Many people said the Zeckendorf brothers paid too much in 2004 when they bought the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West and tore it down to put up a new condo building.
But the new apartment complex they built at 15 Central Park West turned into a runaway success. Sales of the large condominium units in the building facing Central Park totaled about $2 billion, ranking it as what is still the most expensive apartment buildings to open in Manhattan.
| Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal
A former Salvation Army residence for women on Gramercy Park South is being converted into large condos.
Now the real-estate veterans are bringing many of the same elements into play as they redevelop another hotel-this one a former Salvation Army residence for 300 women know as the Parkside Evangeline that sits across from another park, Gramercy Park in the East 20s.
In the new project, dubbed 18 Gramercy Park, Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf are working with the same architect as at 15 Central Park West, Robert A.M. Stern, and with the same partner, Eyal Ofer, an Israeli billionaire with interests in shipping and real estate.
They also are using the same playbook: designing large, expensive apartments in the 17-story building, with condo prices running from $9.25 million for a two-bedroom maisonette, to $42 million for a five-bedroom duplex penthouse with four terraces and two outdoor pools.
The average price is $17.5 million for the 16 apartments in the building, according plan documents.
"Arthur and I pioneered in creating very large prewar style apartments, and we haven't changed much at all," William Zeckendorf said.
The building, flanked by white columns, faces the graceful private gardens behind the iron bars of Gramercy Park. It also faces a statue of Edwin Booth, the famed 19th-century Shakespearean actor and brother of John Wilkes Booth. Buyers in the building are eligible to get keys to the park for an annual fee.
Gramercy Park-created in the 1830s as a private real-estate amenity to help market the surrounding lots-is still working its charms.
A large private mansion was built on the site of 18 Gramercy Park in the 1840s, and in the early 20th century, it became the home for a succession of private clubs.
In the 1920s, the house was torn down and replaced with the 17-story residential hotel for women, known as the Parkside. In the 1960s, the Salvation Army renovated the small studio apartments in the building and reopened it as a residence with strict rules, but low rents that included breakfast, dinner and maid service.
It added the name Evangeline to the building, for Evangeline Booth, a daughter of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.
At 15 Central Park West, the Zeckendorfs paid $401 million for the hotel and a surrounding lot. At the time, it was a record price for a development site.
At 18 Gramercy Park, the brothers paid $60 million for a much smaller site with 40 feet on Gramercy Park and 134 feet along Irving Place.
The Zeckendorfs went into contract to buy the Parkside Evangeline in 2007, at the height of the market.
Rendering of a new bedroom. The developers include Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf.
But the closing for the purchase was delayed, first by a lawsuit by some of the women living in the building fighting eviction, then while the Salvation Army got a formal certification from the city that it hadn't harassed any residents. Finally, William Zeckendorf said, it was delayed for a time by market conditions.
The deal finally closed in 2010. Since then, construction crews have ripped out hundreds of small rooms, and won permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to enlarge the windows, including four large windows facing the park, so they are now typically nearly seven feet high. Most apartments are a full floor and have 28 windows.
Unlike loft-style layouts now common in new buildings, the apartments at 18 Gramercy Park have separate kitchens with breakfast rooms as well as dining rooms or libraries, formal entrance galleries and large master bedroom suites with two bathrooms, including one with an oversize soaking tub.
Mr. Stern created a Georgian-style lobby with a large oval plasterwork in the ceiling, a patterned stone floor and oak-paneled walls to echo the style of the building.
But the building came with some design limitations: On most floors ceiling heights top out at just under 9 feet, lower than in many new buildings.
Jill Mangone, director of sales at 18 Gramercy Park, said that an informal marketing campaign is now under way, with sales scheduled to formally launch in an on-site model apartment in September.
Several condos were "already spoken for," Mr. Zeckendorf said.
A version of this article appeared July 11, 2012, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Zeckendorfs Swing for Hit at Another Park.
To read the article on the WSJ website, click here.