By Carter B. Horsley
Built in 1925 and designed by J. E. R. Carpenter,
the leading luxury apartment architect of his generation, this
handsome building was originally the Mayfair House, a pleasant,
450-room hotel, but it gained considerably more cachet when Le
Cirque restaurant opened on its first floor side-street frontage
in 1974 and quickly became one of the city's most socially prestigious
A generation later, however, Le Cirque decided
to relocate to the Villard Houses that are part of the New
York Palace Hotel at 451 Madison Avenue in 1997 and the next
year the building was bought at a bankruptcy auction for $15 million
and Park 65th Associates L.P., an affiliate of Colony Capital
Inc., a real estate investment group based in Los Angeles that
had recently also taken over the Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue
and has been active in luxury resort properties, and the Trump
Organization, headed by Donald Trump.
The new owners renovated the property for another
$55 million to convert it into 70 condominium apartments. At the
time of the conversion the hotel had had 210 hotel rooms.
A large entrance marquee on the side-street
had been created in 1934 for a restaurant, but over the years
it had become the hotel's entrance and Le Cirque had an adjacent,
discrete entrance. The 1998 renovation, however, used the marquee
side-street entrance for the building's new restaurant Daniel,
which was considerably larger and much grander than Le Cirque,
and it quickly became one of the city's top restaurants. A new
entrance to the apartment building was created on the avenue frontage.
Le Cirque would subsequently relocate from
the Villard Houses to One Beacon Court.
Carpenter was also a co-developer of the building,
which for a while in the 1980s had been acquired by the Hong Kong-based
Regent International Hotels chain.
The new condominium project got off to a flying
start and began selling units based only on floorplans. Early
prospective buyers were not even allowed to enter the building
and there were no model apartments and within a few months, the
sales campaign had sold all but three of the apartments that ranged
in price from about $700,000 to more than $7 million for units
that ranged in size from 986 to 4,400 square feet.
The combination of an elegant but older exterior
with lavish new interiors was a strong selling point as was the
fact, for some buyers probably, that the tenant mix was likely
to have a narrower range of income groups compared with the typical
pre-war residential property whose owners have moved in at different
times as apartments are offered for resale.
Given its excellent location and the fact Le
Cirque was being replaced with another famous restaurant, Daniel
Boulud's Restaurant Daniel, which offered catering service to
the residents, and that the apartment layouts were designed by
Costas Kondylis & Associates, P.C., and the common interiors
by Mac II, it was not too surprising that the conversion was successful.
The apartments have coffered, 9-foot-high ceilings,
seven-inch-high base moldings and many have fireplaces, libraries
and living rooms as large as 20 feet square. The building has
a fitness center, maid service and valet parking.
A far more architecturally stunning "Mayfair"
apartment building was built in 1908 at 471 Park Avenue. Designed
by Charles Buckham, it featured duplex apartments and was notable
for its large double-height, arched windows.
The exterior of this building is a stereotyped
Park Avenue apartment house but the elegant side-street marquee
and the grandness of Restaurant Daniel make it a very choice building
in a very choice neighborhood, not far from midtown and close
to Madison Avenue's many boutiques and art galleries.
The brown-brick building has a three-story
limestone base, a doorman, a health club, sidewalk landscaping
and basement storage, but no balconies, no garage and no roof