Photographer Robert J. For Stern, one of the best things about his late 19th-century home in the West Village is that “no one really notices it.”
The four-story, brick-and-plaster structure at 54 Seventh Avenue South, a few blocks from Washington Square Park, “is kind of a mystery,” said Mr. Stern. “It’s a trapezoidal building, almost free-standing, in the middle of the block. You go to the parking lot to get to it.”
But the building, between Morton and Commerce Streets, has been somewhat notorious lately. The commercial tenant on the ground floor is Makrion, the fashion brand that created Dr. Jill Biden’s Inauguration Day ensemble, a striking teal blue dress and matching coat.
Macarion and a residential tenant may have to find other quarters up the floor soon. According to Jonathan Hettinger, who marketed the property with Mark, Mr. Stern, who founded feminist author June D. Arnold’s estate, listing the entire building for $11.95 million, with approximately $19,000 in annual property taxes. Thomas Amadei, both Sotheby’s International Realty.
Mr. Stern says the building that once used to be a women’s coffeehouse is just too big for him – his wife, Yuka, and their adult son, Ren, are currently living in Japan. She had relocated there to help Ms. Rico Fashion Brands, a family business, she said. “Living in a three-bedroom apartment is ridiculous when it’s just me and the dog,” he said. “It’s huge for us.”
The building, which is being marketed as a townhouse, went up for sale in 2019. “Even though we like to think that everything was rosy before the pandemic, 2019 was difficult for high-end real estate,” Mr Hettinger said. “Many properties didn’t sell that year.”
Mr Hettinger also noted that the building had previously been marketed as a commercial property. He expects the house to attract more interest now due to the pandemic. “It basically checks almost all of the boxes of the things families are looking for, which are significant outdoor space, tall ceilings, authentic loft space, and parking for two cars,” he said. Having said that it can also be used by a professional. Live-work space or continue as is with two tenants. (Both leases are due to expire by the end of the year, he says.)
The building covers approximately 5,715 square feet and includes a large, unfinished basement that is currently used for storage.
The commercial space at ground level—with an 18-by-38-foot showroom, a kitchenette, powder room, and office—has a separate entrance at the front of the building and also opens to a rear garden. The outdoor space is approximately 3,500 square feet and includes a large open space on the side of the building and a gated front courtyard, with parking for up to two cars.
“It’s a miracle if you have parking for one car in New York City, let alone two cars,” said Mr. Hettinger.
The floor-through apartment on the second level has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, dining room and galley kitchen.
The top two floors, where Mr. Stern and his family lived, have three bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and a rooftop terrace with a pergola and about 200 potted plants and flowers. City views extend to midtown Manhattan.
The kitchen, on the third floor, is fitted with custom-milled cabinets and natural soapstone countertops. The primary bedroom suite, which spans most of the fourth floor, features a traditional Japanese tatami room, a large walk-in closet, and a window-enclosed bathroom with a soaking tub. There is also a separate laundry room.
The entire loft-like duplex features high, wood-beamed ceilings, exposed original brick, hardwood floors, and numerous large windows. One of the bedrooms was converted into a cycle workshop for Mr. Stern, an avid cyclist. He said all the bathrooms have been renovated.
Mr. Stern has spent much of his career as a fashion photographer and says he is now developing a property in the East Village. While he and his family are saddened to leave their West Village home, he said, “Our time is over and I can accept that.”
“I feel like I’m putting up a hotel for my family when they come to New York.”
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