By Ritika Jain
Photography by Evan Joseph
In New York City, it’s impossible to count the number of grand, historic buildings you end up walking past. The city is dotted with towering buildings that have withstood the test of time. If you’ve been watching the hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, you might have noticed one of them. The show is predominantly set at The Belnord, a timeless prewar residence built in 1909 that takes up an entire block on the Upper West Side.
The Belnord boasts a commanding presence with exquisite, regal architecture and private, spacious entrances for residents to comfortably unload their belongings. Despite being built over a century ago, the building offers the height of modern luxury with renovated condominiums and a redesigned courtyard, making it especially attractive for affluent buyers.
Given the location of The Belnord, one would think that privacy would be hard to attain. However, the building is structured so that residents can freely enter and exit without wrestling through a crowd. There are 6 different residential lobbies, each with a private elevator, grand staircase, and freight lift to lead them up to their residence. The lobbies themselves are extremely upscale, with white high-gloss painted wall paneling, satin nickel hardware, and restored polished mosaic floors.
As for the residences, they are essentially large, apartment-style homes and nothing short of impressive. Robert A.M. Stern can be credited for the interiors, rethinking the original floor plan to implement a classic layout with contemporary features that complement the building’s structure while satisfying modern tastes.
Common features include grand arrival foyers; gracious bedroom galleries; a 5-inch, rift-cut, solid white oak chevron accent floor; and custom base, casing, and crown moldings. The kitchens are also notable elements, custom designed by Robert A.M. Stern and complete with polished Calacatta Gold marble countertops, a windowed eat-in area, and appliances by the luxury appliance brand Gaggenau, including a 5-burner gas cooktop and fully integrated column refrigerator and freezer.
Upon restoring The Belnord, the architect and designer were committed to retaining the prewar aesthetic while accommodating modern living expectations, according to Maya Kadouri, The Belnord’s director of sales at Douglas Elliman. In order to accomplish this, they used some of the same materials used in the original structure to preserve the building’s original feel. While today’s homebuyers have their eyes set on all things modern, the prewar aesthetic of The Belnord is a rare offering on the Upper West Side that exudes class and opulence.
“Restoring any prewar building, you have to be extremely knowledgeable in how to restore, but also create something that buyers of today can relate to while still retaining the prewar aesthetic. We try to use subtle, modern finishes and natural materials to highlight the history of the building,” explains Kadouri.
Aside from the desirable prewar design, the vast collection of amenities at The Belnord, known as The Belnord Club, also remain a significant draw for homebuyers. Residents of all ages enjoy access to a variety of spaces to dine, entertain, relax and stay active, including a sophisticated entertainment lounge with a dining room, a state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga studio, aerobics/stretching room, and a sauna with locker rooms.
The children’s playroom is full of whimsy and imagination, creating the perfect refuge for children to play and engage while teens can congregate in the teen lounge, which offers a pool table and separate kitchen. The double-height, high-tech sports court is also popular for its leather-cushioned walls and multipurpose use.
“It’s rare to find a prewar building with 30,000 square feet of interior and exterior amenities,” says Kadouri. In order to keep the building up to date with current demands, this is achieved by assessing how people like to spend their leisure time and what is missing from their residence, she says.
“The concept is to have an extension of your residence so you have somewhere else that feels like a part of your home. Now we see sports courts are very much a draw as well as separate lounges and playrooms for older and younger children.” All the amenities are strategically located on the ground floor or second floor, rather than in the basement, ensuring the utmost service and convenience for residents
When considering all the perks The Belnord has to offer, the pinnacle is undeniably the courtyard garden, which is one of the city’s largest at 22,000 square feet. A large interior courtyard that serves as the focal point of a building is also a historic concept, harkening back to European palatial architecture, says Kadouri. Re-landscaped by Edward Hollander, it now offers beautiful greenery, a tranquil water fountain, and great light. “It adds a much-needed sense of serenity and a respite from city life,” reaffirms Kadouri.
The Belnord has seen growing interest in its residences, particularly due to its presence in the show “Only Murders in the Building,” which premiered in 2019 on Hulu and just released a star-studded second season. It serves as an important character in the story of three residents who bond over their true-crime obsession when a murder takes place in their building, coined as the “Arconia.”
Evidently, the show markets the building well as affluent viewers are making the transition to residents. The building has had three deals over $10 million in the last month, and the condominiums are nearly 75 percent sold.
When selecting a location for their comedic murder mystery, creator John Hoffman and actor Steve Martin were looking for a rare Upper West Side retreat with a large courtyard, and The Belnord made their vision possible. Current residents have even had the perks of getting a sneak peak of the filming of the second season.
“In the last episode, they invited some of the residents as extras. A ton of crowds would form outside the gate and get a peek of the stars. There was one day they were filming and they turned all of 86th Street into a stage and brought in cars and buses for one of the scenes,” relates Kadouri.
The Belnord has a layered history and an equally intriguing present, offering a romantic city lifestyle with almost every luxury at your fingertips. Get a closer look in the show “Only Murders in the Building,” or stop by the grand structure in person. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a sneak peek of Season 3.