The New York Times

On a Triangular Site at 21 Astor Place; 50 Ultramodern Condominiums Behind an Exterior From 1890

April 6, 2003

The building at 21 Astor Place, which has been an imposing presence in Greenwich Village for more than a century and has had numerous personas, is undergoing yet another metamorphosis, this time into a luxury condominium.

Designed by George Harney in 1890 for the Mercantile Library, which moved uptown in 1932, it has at various times housed the Chinese consulate, the headquarters for District 65 of the Distributive Workers of America, a business school and most recently Jupiter Media Matrix, an Internet research firm that has closed. Before the Harney building, the site was home to the Astor Place Opera House.

The El-Ad Group, based on Astor Place and in Fort Lee, N.J., bought the property, which sits on a triangular site fronting on Astor Place and Eighth and Lafayette Streets, from Goldman Sachs last year for $42 million, said Miki Naftali, the firm’s director of construction and development.

While the Romanesque revival facade of terra cotta and brick punctuated by arched windows is being preserved, the inside is being transformed into 50 ultramodern condominiums.

‘’The envelope is something so monumental and beautiful, and we wanted to respect that,’’ said Gal Nauer, an Israeli architect who commuted here to do the interior design. ‘’We didn’t want to compete with the exterior wall; we wanted to create a new personality for the building, to show the present respecting the past.’’

Of the 50 apartments, 39 will have one or two bedrooms. Ten of these apartments will be duplexes. One-bedrooms are priced at $925,000 to $1.525 million, two-bedrooms at $1.095 million to $1.725 million. There will also be eight three-bedroom simplexes, one three-bedroom duplex and one four-bedroom duplex. They will be priced at $1.495 million to $3.25 million.

The top floor, a vast space of 7,278 square feet with a 3,094-square-foot wraparound terrace, will be sold raw for $8.5 million.

The interiors include sliding room dividers, closets made of semi-opaque glass and staircases cantilevered out of walls to appear as if they are floating. Toilets are set in bathroom walls to also appear to be floating. Luxury finishes include tiny white glass mosaic tiles from Italy in the bathrooms and mirrors set in the tile to be perfectly flush.

With two model apartments open and the first residents expected in September, Mr. Naftali is confident about the building’s prospects. ‘’Without any marketing or ads yet, we already have people asking,’’ he said. NADINE BROZAN

Correction: April 13, 2003, Sunday A report in the Postings column last Sunday about the conversion of 21 Astor Place to condominiums referred incorrectly to the status of a business that formerly had offices there, and misspelled its name. The company is Jupiter Media Metrix, not Matrix. It has been divided and sold to two other companies; it did not go out of business. Part was bought by Jupitermedia Corporation and renamed Jupiter Research. The other part is now comScore Media Metrix.