Anna Delvey may currently be in the custody of ICE awaiting deportation to Germany, but 281 Park Ave. S., the gorgeous Gramercy Park building the ‘Soho grifter” attempted to lease through a series of long cons in 2015 and which appeared prominently in “Inventing Anna,” the Netflix series chronicling her New York crime spree, is officially up for grabs for the first time in nearly a decade! Repped by brothers Tal and Oren Alexander, who just left Douglas Elliman to launch their own firm Official, the six-story Gothic-style structure is being offered for an eye-popping $135 million, an amount that likely exceeds the budgets of most real German heiresses, let alone a fake one! But, as the Alexanders explain, “The price is in line with what you would expect from an asset of this caliber.” 281 Park is nothing if not a trophy property!
Completed in 1894, the landmarked tower was designed by architects Robert W. Gibson and Edward J. Neville Stent for the Protestant Episcopal Church’s Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Initially known as the Church Missions House, the facility was utilized as executive office space for employees of the religious group from its inception through 1963, at which point it was sold to the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agency. When FPWA moved out in 2014, 281 Park landed on the open market again, eventually selling to Aby Rosen of RFR Holding for $50 million. The real estate titan put the building up for lease and it was at that time that Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) attempted to swindle her way into establishing her eponymous private club on the premises. She had some competition, though, in the form of Jan Broman, the co-founder of Sweden’s Fotografiska photography museum, who had been seeking to open a sister site in New York.
Shortly after first seeing the structure while on a taxi ride down Park Ave. and becoming immediately enamored, Broman secured a deal to lease all six floors. Following a significant $30 million renovation during which the interior was thoroughly overhauled by the CetraRuddy architecture firm, Fotografiska opened its doors in 2019 and quickly became a popular New York attraction. As noted on the museum’s official website, the facility serves to “inspire a more conscious world through the art of photography” by showcasing “the greatest photographers, whether they’re emerging artists or already established internationally.”
Anna didn’t fare nearly as well as her beloved building. She was arrested in 2017, largely due to her efforts to obtain a $22 to $35 million bank loan to fund her club venture, which, as detailed by Forbes, led her on “a years-long journey falsifying financial documents, cashing bad checks and lying her way through countless companies’ due diligence processes.” She was ultimately convicted on eight counts, including second-degree grand larceny and first-degree attempted grand larceny, and served almost four years in prison. Just six short weeks after her release in February 2021, she was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for overstaying her Visa and currently sits awaiting her impending deportation, occasionally giving podcast interviews on the side.
The entire sordid tale was famously – though not exactly faithfully – retold via “Inventing Anna,” which debuted earlier this year with Julia Garner in the titular role.
281 Park proved the show’s breakout star, its glorious granite and Indiana limestone façade captivating the main characters and viewing audiences alike! A highlight of the Manhattan skyline ever since it was erected well over a century ago, the structure is even more revered following its recent television role. Of the property’s newfound screen fame, the Alexanders said, “281 Park Avenue South was very well known to New Yorkers before the tv show – it’s one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in the city. I think what ‘Inventing Anna’ did was put the building on a much bigger stage. People visiting from all over the world now come to take selfies with the building.”
The property appeared a handful of times in the Shonda Rhimes-backed production, namely in episode four, “A Wolf in Chic Clothing,” as Anna tours the structure, barking ideas to the potential board members and investors trailing behind her, seemingly hanging upon her every word. Because Fotografiska is a working museum, only the exterior was available for filming. Interiors were shot about 25 miles away at the Hempstead House on Long Island.
The inside of 281 Park is no doubt screen-worthy, though.
Just past the magnificent arches and towering columns that make up the building’s distinctive façade lies 45,000 square feet of sumptuous space. The museum’s lower level comprises a gift shop, a café and a bar, with the latter situated inside the Church Mission House’s former chapel, an elegantly moody enclave tucked beneath an ornate vaulted ceiling.
The second level houses the gilded Verōnika restaurant (pictured above), which recently reopened after a 10-month closure much to the delight of its many fans and is now being operated by CultureWorks, Fotografiska’s parent company. Lined with plank wood flooring and outfitted in gleaming golds and rich blues, the eatery’s conversion from vacant office space to chic brasserie had Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post declaring, “It might be the finest transformation of a historic, private space into a venue for public consumption — namely, food consumption — since Grand Central Terminal’s Campbell Apartment two decades ago.”
The structure’s remaining four levels comprise exhibit, gallery and special event space.
Those who can’t quite swing the $135 million price tag to purchase the building will be relieved to know that tickets to Fotografiska run a much more affordable $26 and allow patrons up close and personal views of 281 Park’s dazzling interiors. The museum is even currently offering complimentary glasses of bubbly to nighttime visitors each Thursday through Saturday for a truly elevated – and, dare I say it, Anna Delvey-inspired – experience.