Here’s a story that tells you a lot about both the old and the new Lower East Side. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Chinatown banker and developer Thomas Sung details plans for luxury condos at 371 Madison Street, the gorgeous former public school building he bought at auction in 1983.
According to the story, the five story Renaissance revival building, constructed in 1908, has become a condo conversion with 110 “loft-like” apartments, a swimming pool, a spa and a “juice bar with room service.” Some of the smaller units on low floors start at $542,000. Larger apartments will cost millions. Ultimately, Mr. Sung intends to “turn some small rooftop penthouses, where the school’s basketball courts were, into a single, 7,000-square-foot penthouse with a 12,000-square-foot yard.”
According to the web site set up by Prudential Douglas Elliman, “The Madison Jackson,” captures the essence of downtown living.” Amenities include a “24-hour doorman, concierge, 24-hour vegetarian organic room service, organic laundry, and alteration services.” Plus:
Residential owners will also enjoy the option of membership in the private Madison Jackson Club on the building’s garden floor. Club amenities include: A heated pool, spinning room, yoga, cranial sacral therapy, and nutritional counseling. Our early 20th Century classical residences are just a few blocks away from one of the city’s most vibrant and exciting neighborhoods.
The listing, however, makes no mention of the fact that the Valdeck public housing complex sits directly across the street or that it’s a pretty good hike to the subway from the building, located on Madison and Jackson streets.
Sung bought the school building for just $535,000 thirty years ago. The city provided most of the financing to cover the purchase price. Sung told the Journal he became sidetracked running Abacus Federal Bank in Chinatown, and was unable to focus on redeveloping the school building. Some progress was made in the 1990’s. More delays occurred in the last few years after Sung’s daughter, Vera, suggested adding the swimming pool. Sung told told reporter Josh Barbanel:
…that if he had been solely motivated by profit, he would have begun construction in the mid-1980s using borrowed money and would have lost the building through foreclosure. “We weathered the ups and downs of the real-estate market,” he said. “I was interested in providing housing for the community; that is how we carried on to this day.”
For the project, the Sung family brought in broker and designer Michael Bolla, “who (has) worked with many celebrity clients from Hugh Jackman to Isabella Rossellini.”
The school was originally designed by highly regarded architect Charles B.J. Snyder. At the time of the auction, the city was unloading under-utilized buildings as quickly as it could. According to the story, there was talk at one point about “turning it over to a not-for-profit group, which would get government support to create “affordable” housing, but the deal never went through.”
As you may recall from our previous coverage, Sung owns the Loews Canal Theater, which has also been vacant for many years. The family has talked about turning the old theater into a performing arts center. Some preservationists and community activists, however, remain suspicious of his motives.