Monday, March 15, 2010

Real Estate Section

5 West 44th, 2010

If you’re itching to take advantage of that $8,000 first time homebuyer credit, I have just the building for you.

Located in New York between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue and barely a block from Grand Central Terminal is 5 west 44th, a bright little gem of a modernism tucked into a narrow niche in the mountain of solid gray buildings of midtown Manhattan.

The building—its address is its name—was designed by Alan Ritchie. The design may or may not have additionally been influenced by Ritchie’s longtime business partner Philip Johnson. Some mentions credit the building’s design to Johnson, which is understandable because Johnson was so well known, even iconic. But the absence of neoclassical references that Johnson so liked to employ in the latter years of his life and the fact that Johnson died in 1995 lead me to believe that the credit for this building should be given to Ritchie and his partners.

5 West 44th is as coolly elegant as Johnson’s Four Seasons restaurant or his design for the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art. The building’s scale is amazingly human given that it rises twenty stories above the street and is only 28 feet wide.

The facade is clad with white metal panels. A single, off-center red column breaks up the white surface. Midway up the tower, the red is replaced by bright yellow.

So if you’re in the market, you’d better rush. There are only twenty units in this building. The one-bedrooms are selling for less than $1 million and the larger units are…well, more. But for high ceilings and good windows in a post-war building, real estate people say 5 West 44th is a steal. Residences in the upper reaches of the building are full-floor units and there’s a duplex penthouse at the top.

If you need additional reason, consider that 5 West 44th was once the site of Canfield’s Gambling House, said by one historian to be “the most prestigious illegal joint of the Gilded Age.”