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Rendering of Lutece at 249 East 50th Street and a menu from the famous French restaurant that stood at the site Rendering of Lutece at 249 East 50th Street and a menu from the famous French restaurant that stood at the site
Along with scores of healthcare and essential service workers, owners and employees of small businesses clinging to life have become the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include everyone from the grocery and delivery workers who help ensure the Big Apple is fed to the employees of reopened restaurants that provide a glimpse of normalcy and hope for what a reimagined, more pedestrian-oriented city New York could become.
One of Manhattan's most iconic eateries that never had a chance to give their take on outdoor dining is the 2004-shuttered restaurant Lutèce at 249 East 50th Street. Once considered the best restaurant in the country, whom Zagat awarded the finest place to eat for six consecutive years in the 80's, Lutece's French cuisine transcended its 8-by-18-foot kitchen to the palates of Manhattan's elite, Julia Child, and the imagination of mainstream America.
Featured in films such as Wall Street, Crossing Delancey, The Prince of Tides, and reproduced for a scene in the TV series Mad Men, according to a 2018 NY Times obituary dedicated to the restaurant's founder Andre Surmain, the interior donned tapestries, gold damask drapes, a Victorian fireplace, a mural by Jean Pages, and Baccarat crystal stemware. This story from Bowery Boogie captured its traditional interiors.
Lutece restaurant Manhattan Interior images of Lutece via Bowery Boogie
The restaurant closed in 2004 following a drop in tourists and tightening dining budgets after 9/11. Cornerstone Property Group assembled Lutèce's former cooking-school building with the adjacent walk-ups at 251 and 253 holding restaurants Leopard and Kate Kearney's. The properties were sold in 2006 for $13.6 million and financing was obtained from Lehman Brothers in 2007 for, of course, a residential condo. Plans stalled once the bank went belly up along with the rest of the world economy.
In 2011, the assemblage was put on the market as a development site with 51,000 buildable square feet and in 2014, a consortium of Chinese families purchased the site for $17 million according to The Real Deal/city records. Now, with the city facing another crisis, the new condominium building has reached its uppermost floor and is waiting for an opportune moment to launch sales.
249-East-50th-Street The unadorned lot line wall facing Second Avenue is disgusting
249 East 50th Street in July 2020
Midtown East condos
Adopting the name of the great restaurant that operated at the site for more than 40 years, Lutèce will be a 15-floor condo that hosts 29 large apartments that include full-floors homes and a duplex penthouse. Issac and Stern are the architects and drew up a safe exterior design composed of limestone and glass, and a massing reflective of the two zoning districts the project is in. The taller wing of the 190-foot-building rises closer to Second Avenue, while the western end scales down to seven stories and more closely matches the heights of other mid-block buildings.
Residential amenities will include a bicycle room, resident storage, a laundry room, and a recreational room on the top floor. Sales should launch by year's end, and delivery is estimated for sometime in early 2021. Standing at the cusp of Turtle Bay and Midtown East, new nearby condo developments include The Centrale (13 one- to four-bed availabilities from $1.76M - $12.5M), 301 East 50th Street (condos for rent from $5,850/month), and Halcyon which has three one- and two-bedroom condos from $1.995M.
Manhattan condo prices Average closing prices of condos in Midtown East compared to the Manhattan average (CityRealty)

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