The more things change, the more they stay the same.
An old landmark hotel in the conservative and co-op-coated Carnegie Hill section of the Upper East Side is set to become (gasp!) condos.
But never fear, the building is attracting the same old well-heeled characters it always did.
Dating back to 1899 and located at 1295 Madison Ave. at 92nd Street, The Wales never had the elan of, say, the Carlyle or the Mark hotels. But, for more than a century, it quietly attracted and housed artists, the pre-Met Gala crowd, well-to-do Europeans and South Americans and, most of all, locals who sparkled over dinners at the hotel’s restaurant, Sarabeth’s.
“This is the best part of New York,” Aussie artist and mid-century “it” girl Vali Myers told the New York Times of the hotel, where she was residing back in 1984 (she passed in 2003). ”I look out my window and I feel like it’s London … At night, the old Hungarian ballerinas who live here put on their diamond earrings and go out.”
Now — after selling to DLJ Manhattan Real Estate, an affiliate of DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, for $35 million in August 2017 and then to Matthew Adell’s Adellco — the 10-story, neo-Renaissance-style hotel’s 87 rooms and suites will become just 21 swank residences.
Today, Adell told The Post exclusively that he is listing the conversion’s crown jewel: a 4,179-square-foot, full-floor penthouse with five bedrooms, five baths, a wraparound terrace and roof deck, boasting sweeping views of Central Park and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. That will set you back $23 million — a far cry from the $30 to $65 per day the hotel charged for rooms (many of which had kitchens) back in 1982.
Two-, three- and four-bedroom residences are priced from $3.85 million, $5.75 million and $7.42 million, respectively. Move-ins are slated for late 2022.
“The opportunity is extremely rare,” Adell said. “We had the chance to renovate the interiors entirely within the gorgeous shell of a landmark property in this idyllic neighborhood.”
He can say that again. Condos are still uncommon in the area known for elite private schools like Dalton, world-class cultural institutions like the Guggenheim — and upturned noses.
But Adell recognized the shifting real estate market’s demand for new inventory, following the 2019 launch of 27 E. 79th St., his newly built eight-unit boutique condo building.
“The Upper East Side has never been out of vogue,” Adell said. “But now it’s en vogue to a whole new audience.”
He says that many newcomers are moving from downtown for the area’s family-friendly appeal: those aforementioned private schools, proximity to the park and “sophisticated atmosphere.”
“Carnegie Hill is an enclave of who’s who,” said Leslie Singer, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens who lives in the neighborhood. “People stay here forever. With limited availability, inventory moves quickly.”
For those drawn to the area’s elegant architecture, The Wales is especially distinct.
Its ornate, historic façade is being restored to its former glory by the architects at HQ Preservation to include a scaled-down reproduction of the original cornice, with its bold, classical flourishes.
“Early 20th-century, Beaux Arts-style hotels are uncommon in Carnegie Hill, particularly at this level of architectural quality,” said Bill Higgins, principal at HQ.
More uncommon still is uptown “penthouse” living. In most historic co-ops and hotels, the upper floors are smaller and were reserved for staff. But at the new Wales, a 3,000-square-foot party playground will be constructed behind the cornice.
The rooftop space will boast a wraparound terrace with an outdoor kitchen, wet bar, fireplace and butler’s pantry. Meanwhile, penthouse interiors by Paris-based design firm Pinto include a great room with southwestern exposures featuring coffered ceilings, a fireplace, an eat-in kitchen and white lacquer cabinetry.
Drawing inspiration from the building’s original façade, Pinto also designed The Wales’ common spaces and residences in a marble-laden, classical-meets-contemporary aesthetic.
Residences have herringbone oak floors and custom kitchens with bathrooms in Bianco Carrara and Grigio Nicole marble.
Amenities include a fitness center, pet spa, bicycle and private storage, along with a 24-hour doorman and concierge.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” said JP Forbes, sales director of The Wales and a real estate agent at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. “You have the elegance of a pre-war building and the luxury of new development construction. They don’t build buildings like this anymore.”
These are the people in your neighborhood
Back in 1919, Mrs. Henry Prince was residing at The Wales when she reported to police detectives that her jewels valued at $20,000 (roughly $328,000 in today’s lettuce) had been stolen!
Mrs. Prince had boarded a bus with the gems in her bag as she returned from some Riverside Drive soiree and when she reached her room, she discovered that her bling was gone, the New York Tribune reported.
It was a hair-puller for detectives who couldn’t find a trace of Mrs. Prince’s sparklers. The depressed dicks called on the dame to report the bad news only to discover a nonplussed Mrs. Prince at the door. “Jewelry? Oh, that jewelry?” Why were they still looking for it? It wasn’t missing. It was right where she left it, under her pillow. She had found them days ago.
More than 100 years later, Carnegie Hill is still home to the rich and eccentric.
Bordered by 86th Street to the south, 96th Street to the north, Central Park to the west and Lexington Avenue to the east, the nabe is named for Andrew Carnegie, who built his sprawling mansion at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street at the turn of the 20th century.
Since then, celebrities and titans of industry have called the neighborhood home, including David Rockefeller, Bette Midler, Gwyneth Paltrow and Woody Allen.
The area is also a tourist hub thanks to the Neue Galerie, the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt Museum (Carnegie’s former home) and the Jewish Museum.
Lined with chic restaurants and outdoor cafes like Island, Pascalou, Sfoglia and Vicolina, as well as longtime retailers, like the Corner Bookstore, BHS broker Leslie Singer says Carnegie Hill “feels like Paris in the summertime.”
And for those interested in buying into uptown’s la belle vie — known for landmarked limestone mansions and pre-war apartment buildings by architects like Rosario Candela and J. E. R. Carpenter — know that if you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it.
In 2021, apartments that sold in Carnegie Hill were 40% more expensive and 27% larger when compared to the Upper East Side as a whole, according to data from Corcoran Group Market Research.
There are currently only 16 new development sponsor units in Carnegie Hill, found in just three buildings — the Wales, 180 E. 88th St. and 1228 Madison Ave. — with an average asking price of $8.2 million, according to data from Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing. (The Bellemont at 1165 Madison Ave. and a redevelopment at 1143 Fifth Ave. are in pre-development and have not yet launched sales.) This represents 29% of all actively marketed new inventory on the Upper East Side where a total of 56 units are available with an average listing price of $7.35 million.
“With few development sites available and minimal product in the pipeline, these coveted new buildings are able to meet buyer demands and exceed price points,” said Laura Tomana, VP of research and market data at Brown Harris.
“Carnegie Hill presents an opportunity to live along Park or Madison avenues a bit more north than buyers previously sought, but is drawing those who want greater space, service and amenities who are willing to spend.”