PROFILEnyc had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Harlan Berger, Founder of Centaur Properties, LLC and Daniel Laub, Principal of Greyscale Development Group, to discuss how Chelsea is transforming into an architecture mecca, bringing Jardim to reality and working with the famed Isay Weinfeld. Get inside the minds of some of New York City's most innovative visionaries as they walk you through the ever-changing neighborhood and the method behind the success.
PM: Chelsea has seen an influx of luxury development in recent years. Can you comment on the growth of the area? What was the catalyst for this growth? Why is this area such a great place to live?
Harlan Berger: West Chelsea has certainly undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. We first got involved in the neighborhood and the block in 2007 when we purchased 530 West 27th Street. At that time West Chelsea was best known for its art galleries and nightclubs. The High Line has played a huge part in Chelsea’s transformation. Converting an abandoned railroad track to a park that attracts millions of visitors each year has probably been one of the most significant catalysts for change. Another important driver of change has been the Avenues School. The first campus opened in 2012 and the school will expand into a new facility on 26th Street later this year. The establishment and presence of this elite private school has drawn families to the area and has “re-branded” the neighborhood as one of the most family-friendly locations in Manhattan.
PM: There have been some great developers and projects near Jardim such as Related Companies' Zaha Hadid-designed 520 West 28th. What sets Jardim apart from the other great developments around the High Line?
Daniel Laub: One of the more amazing things about West Chelsea is that it’s become home to some of the most amazing architecture in the world. You have Zaha Hadid, Shigeru Ban, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and now Isay Weinfeld. It’s so rare to have the works of so many great and talented architects in such close proximity to one another. With that said, it’s a great deal of pressure. Our vision for the project from the very beginning was to try and do something different and special and as we got to know Isay we knew he would be the person to help us get there.
Isay is a reserved and gentle man and his architecture really follows his personality. Rather than designing something that speaks loudly he crafted a project that is quiet and tranquil, with two towers overlooking a lush landscaped garden. Isay’s aesthetic exudes an understated sophistication. He pairs soft and warm materials together in the most interesting way and although you can’t point your finger to what it is, you know it makes you feel at home.
HB: As a native Brazilian, Isay’s indoor/outdoor living is truly unique in today’s market and certainly doesn’t exist in other projects of this scale. Not only does he achieve this with the amount of open space and greenery, but also through his use of windows and terraces. The windows that we used in the project are almost like sliding glass doors that allow entire window openings to open for residents to truly incorporate their interior space with the exterior and vice versa.
PM: How did you get the land and move from concept to reality?
DL: The zoning of West Chelsea can be challenging and the fact that our site goes through the block, from 27th to 28th Street, added a few layers of complexity. Nevertheless, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to use this feature to our advantage and designed the initial concept around this private street or driveway that would draw residents inside. From there it was really understanding the massing of both buildings, making sure that we didn’t compromise light and air by making one building overpower the other.
PM: Where did you see the most interest and where have most of your buyers come from?
HB: So far the interest has really come from all over the world.
PM: Jardim features interior design by Isay Weinfeld as his first residential project in New York. How did Isay become involved in Jardim? What value did he add?
DL: We were introduced to Isay in 2013. At the time we were speaking with several local and international architects, but something about Isay’s personality really resonated with us. At first we didn’t even really focus on his design necessarily. It was more of a personal connection. From there we quickly fell in love with his work and his overall outlook on architecture and design.
HB: As one of the most internationally recognized architects in the world today, Isay has added a ton of value. Not only is this his first residential project but it’s also one of the most unique boutique new developments on the market today. Isay spends a tremendous amount of time studying the proportions of rooms to make sure he doesn’t waste any space. His attention to detail and dedication to the use of materials, how those materials meet and where they meet is something truly impressive.
PM: What is the best feature that residents will enjoy? When they move into Jardim, what sets the residences apart from the other buildings? What makes Jardim a great place to live?
DL: There are many great features residents will enjoy, beginning with the entrance. Residents will enjoy the privacy and tranquility of entering their building via a private driveway. Once inside residents will overlook a lushly landscaped garden. Residents will also have the ability to enjoy a second garden on the podium level via a custom designed circular stair. Keeping with “Jardim,” almost all of the units have outdoor space and a certain number of them have private plantings as well.
Additional amenities include: private parking, private storage, a pool, a fitness center, a children’s playroom, and male/female spas. While it’s becoming more and more common for new developments to have certain amenities, it’s unique for a project of this size to have such a robust amenity package for residents to enjoy.
PM: What does Jardim mean to Chelsea? Where do you see the area in the next 5 years?
HB: Jardim is a breath of fresh air to Chelsea. It’s a project that speaks to the area and fits within the landscape of the neighborhood. Our brick and concrete façade communicates with the history and aesthetic of older West Chelsea while our lush gardens communicate with the vegetation of the High Line and the neighborhood’s future. Additionally, in an effort to maintain some of West Chelsea’s history and heritage, we’ve designed one of the retail spaces for an art gallery. We hope that through these gestures we can contribute to the neighborhood while acknowledging its past.
About Harlan Berger, Founder of Centaur Properties, LLC.:
Harlan Berger is the Founder of Centaur Properties, LLC and serves as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Berger also serves as a Director at World Waters Holdings, LLC. Centaur Properties is a premier real estate investment, development, and management firm based in New York City. Centaur was founded in 1996 and has acquired and developed a broad portfolio of real estate holdings across residential, office and retail product in the neighborhoods of Soho, Tribeca, Chelsea, the West Village, and the Flatiron District, amongst others.