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St. James Tower, 415 East 54th Street: Review and Ratings

between Sutton Place South & First Avenue View Full Building Profile

Carter Horsley
Review of 415 East 54th Street by Carter Horsley

The St. James Tower is a 32-story, 106-unit tower at 415 East 54th Street that was erected in 1983 and designed by Emery Roth & Sons for a development group that included some English investors headed by Michael W. Stevens and Peter J. de Savary. 

It was built on the former site of Le Club, which, in the early 1960's, became the city's first private discotheque and for many years was its most exclusive and glamorous.  It was in a small, two-story building. 

The purplish-brown-colored building is named after a London club opened by Mr. Stevens. 

Bromley/Jacobsen Architecture and Design laid out the apartments and the public spaces.

Bottom Line

One of the more attractive, post-war apartment buildings in the Sutton Place neighborhood, St. James Tower suggests, with its unusual palette and very attractive grounds, the breezy and brazen suavity of Harris Tweed jackets sauntering about a country home garden.

Description

St. James Tower is on the same street as River Tower, a larger apartment tower set in a large plaza that was erected in 1981 and designed by Schuman Lichtenstein Claman & Efron. 

In their book, “New York 2000, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Bicentennial and the Millennium,” Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman and Jacob Tilove argued that the diagonal placement of River Tower on its three plazas represented “the urban destructiveness inherent in the 1961 zoning,” adding that “swelling with bay windows beginning on the thirtieth floor were unable to mitigate the brutal scale of the tower.” 

The authors went on to describe the St. James Tower as, “by comparison, modest,” and noted that it was intended to be, according to the developers “a palace for a privileged clientele.” 

“Indeed,” they continued, “in 1983 Paul Goldberger discussed St. James Tower together with Trump Tower and Museum Tower, calling the trio ‘surely the most serious attempts in some years to create a truly luxurious urban living space.’  The apartments, laid out by Bromley/Jacobsen Architecture and Design, which also designed the public spaces, were quite large by postwar standards and featured nine-foot-three-inch ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, black marble powder rooms, and white marble bathrooms with bidets.  The twenty-seven-foot-high glass-enclosed lobby flanked by moat-like pools of water and landscaped gardens.  The exterior was modeled with rounded corners and a skin of purplish brown iron-specked brick and gray-tinted glass.”

It should also be noted that R. Scott Bromley & Robin Jacobsen of Bromley Jacobsen designed the interior of Studio 54, the world famous discotheque, in 1977, whose electric and eclectic décor was a far cry from the English country house interiors of Le Club that St. James Tower replaced but whose members it sought as potential buyers. 

Well, River Tower really did not destroy the neighborhood and is a very powerful tower whose nice plazas clear away sufficient space for it to strut its angular and bulging stuff directly across from the not quite demure St. James cityscape.  While neither building related to its neighborhood context, River Tower’s plaza provides St. James Tower with very ample visual space even if the two are rather incongruous.

Amenities

The building has a very handsome gated landscaped side plaza, a canopied entrance, a roof deck, private storage, a concierge, a 24-hour doorman, a live-in superintendent, a bicycle room, and a gym. 

The building is also pet friendly.

While this building is chic in its minimalist style, its newness, at least in comparison with its surroundings, is quite glamorous.

This building has computerized lighting in hallways that brighten when doors open and spotlights on door-locks, and the landscaped plaza has two contiguous pools separated by the glass exterior wall of the 27-foot-high lobby.

 

 

Apartments

Apartments have bidets.

Apartment 8E has an angled 14-foot-long entry foyer that leads to an 11-foot-long dining area and a 21-foot-long living room and a 10-foot-long enclosed kitchen. 

Apartment 14F is a two-bedroom unit that has a 10-foot-long entry foyer that leads past an enclosed 8-foot-long kitchen to a 27-foot living room. 

Apartment 12D is a duplex with a 10-foot-wide entry foyer on the lower level leading to a 19-foot-long living room and 15-foot-long dining room next to a 9-foot-long kitchen o the lower level and two bedrooms on the upper level. 

Apartment 17G is a three-bedroom unit that has a 13-foot-long foyer that leads past a 15-foot-wide enclosed kitchen to a 27-foot-wide living/dining room. 

Apartment 21G is a three-bedroom unit that has a 13-foot-wide gallery that leads to a 19-foot-wide living room, a 12-foot-wide dining room and a 15-foot-wide, eat-in, pass-through kitchen.  The master bedroom has a sauna. 

Apartment 17DM is a duplex with a long entry foyer and gallery that leads to a 25-foot-long corner living room next to a 17-foot-long dining room off an enclosed kitchen and a 34-foot-long den/playroom with a small kitchen and three bedrooms on the lower level and two bedrooms on the upper level.

History

In his book, "New York A Guide To The Metropolis Walking Tours Of Architecture And History," (McGraw-Hill, 1983), Gerard R. Wolfe compares this building with River Tower, a much larger apartment tower of the same period across the street that is angled on its site: "A solid vertical cube of dark purple brick with radial corners and flush windows, this condominium building emanates strength, if not innovation, and unlike its ostentatious neighbor, hides its massiveness behind the line of the street wall." 

While this tower is not as dramatic and stark as River Tower, it is sleekly flamboyant, especially for this rather sedate and conservative Sutton Place neighborhood. The building fenestration is very handsome with very broad living room windows and the aforementioned rounded corner windows. 

The building's plaza is one of the best in the city with good landscaping, water and seating and attractive lighting. It is, indeed, a rather unexpected but needed amenity in such a built-up environment. The only trouble is that this block really did not need two midblock plazas. 

Michael Stephens, one of the building's developers, brought the 17,500-square-foot plot for about $7 million from the Lefrak Oranization that had planned a building to be called Le Club.

Rating

30
Out of 44

Architecture Rating: 30 / 44

+
29
Out of 36

Location Rating: 29 / 36

+
22
Out of 39

Features Rating: 22 / 39

+
9
=
90

CityRealty Rating Reference

 
Architecture
  • 30+ remarkable
  • 20-29 distinguished
  • 11-19 average
  • < 11 below average
 
Location
  • 27+ remarkable
  • 18-26 distinguished
  • 9-17 average
  • < 9 below average
 
Features
  • 22+ remarkable
  • 16-21 distinguished
  • 9-15 average
  • < 9 below average
  • #17 Rated condo - Midtown
  • #1 Rated condo - Beekman/Sutton Place
 
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