Compass Reinvents The Real Estate Sign

Customizable Sign.001.jpeg

The final prototype, in the shape of a magnifying glass, stands tall in a 10th-floor conference room at real estate startup Compass, emitting a gentle glow from the inner rim of its ringed frame. At first glance, the matte-black material and minimalist shape would appear destined for a patio, or inside a home. In fact, if it weren’t for the real estate agent contact information in the center of the glowing ring, it would be hard to call this a “for sale” sign. But that is exactly its purpose: to broadcast to buyers that a home is on the market, and, thanks to embedded technology, to give them access to a far richer set of information than a standard printed sign can contain.

In the presence of this final prototype, after months of development, Matt Spangler, Compass chief creative officer, can barely contain his excitement. In jeans and a denim shirt, he detaches the ring from its base, to show how they connect. “The whole thing is modular,” he says. “This piece right here—this slides out.” With the click of a button, he animates the LED lights, which cascade down the sides of the ring. Turning the sign around, he demonstrates how to detach the printed piece in the center, using subtle tabs. In the future, if cost allows, he envisions a fully digital version that agents can update in real time. Right now, Compass’s mobile development team is making plans for an augmented reality iteration.

“Say it was just a plot of land—you could see a house modeled on the land, you could change the color of the house with paint, you could see all the neighborhood data, you could see restaurants that are recommended,” Spangler says, painting the vision.


In other sectors, the merging of digital and physical worlds is well underway. We wear devices that monitor our steps and our sleep, we shop while in-store sensors track our movements, and we manage our homes using Silicon Valley-designed thermostats and security cameras. But when it comes to buying a home, technology is limited to online aggregators, like Zillow, that replicate the functionality of old-fashioned classified ads. Compass, which raised $450 million from the Softbank Vision Fund in December at a $2.2 billion valuation, has until now focused on becoming, in the words of CEO Robert Reffkin, “the largest owner of real estate data, globally, and the number-one real estate technology company in the world.” The company’s reimagined “for sale” sign speaks to a growing recognition that real estate’s most valuable data originates in the real world.

Of course, for many Americans today, the idea of buying a home is as fantastical as using AR to “paint” a home’s exterior. Prices have skyrocketed in many of the cities where Compass operates, while middle class wages have remained stagnant. But for Compass, those rising prices present an opportunity to own the cutthroat top of the market. The company has poached talent capable of annual sales in the eight digits from competitors including Corcoran Group and Douglas Elliman.


Compass agents sell trophy properties and are willing to invest in trophy-worthy tools, or so the thinking goes. The startup expects that its 4,100 agents will snap up the first run of signs; each one will cost roughly $1,000 and ship October 1. (As long as agents charge the batteries, signs can, in theory, last for years.) During feedback sessions, Compass says, over 90% of agents expressed interest in buying one.

“The first thing I want to see is agents happy because sellers are saying, ‘That made my house stand out,'” says Compass COO Maëlle Gavet. Plus, she adds, the technology will make it easier for agents to manage their sign inventory. “‘I know where my signs are, I know if one of them needs to be recharged.’ In the future, ‘I don’t need to go to the sign to change the wording.'”

As an added incentive for agents to place an order, Compass has negotiated a deal with Waze that will showcase sign locations within the Waze app, encouraging prospective buyers to drive by or attend an open house.

“You could imagine a world in which you decide as a consumer that you’re looking for these types of properties, and a map starts creating a route, and it knows which ones have an open house,” Gavet says. “It’s a bit of a dream, but this is what I find really exciting—you start connecting the digital world and the physical world, and that makes the life of the consumer hopefully a little better.”


The last time that the “for sale” sign went through a major transformation was decades ago, during the post-World War II suburban boom. My own grandfather, Bill Oakley, was on the vanguard of the new trends. Around 1970, he left the Chicago-based printing company where he worked to strike out on his own with a new kind of real estate signage. At the time, two types of “for sale” signs dominated: sandwich-board styles and rectangular styles affixed to a central metal post. Using newer, lighter materials, Oakley created an L-shaped frame, with a hinge affixed to the horizontal bar at top. The design allowed real estate agents to easily swap in different prints, as needed. His first client was the real estate arm of Better Homes and Gardens.

During Oakley Signs and Graphic’s early years, buying a home in the U.S. was both affordable and desirable. In 1983, the year I was born, roughly two-thirds of Americans owned a home, up from a low-point of 44% in 1940. But these days, buying a home is increasingly out of reachfor many Americans. Homeownership rates have been in decline since the Great Recession, when banks pulled back their mortgage lending. In high-demand markets like New York and San Francisco, average home prices top $1 million.


Enter Compass, which assumes that “luxury” is the new normal in residential real estate. The startup has prioritized recruiting agents in wealthy enclaves like Aspen and the Hamptons, and in markets like Chicago has won listings such as a $50 million, 25,000-square-foot urban mansion (“grand in every way, but not overwhelming,” the description reads). For such properties, the company believes, a regular-old “for sale” sign just doesn’t strike the right note with wealthy clientele.




Compass’s attempt to reinvent real estate signage kicked off last November at the offices of Aruliden, a branding and design firm hired by Spangler. Dozens of sketches line the walls of a conference room in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, many showing variations on a circle attached to a narrow pole. As mood-board inspiration, the Aruliden team has printed out images of glowing round lights in minimalist living rooms. The goal, in a sense, is to create an exterior sign as elegant as a piece of modern furniture.

Johan Liden, Aruliden cofounder and chief creative officer, leads the presentation, which focuses on the team’s initial research and discovery. “This is a category that hasn’t changed in a long time,” Liden says. As a result, there’s an opportunity for Compass to create a sign that is both “smart” (i.e., tech-enabled) and “iconic.” He points to examples of branded hardware that bridge the physical and digital worlds—Lyft’s dashboard lights, for instance, or Disney’s Magic Band. “You should be able to remove the Compass logo and know that this is a Compass sign,” he says, as heads nod.

Several weeks later, Spangler has had a chance to ruminate on the design options and the sign’s ever-expanding function. “I want to challenge everyone to imagine a world in which the sign is a smart-home hub,” he says. “It’s sending information about air quality and noise pollution, it’s helping open doors for tours, it’s giving you the tour, and then it’s providing actual value to the agent, the buyer, and the seller.” The way that we live is changing, and Spangler wants Compass to be ready for a world in which home “ownership” is more flexible. “More homes are going to be Airbnb-style homes and rentals, mobility will be greater than ever. How can we be at that hub with the other technology players?”

He is conscious of the practical considerations. “To me the toughest challenge is how far can we push the technology today to get it done on a reasonable time frame, with a reasonable cost, to provide a real wow factor and real functionality. We want to get there. Can we get there today?”


In February, that challenge comes into focus during a meeting at Compass headquarters attended by Aruliden and a newly hired team of hardware contractors from Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS). Questions begin to fly, as the contractors review the preliminary designs. Who can use the data? When and how? What about battery life?

“I don’t see a need of live-streaming this data anytime soon,” says Compass CTO Liming Zhao (Zhao left Compass in March to start his own company). But he wants to prioritize gathering data points—like foot traffic, noise, and light—that could improve Compass’s valuation tools, part of the startup’s suite of agent software. “Are there other reasons this home is more attractive?” With the right sensors, his team could bring new insight to one of real estate’s most important questions.


Moving on, the group discusses motion sensors, and whether they make sense in dense, urban settings. They also consider adding red and green lights, to convey that a home is sold or still available. But members of the Aruliden team are skeptical about more complex signals and messaging. “How often do you buy a house?” one says. “A red or green light won’t mean anything to you.”

As the meeting draws to a close, the group agrees to reconvene when the hardware vendor can provide estimates on timing and cost.

By April, there is finally a prototype. It’s a slender pole topped with a circle, around five feet tall. In the center, there is sample text: “Townhouse for sale,” the sign reads, followed by a broker name, contact details, and “Compass.” At the base of the ring, there is now a QR code, which will prompt passersby to download the Compass app.

The meeting begins as Aruliden presents options for animating the LEDs. Should the sign turn on automatically at night? If so, how bright? During the day, what should happen when a person approaches and passes with a 10-foot radius? Six feet? Three feet?

One attendee raises the question of riders, the printed add-ons that agents often use to augment their standard signs. Liden, Aruliden’s CCO, would like to convince agents to embrace the sign’s minimalism. “Could the rider information live more in the phone?” he asks.

The Compass team is hesitant. “We need to test with agents.” Many agents, they believe, will be resistant.

IPS takes the stage, and immediately the idea of using sensors to trigger light animations becomes more complicated. The current plan calls for two sensors, but that will create “blind spots.” Adding a third sensor will affect battery life. “It’s the one thing we can’t turn off,” says one IPS engineer.

“There are obviously going to be scenarios where it will not engage,” Liden acknowledges. “But what is acceptable, as a percentage?” He and the team have envisioned a scenario in which an interested buyer walks by the sign, which activates the LED animation, which serves to draw attention to the QR code, which leads the buyer to information about the property. “This is key for the sign to do what we want it to do.” If the sensors don’t initiate that sequence, then the agent has lost a chance to connect.

In the end, the final prototype contains just two sensor boards, each with the capability to detect proximity and ambient light. In addition, there is a circuit board that contains a micro-controller, a Bluetooth Low Energy module, an accelerometer, and a temperature sensor. Through the Compass app, agents will be able to select from a variety of light animations and monitor battery life.


“It’s a connected ecosystem of devices, with hardware and software and data,” Spangler says. “Which is really the power of Compass—the integration between all those things.”


Now, the company will have to convince agents of that ecosystem’s value and sweet-talk municipalities with stringent rules governing signs. (Some towns in the Hamptons, for instance, tightly restrict the size and color of signs, as well as the use of light.) Spangler, Gavet, and Reffkin are also eyeing other opportunities to build for the physical world. “We’re having the same conversation around [real estate office] windows—we think we can do better,” Gavet says. “We want to be different, we want to look different.” The opportunity, she believes, lies in connecting physical places to digital marketing strategies. “Real estate is where e-commerce was 10 years ago.” But the window redesign is a project for another day.

Mike Myers Groovy SoHo Penthouse Now $14M

Mike Myers’ penthouse in Soho has hit the market again, but this time the pad at 72 Mercer Street is listed nearly $3 million cheaper. First listed for $16.95 million in 2015, the comedian then tried adding another unit for a combo price of $21.5 million a few months later, but no one took the bait (h/t Curbed NY). Now, the spacious duplex is currently asking $13.95 million. The 4,204-square-foot penthouse includes 3-4 bedrooms, a private roof deck, super high ceilings and massive skylights.

Located on a quaint cobbled street in Soho, the penthouse is a part of a newly built loft-style boutique condo that includes a 24-hour doorman. An elevator opens into this unit, leading into a spacious living room. A fireplace can be found on one end of the living space, with custom-designed bookshelves on the other.

Found next to the living area, the sprawling kitchen offers tons of storage. It boasts maple and aluminum cabinetry and stone countertops. The unit’s oversized south-facing windows that bring in an abundance of light and the private landscaped roof deck make this a unique find in Manhattan.

The master suite can be found on the lower level and features outfitted closets and an en-suite bathroom. The bathroom has Thassos marble and fixtures from Porcher, Dornbracht, Duravit and Waterworks. Two additional bedrooms and a laundry room can be found on this level as well.

In addition to the private roof-deck, the building includes a landscaped and irrigated roof terrace with lots of seating. Shaded by a pergola, the roof features breathtaking city views, especially during sunset.

[Listing: 72 Mercer Street, Unit PHW by Leonard SteinbergHervé SenequierAmy Mendizabal, and Calli Sarkesh for Compass]

Inside Look: 4 apartments for Manhattan bachelors


It may be hard to be a single woman in NYC, but for single dudes who enjoy the bachelor lifestyle, the city can be their perfect playground.

A 2015 New York Post article states that there are 38 percent more young female college grads than male. A 2014 Brick Underground article puts the citywide male-to-female breakdown as 53 percent female and 47 percent male.

Even with a good supply of dates, a New York City bachelor needs the perfect pad to call home (and to take his dates home to). Here are four that work for the single lifestyle.

This one-bedroom, one-bathroom Soho penthouse features large windows to let in the light and terrace off the dining room. The kitchen features stainless steel, colored lacquer, cerused oak, granite, porcelain tile, and the living spaces are polished concrete with a subtle matte finish. Additional features features include a Sonos music system with five speaker zones, and plenty of storage.

419 W. 55th St.

This condo-op has a modern industrial style with 14-foot, poured concrete ceilings, oversized windows and skyline views. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom, plus home office is located in a building that was converted from a warehouse and features a virtual doorman and package room.

123 Washington St.

Located in the Financial District’s W New York Downtown Residences & hotels, this penthouse has views of the Hudson and Statue of Liberty. The apartment may only have one bedroom and one bathroom in 708 square feet, but has 15-foot high ceilings. The floors are ebonized maple hardwood, and the kitchen features Italian lacquer cabinetry with Corian countertops and a glass backsplash. The bathrooms have stainless steel towel warmers and Toto toilets.

421 Hudson Street

Described as an “industrial chic loft,” this West Village duplex has two bedrooms and three-and-a-half-bedrooms. The home features wall-to-wall windows with views of the Hudson, and a professional chef's kitchen lined in stainless steel. Bedrooms are located on the upper level and accessed by individual steel staircases, with the master suite featuring a large walk-in closet with floor-to-ceiling storage. The duplex is located in a full-service condominium with a doorman and concierge services, landscaped private mews, and access to an on site Equinox health club.

3Q16 Manhattan Market Report


3Q16 Manhattan Market Report

This report highlights the prevailing trends shaping the market from this past quarter and provides a glimpse into the research and data analytics in which Compass prides itself.

Download Report HERE





Highlighting a few trends:

  • The total number of closings in the third quarter (2,739) was below expectations, down 25% compared to the third quarter last year. However, total contracts signed exhibited a more modest decline (-8% Y-o-Y) and actually increased year-over-year for co-op units priced between $1M and $3M. When considering these figures, it is important to remember the variable lag time between contract signing date and closing date as well as the unpredictable closing schedules of new development condominiums, which make up an increasingly large percentage of the over market.
  • Available inventory is seemingly disconnected from the demands of the market at this moment in time, as units priced above $3M make up 28% of inventory and less than 14% of contracts signed. Co-op inventory is limited (45% of total inventory) and demand is high (54% of contracts signed) as asking prices continue to rise in the condo market.
  • The median price of active condo units was $2.3M in the third quarter, up 10% year-over-year and 44% higher than the median contract price of condo units this quarter ($1.6M). Them median closing price for condos ($1.65M) was a 10% increase compared to the third quarter last year, while the median closing price for co-op units set a new high at $820K. 

432 West 52nd Street, Unit 6F

432 West 52nd Street, Unit 6F


1 Bed  |  1 Bath

Offered At $1,080,000

Taxes: $950 / mo.  |  CC:$847 / mo.  |  New Development  |  24hr Doorman  |  Roof Deck & Gym


Spectacular views and stunning finishes line this brand-new, penthouse-level home providing a rare opportunity to live in a spectacular new-construction building without paying the sponsor’s transfer taxes and closing cost fees!

Beautiful views from a long row of oversized north-facing windows make this one of the most desirable apartments in the building. The light-filled one-bedroom, one-bath home is topped by 9-foot ceilings while white oak hardwood floors run underfoot. The great room provides ample space for living and dining areas while the nearby open kitchen is a model of efficient, attractive design with integrated refrigerator, stainless steel appliances, lacquer cabinets and sleek Caesarstone countertops.

The large windowed bedroom is a serene space with a large closet, and two more large closets throughout the home ensure that storage is never an issue.
 The sleek bathroom features a custom vanity, frameless glass walk-in shower, gorgeous floor-to-ceiling tile and radiant heat flooring. Central climate control, energy-efficient windows and an in-unit washer-dryer provide the ultimate in comfort and convenience.

432 W 52 is a boutique condominium with extensive amenities including a 4,200-square-foot common landscaped roof deck, spacious residents' lounge, fully equipped fitness center and 24-hour doorman. Situated in Midtown within walking distance of Central Park, the Theater District, Columbus Circle and Times Square, the location is quite literally at the center of it all! Nearby access to the A/C/E, B/D, 1 and N/Q/R subway lines puts the rest of the city at your feet.

Neighborhood Guide HERE

Compass Nabs LA Top Firm The Agency’s Sports & Entertainment Division Chief

Compass is continuing its poaching spree. This time, the brokerage nabbed the managing director of competitor the Agency’s sports and entertainment division to lead its own similar division.

Agent Kofi Nartey, whose client list has included basketball great Michael Jordan; recording artist Iggy Azalea; and NFL veterans LaDainian Tomlinson and Marcellus Wiley, will work out of Compass’ Beverly Hills office and will focus on the specialized needs of professional athletes and entertainers, the company said.

“Compass Global Sports & Entertainment Division will serve a very important niche market that is equal parts real estate and concierge services,” said Robert Reffkin, Compass Founder and CEO. “Sports stars and entertainers often find themselves having to shift life and career plans in a moment’s notice, and with Kofi’s expertise, Compass is prepared to seamlessly guide them through any stage in their journeys whether in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Washington DC, or beyond.”

Nartey said he had not been planning a departure from the Agency but couldn’t resist a chance to build a team from scratch with national reach.

Compass does have some credibility with the sporting set. Golfer Greg Norman recently listed his $55 million Colorado ranch with Compass broker Steven Shane.

A former football player at the University of California at Berkeley, Nartey has also appeared in several films and is regularly a featured agent on HGTV’s “Selling LA.”

Annabelle Selldorf's Pricey, Exclusive Bowery Condos Are Now For Sale With COMPASS

The building will be home to just five expensive condos (four duplexes and the penthouse), starting at $6.5 million for the cheapest and going up to $17 million for the three-floor, tower-topping penthouse. True to form, each apartment will also have ultra-luxury finishes, including cabinetry designed by Selldorf Architects and "disappearing kitchens" outfitted in white oak and soapstone.

There will also be a private entry on 3rd Street through a "landscaped mews" lined with seasonal greenery, including magnolias and evergreen shrubs. That's in addition to the communal garden on the third floor of the building, along with the private balconies found in each apartment.

A $16 Million Westchester Lake House With Golf Greens, Illegal Beach

A $16 Million Westchester Lake House With Golf Greens, Illegal Beach

The 10-acre estate, an hour's drive from NYC, has had just three owners in 90 years.

James Tarmy jstarmy

June 8, 2016 — 7:30 AM EDT 

Mark Mosello, an outdoor lighting designer whose business, Design Lighting by Markshas lit the estates of financiers like Sanford Weill and Jamie Dimon, is selling a mansion of his own. The six bedroom, eight-bath house is on offer for $15,985,000.

The original house was built in 1928, and significantly enlarged by the present owner.

The original house was built in 1928, and significantly enlarged by the present owner.

 The property sits on over 10 acres.

 The property sits on over 10 acres.

Mosello has lived in the house for more than 25 years. "My broker found this unbelievable piece of property, this was in 1990 when the housing market was as bad as it was in 2008," he said during an interview. Offered at $1 million, "I couldn't afford it, but I couldn't afford not to buy it,"and after paying a $240,000 downpayment, moved in.

At the time, the house was just about 2,200 square feet, Mosello said. Built in 1928 for a descendent of Enoch Mead, who owned the entirety of Lake Waccabuc and the surrounding area, the house has had a total of three owners; the Mead family sold it in 1940 to a composer who lived there for 50 years, said Mosello.

The home's interior.

The home's interior.

The property also has a one-bedroom guesthouse, a 100 foot-long dock, and a boat house.

There are a total of six bedrooms.

There are a total of six bedrooms.

"Originally, the boathouse was across the lake, and one winter they pushed it across the ice," said Mosello. "That's how it came to be part of my house."

Eventually, Mosello found that the house was too small to raise his five children, and in 2001 built a 6,000-square-foot addition to the main house, adding five bedrooms and three full baths. In total, the house now spans just under 10,000 square feet.

The house looks out onto conserved land.

The house looks out onto conserved land.

The house looks out onto conserved land.

Mosello is also finishing up a recent interior renovation, where he's transformed five rooms in the original house into three larger spaces.

"And out of the master bath we have a set of staircases that lead to a 40-foot-long dressing room," Mosello said, noting that the dressing room has its own terrace and "the most unbelievable view."

One of the home's eight bathrooms.

One of the home's eight bathrooms.

That view looks out over the property, which has two golf greens, a driving range, and 10 tee boxes for 10 different golf shots, Mosello said. There's also an infinity pool and a heated spa that can be used year round. The property has 300 feet of direct waterfront, along which Mosello installed about 60 feet of beach, for which he paid a "huge" fine. ("I'm not good at following rules," he said during a phone call.)

The house, which is about an hour's drive from Manhattan, is far away from the road—even the gate is set 100 feet back "so that it's understated," Mosello said, adding that he leveled the driveway and spent "about a zillion dollars to do it."

"When you start talking about the house you realize how unique it is," Mosello said. "But I don't notice because I've lived there all my life." 

One of the home's eight bathrooms.

181 Mead Street in Waccabuc, NY is listed by Elise Knutsson of Douglas Elliman and Dylan Hoffman of Compass.

Down to One Resident in 15,600 Square Feet, a Missionary Sisterhood’s Home Is for Sale

Down to One Resident in 15,600 Square Feet, a Missionary Sisterhood’s Home Is for Sale

JUNE 6, 2016

The Appraisal


The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have served others across the world for more than a century. They have salved wounds in the slums of India, prayed with prisoners in Brazil, built schools in Cameroon and provided aid to a shaken Haiti.

Hundreds of the sisters of the Immaculati Cordis Mariae have also passed through the brownstone-framed doors of 236 and 238 East 15th Street. Since 1948, the sisterhood, begun in Belgium, has resided here on Stuyvesant Square.

For all their globe-trotting, many of the sisters still consider Manhattan their spiritual home.

“I remember seeing the park, and being so excited to have some greenery,” Sister Rosemary Cicchitti said last week during a tour of the house. She arrived in the summer 1953, before departing for Antigua. “When I was away, I would think of the park. And when I moved back, it was so nice to have it outside my window again.”

Sister Rita Cavaretta, who came to the house the same year, said: “It was so beautiful. The only problem was there was no air-conditioning then, and the drunkards would gather in the park and keep us up at night, so we had to yell at them to be quiet.”

And though she arrived here permanently only nine years ago, to serve as something of a caretaker, Sister Kathryn Vercelline always felt a connection when she passed through between one mission and the next.

“Seeing all the sisters, and seeing all the souvenirs from their travels, it was a reminder of the work we do,” said Sister Vercelline, who has served in Brazil and Rome.

Those memories are fading too, along with the sisterhood. By the 1960s, its ranks had dwindled to such an extent that the order began to rent some of its 25 bedrooms to other congregations and even to other young women. But even the boarders, and a top-to-bottom renovation in the last decade, were not enough to keep the Missionary Sisters at the site. Last spring, eight of those remaining relocated to the Bronx, to a Jewish nursing home, of all places, which has become something of a sanctuary for retired nuns. Three different orders call it home, and they quite enjoy the kosher meals, too.

By the 1980s, the sisterhood’s ranks had dwindled to such an extent that the order began to rent some of its 25 rooms to young women. KARSTEN MORAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Sister Vercelline was the only one to remain on East 15th Street, amid the African, Indian and Mongolian tapestries; the carved elephants from the Philippines and palm trees from Haiti; the crucifixes and icons from all over; and the occasional prayer group or guest to keep her company in the 15,600-square-foot residence.

That is a lot of space in the middle of Manhattan in 2016. As so many religious groups have done, the sisters are cashing out. The homes are now on the market for a combined $19.75 million.

“I saw the wisdom in it,” said Sister Cavaretta, who returned here in 2000, following a volcanic eruption at her final mission, in Montserrat. “For me, personally, happiness isn’t attached to buildings, it’s attached to people.”

With the sale, the order will have only one home in the United States, just outside Brownsville, Tex. It once occupied properties in Albany; East Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Wilson, N.C.; and Yonkers, among others.

The proceeds will be distributed to missions around the world, after enough is set aside for the sisters to live out their days in the Bronx.

“It can help, especially since in Belgium there are over 300 sisters, but the majority of them are over 80,” Sister Vercelline said. “I think the youngest just turned 50.”

At 64, she is the youngest, and likely last, of the Immaculati in the United States.

After putting up the “For Sale” signs two weeks ago, the brokers, Lisa Kobiolke and Leonard Steinberg of the brokerage Compass, have received more than two dozen inquiries. They have shown the homes three times, including to an art dealer couple who would like to use one building as a gallery.

“I remember seeing the park, and being so excited to have some greenery,” Sister Rosemary Cicchitti said last week. She arrived in 1958, two years after taking her vows. KARSTEN MORAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dylan Hoffman, Lisa Kobiolke & Leonard Steinberg

Dylan Hoffman, Lisa Kobiolke & Leonard Steinberg

“We thought we’d have a lot of interest in dividing the homes in two, but so far, most everyone seems to want both,” Ms. Kobiolke said. (Such combos are becoming quite common in Manhattan; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick recently bought two townhouses on 11th Street for $34 million, while Madonna has a $40 million, triple-wide spread on East 81st Street. And there is former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s continuing project, an East 78th Street combination).

Such a sale would arguably bring the 1850s Greek Revival-style homes full circle. According to research by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (both properties lie within the Stuyvesant Square Historic District), No. 236 was first occupied by Mahlon Day, an early children’s book publisher, while No. 238 was home to a ship chandler. The neighbors included a lime merchant and a tea dealer.

Before the sisterhood arrived, No. 236 had been home to the St. Elizabeth’s Industrial School for Girls since the 1920s. The family of George Bird Grinnell, the naturalist and founder of the Audubon Society, owned No. 238, followed by a dentist, who sold it to the nuns.

The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was established in New York almost by accident. It was founded in 1897 by Mother Marie Louise De Meester, who was visiting during World War I following a missionary trip to St. Croix. During her stay, she realized a residence in the city might not only ease the order’s work in the Western Hemisphere, but also improve recruitment.

A house at 437 West 47th Street became the order’s first outpost in the United States. Faced with condemnation there for an urban renewal project, the sisterhood moved to 236 East 15th Street in 1948, then home to the St. Joseph’s Residence for Working Girls.

“The lights in the girls’ rooms used to be set to a master switch,” Sister Cavaretta recalled, “and we slept with our lights switched on. That way, if the girls tried to turn on the light, it would wake us up, too, and we could get them back to bed.”

In 1952, the order bought No. 238 and combined the two townhouses through a doorway on each floor.

“It’s the perfect story of international ownership in New York — people who live here don’t just live here,” Mr. Steinberg, the Compass broker, said. “And think of all the amazing work this real estate facilitated. If you rented, this never would have been possible.”

Nor will it be.

“Ideally it would have gone to one of the congregations, but none of them could afford it,” Sister Vercelline said. “If it’s a family that can find joy here like we did, that’s fine,” she continued. “We have our preferences, and God has his.”

See the article HERE

450 West 17th Street, Unit 2306

Available Immediately

The Caledonia • Condo in Chelsea, Manhattan, NY, 10011

450 West 17th Street, Unit 2306



$9,900 / MONTH


Welcome home to this high floor, split two bedroom with stunning views of all of downtown Manhattan and the Hudson River! The spacious, open layout has plenty of living and dining space plus two large bedrooms all with oversized south facing windows flooding every room with amazing light. The open kitchen is equipped with top of the line appliances and finished with bamboo cabinetry making the design and functionality perfect for endless cooking and entertaining. The master suite includes a five-fixture bathroom along with a large walk-in closet while the second bathroom, in-unit washer dryer and ample storage by California Closets complete the space. 

The Caledonia is one of West Chelsea’s premier full service buildings offering wonderful amenities include multiple indoor/outdoor entertaining spaces, direct access to Equinox Gym with preferred rates, storage and on-site parking.