Tamarkin's latest: Echoing the past, quietly
Conservative design joins edgy neighbors in West Village
By Patrick Hedlund
The Real Deal
A luxe new residential project at 397 West 12th Street, near West Street along the Hudson River, will feature a simple and elegant design that blends well with the West Village's historic, cobblestoned character, according to Cary Tamarkin, the building's architect and developer.
His double role is rare; few are focused on both the bottom line and the design of a project. According to Tamarkin, the 10-story brick building he is creating will stand out from other high-profile projects in the neighborhood.
"What we do in general, and what we're certainly doing here, is we are architects that are very interested in the context of the neighborhood, and not in a historical pastiche kind of way," he says from Tamarkin & Co.'s Flatiron office. His company plans to relocate to the ground floor of 397 West 12th Street once construction wraps in September 2008.
"We're interested in building simply and beautifully, and not screaming for attention as so many of the new condominiums are," Tamarkin says.
The structure will house just four residential units in addition to the commercial ground floor. The crown jewel will be a 6,600-square-foot quadruplex penthouse that includes an additional 3,000 square feet of outdoor space.
While not expressly referencing architects and designers like Richard Meier, Julian Schnabel, Asymptote Architects and Jean Nouvel -- whose developments are prominent in the rising West Village skyline -- Tamarkin insists his project will not rely on outlandish aesthetic twists to generate hype.
The competition? An eight-story, 24-unit tower at 166 Perry Street designed by Asymptote Architects, next door to Richard Meier's Perry Street towers that brought the starchitect craze to New York. The lobby decor at 166 Perry, in the words of the broker, is reminiscent of "A Clockwork Orange."
Meanwhile, Nouvel's design for 100 Eleventh Avenue on far West 19th Street -- technically Chelsea -- has a curved glass façade of 1,650 individually designed windowpanes. The panes are sloped at different angles, and each opens in a different direction.
And the hot-pink exterior of Julian Schnabel's 17-story tower at 360 West 11th Street is upsetting some neighborhood preservationists. Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has been quoted as saying Schnabel's garish pink exterior is punishment for the group's objections to the building.
In contrast, Tamarkin's boutique building will feature a façade of buff-colored Roman brick covered with multi-paned steel windows on all four sides. The architect says the design evokes the "maritime industrial warehouse" flavor of the far West Village, qualities he echoed in the adjacent site, an earlier residential foray at 495 West Street.
The new space -- which totals nearly 23,000 square feet over the four residential units -- will remain raw and unfinished for purchasers to customize to their own architectural tastes.
A one-story unit, located on the second floor with 3,600 square feet, has an anticipated asking price of $5.5 million, according to the developer. A pair of two-story duplexes, comprising 6,250 square feet each with 19-foot-high ceilings, will go on the market for $11.5 million and $14 million. The expansive penthouse unit already has a buyer in contract. The developer is not disclosing details of the sale, which will likely fetch blockbuster dollars in the neighborhood.
The Bank of New York provided a $27 million acquisition and construction loan for the project, arranged in May by real estate investment banking firm Sonnenblick Goldman.
Tamarkin, who also lives in the West Village, maintains a fondness for the neighborhood, as evidenced by his properties on West Street and at 140 Perry Street. He notes the encroaching suburbanization of the once-gritty neighborhood has made it the premier location for the well-heeled to nest.
"It's a great place to bring up a family, it's a great place to be single, it's a great place to be gay -- it's a great place to just be," Tamarkin says.
His broker on this project, Jan Hashey, an executive vice president with Prudential Douglas Elliman, agrees. She lives at the architect's first far West Village building at 140 Perry Street.
Hashey says the demographic looking in the far West Village is "in their early 30s, with one child or two children... They're peaking in their careers, and they can afford it."
Sandra Balan, vice president with the Corcoran Group, adds that because of the neighborhood's prime location next to Hudson River Park, its proximity to restaurants and retailers, 397 West 12th Street will draw interest from an affluent purchasers pool.
"Either celebrity money or high-end buyers from the financial sector will converge on this property," she says.
Though Tamarkin's design is on the conservative side compared to some other new development in the area, there has been some contention regarding the project's look.
The decision to go with a less-prominent design was a result in part of the downzoning of the neighborhood in 2005, which forced Tamarkin to shave off one or two stories, or about 4,000 square feet, from the original plan.
The reduction rankled Tamarkin, he admits, because he felt area preservationists slighted him during the process by broadly politicizing the issue and painting him as unscrupulous for fighting to push through his initial plan before the new zoning took effect.
Some local preservationists, while hailing Tamarkin's developments as contextually sound and lauding his community involvement, admitted their pleasure at seeing the original plan scaled back.
Berman, a vocal opponent of some recent construction in the far West Village, claims he welcomes the architect's efforts in the neighborhood as long as Tamarkin doesn't stray too far from prior work.
"If we had our druthers, [the project] would probably be even shorter, but the zoning rules are what they are," Berman says. "He's definitely done some developments in our neighborhood that are thoughtfully designed and very well-received in the community. Whether he'll be as successful with this one, we'll see."
However, Berman expresses concern over the continuing influx of the über-wealthy into the far West Village, saying it could create a homogenous community lacking an edginess and affordability the neighborhood once possessed.
Tamarkin has seen controversy in other ventures, like his East 91st Street project, which was also conservative in design but drew the ire of Woody Allen, among others. Filmmaker Allen made a movie expressing his opposition, and construction was delayed for years until plans for the 17-story building were scaled back to 10 stories.
The building was finally completed in 2004.
Both Tamarkin and Hashey believe the project will be a draw for artists or art collectors who take an interest in custom-designing their own space and plan to utilize it to display larger-scale pieces.
With that, Tamarkin remains confident the building will be a hit, even though he admits to excluding about "98 percent" of potential buyers because of the units' size and price.
"There's a real 'holy s--t' factor for them: It's like you either have to have it, or you can't have it," the developer concludes of his future buyers. "Either 'no way, this is not for me' or 'there's nothing else out there' -- that's the whole idea behind it."
An architectural drawing for 397 West 12th Street Architectural statements are rising in the West Village: glass towers with crazy-quilt patterns and a building with a hot-pink hue. But not all new buildings are being designed by mad-scientist types.