In Greenwich Village, a Manhattan neighborhood known for its Bohemian and artsy culture, rows of townhouses with beautiful red brick facades bespeak its storied past. Indeed, most of these townhouses, built in the 1800s and early 1900s, are protected as historical landmarks by New York City.
Lately, more and more deep-pocket buyers are pursuing these historic townhouses. To sidestep restrictions in altering them, they are also getting creative to land more space.
On a recent weekday afternoon, Vannessa Kaufman and Martine Capdevielle, agents with Sotheby’s International Realty, held an open house in a townhouse at 230 West 10th St., which they listed for $12 million. It just happened that two adjacent townhouses are also on the market, creating a rare opportunity for a potential mega-mansion.
“Some brokers previewing the property said their clients have shown interest in scooping up all three townhouses,” Ms. Kaufman said.
Seemingly, mega-mansions have become more popular in Greenwich Village. Following in the footsteps of their counterparts on the Upper East Side—former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, both of whom are working to build over-the-top mega-mansions—wealthy buyers in the Village are increasingly merging side-by-side townhouses into a massive trophy home.
Given how small the market is, though, it’s hard to call mega-mansion a trend, said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of real estate appraiser and consultancy Miller Samuel. “But anecdotally, I am seeing this market phenomenon more than in the past,” he said.
And downtown Manhattan offers lower density sites, “so the opportunity is more readily available,” he said.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, managing director of Town Residential’s Flatiron office, concurred. “The trickle isn’t turning into a tidal wave,” referring to the emerging mega-mansions in Greenwich Village, but “certainly we’ve seen some major examples,” he said.
Wealthy buyers searching for more space
One such example is the celebrity couple Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. They reportedly bought two townhouses on West 11th Street for $34.5 million last year, a massive 13,900-square-foot mega-mansion in the making.
Another mega-mansion conversion underway belongs to Facebook co-founder Sean Parker. He reportedly snapped up two five-story townhouses on West 10th Street in separate deals last year to adjoin the one property next door on West 10th he has owned since 2010.
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Yet another example is telecom mogul Dexter Goei, who reportedly bought an 11,000-square-foot townhouse on West 11th Street for $31 million last May. The multi-family dwelling will be converted into a single-family residence. Mr. Goei serves as chief executive at the Netherlands-based telecom company Altice, which bought Cablevision for $17.7 billion last year.
If these projects don’t amount to a trend yet, they are at least indicative of how badly people want to have more private space not typically seen in New York, said Mr. Fitzpatrick. Also, “Bragging rights aside, custom mega-mansion is a sign that the high-profile buyers are bullish about the Manhattan market,” he said.
Mr. Miller sees these projects as “one-offs” —they are highly personalized lifetime investments that may prove difficult to resell later. “The future buyer pool will likely gut them to personalize to their own standards. Or in the case of an underdeveloped site, simply sell to a developer in a future up-cycle,” he said.
Mega-mansion as a selling point
Brokers, taking the pulse of the market, push the concept of mega-mansions more aggressively than before. Ms. Kaufman and Ms. Capdevielle had the listing at 230 West 10th St. since last March, but only recently have they approached other brokers to pitch a mega-mansion proposal.
“The three townhouses are in different conditions, but they have the same facades,” said Ms. Kaufman. The brokers have worked together to “draw up a floor plan” for the potential mega-mansion, with a private garden in the center. Of course, buyers can buy just one, or two, or three in a row.
“In any case, new buyers of such townhouses will completely renovate them to meet their aesthetic tastes,” Ms. Capdevielle added.Two townhouses at 133-135 West 13th St. are marketed as an ideal opportunity for a mega-mansion.
Leslie J. Garfield
Not surprisingly, a couple blocks north, two townhouses at 133-135 West 13th St. are also marketed as an ideal opportunity for a mega-mansion. The two buildings, each serving as a six-unit rental, will be delivered vacant or with few tenants, according to Matthew Pravda, who’s co-listing the properties with Christopher L. Riccio of the same brokerage firm, Leslie J. Garfield.
The two townhouses combined, asking $15.65 million, will encompass 9,600 square feet of interior space and a 1,800-square-foot yard. Buyers can dig down below to create more “habitable space,” Mr. Pravda noted.
Some conversions in the area are doing exactly that, as many townhouses in Greenwich Village are landmarked and therefore, have certain renovation restrictions.
Most interior changes and some rooftops and rear-yard additions can be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as long as they meet the rules, but additions and renovations that propose removing entire walls would require a public hearing, according to Damaris Olivo, the Commission’s spokeswoman.
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