 3,000 square feet, with large recreation rooms, priced below the market rate at under $700 per square foot. Four of the five penthouses are duplexes as well, two of which have spacious outdoor terraces. The largest penthouse is listed at $3.7 million.

Apartments on remaining floors include one-bedrooms with a home office or den, two-bedrooms with media rooms and three-bedrooms with three full baths. Prices range from $1.3 million to $2.2 million.

Scheduled for occupancy this summer, the Heywood opened for sales in November and sold 25 percent of its units in a few weeks.

By: Steven Cutler

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