With a distinctive brown-brick and glass facade, the 57-story high-rise condominium Sheffield57 at West 57th Street and 8th Avenue seems to fit right in in the up-and-coming Clinton neighborhood. But this recent development has a quirky portfolio, and until being foreclosed in late 2009, was steadily heading downhill. The desperate behavior of the building's developers reflected the frustration of a bad market coupled with poor managment, as developer Ken Swigs hired a marching band with trumpets and tubas to drown out the the sound of renters protesting eviction. Later his partner would make headlines (and a court appearance) for throwing a metal ice bucket at him. But under new management, and with a new name, The Sheffield has drastically resurrected sales, which seemed at one time unthinkable.
The Sheffield was purchased by developers for an exorbitant $418 million back in 2005. Swig and his partners had then unveiled ambitious plans to convert the 853-unit rental building, built in 1978, into luxury condominium with 597 units. But the path to conversion was lined with anything but yellow bricks, as the development was plagued with lawsuits, debt, liens on apartments, and unpaid vendors refusing to complete renovations. 2009 saw only 11 sales, resulting from a sales freeze ordered by the attorney general. And as if Sheffield57 didn’t have enough setbacks, the development suffered further in the financial collapse to which even NYC luxury scene didn’t prove immunity.
In 2009, Swig defaulted on the project’s mortgage, and Sheffield57 was bought up in the following months by Fortress Investment Group (the only bidder) who has since managed to fill debt holes, and boost sales. Part of Fortress’ new marketing strategy was to reduce asking price by as much as 25% on apartments that could run from $700,000 to $7.5 million. And with debt finally leveled out, a spokesman for the condominium association told the NYTimes that construction would soon begin on the spa and gym.
The Sheffield’s turn around to become one of the best-selling condos of last year (probably in part to its large vacancies) won it the Real Deal’s appraisal as “best back-from-the-dead residential project” of 2010. Furthermore, with scaffolding coming down, the conversions' outdoor features like ornamental pool, landscape plaza and one-way private driveway will cement the revitalization. Only 15% of these luxury apartments remain in inventory, as the Sheffield’s brown-bricked rising façade settles into the classy edge of Clinton, with landmarks like Columbus Circle and Carnegie Hall just a stone’s throw away.