For photographer Robert J. Stern, one of the best things about his late 19th century West Village home is that “nobody really notices.”
The four-story brick-and-stucco structure at 54 Seventh Avenue South, a few blocks from Washington Square Park, “is kind of a secret,” Stern said. âIt’s a trapezoidal, almost independent building in the middle of the block. You enter a parking lot to access it.
But the building, between Morton and Commerce streets, has gained some fame lately. The commercial tenant on the ground floor is Markarian, the fashion brand that designed Jill Biden’s Inauguration Day ensemble, a striking teal dress and matching coat.
Markarian and a tenant one floor above, however, may soon have to find other accommodation. Mr. Stern, who bought the building in 1993 from the estate of feminist writer June D. Arnold, is listing the entire building for $ 11.95 million, with about $ 19,000 in annual property taxes, according to Jonathan Hettinger, who markets the property with Mark Thomas Amadei, both of Sotheby’s International Realty.
Mr Stern says the building, which once housed the Women’s cafe, is too tall for him alone – his wife, Yuka, and their adult son, Ren, currently live in Japan. She had moved there, he said, to help with a family business, the Mrs. Reiko fashion brand. âIt’s ridiculous to live in a three-bedroom apartment when it’s just me and the dog,â he said. âIt’s too big for us.
The building, which is marketed as a townhouse, had been listed for sale in 2019. âWhile we like to think everything was rosy before the pandemic, 2019 has been tough for high-end real estate,â M said Hettinger. âA lot of properties didn’t sell that year. “
Mr Hettinger also noted that the building had already been marketed as commercial property. He expects the house to generate more interest now due to the pandemic. âIt basically checks almost all of the boxes of things families are looking for, which is a sizable outdoor space, high ceilings, an authentic loft, and parking for two cars,â he said, adding that he could also be used by a living / working space professional or continue as is with both tenants. (Both leases are due to expire by the end of the year, he says.)
The building is approximately 5,715 square feet and includes a large unfinished basement currently used for storage.
The commercial space on the ground floor – with an 18 foot by 38 foot showroom, kitchenette, powder room and office – has a separate entrance at the front of the building and opens also on a rear garden. The outdoor space totals approximately 3,500 square feet and includes a large open space to the side of the building and an enclosed front yard, where there is parking for up to two cars.
âIt’s a miracle if you have parking for one car in New York City, let alone two cars,â Hettinger said.
The single storey apartment on the second level has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, a dining room and an American kitchen.
The top two floors, where Mr. Stern and his family resided, have three bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and a rooftop terrace with a pergola and around 200 potted plants and flowers. The views of the city extend all the way to Midtown Manhattan.
The kitchen, on the third floor, is fitted with custom milled cabinetry and natural soapstone countertops. The master suite, which spans most of the fourth floor, includes a traditional Japanese tatami room, a large walk-in closet, and a glass-enclosed private bathroom with a bathtub. There is also a separate utility room.
Throughout the loft-style duplex you will find high ceilings with wood beams, exposed original brickwork, hardwood floors and plenty of oversized windows. One of the bedrooms has been converted into a bicycle workshop for Mr. Stern, a bicycle enthusiast. All the bathrooms have been updated, he said.
Mr Stern has spent most of his career as a fashion photographer and says he is now developing a property in the East Village. As he and his family are sad to leave their West Village home, he said: “Our time is up and I can take it.”
“I feel like I keep a hotel for my family when they come to New York.”