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Splitsville at Jumbo Condo

It was designed as the ultimate Upper West Side penthouse—a huge two-floor abode with 11 bedrooms, including two rooms for staff, a private elevator and a 2,300-square-foot rooftop garden.

But since failing to find a buyer after going on the market last year for $37.5 million—a price that would have made it one of the largest apartment sales in New York—the condominium penthouse is being split into two parts in a bid to sell each floor separately. The combined asking prices for the two units is even higher—$45 million, according to public records.

The jumbo condo, at 535 West End Avenue on the corner of West 86th Street, was a rare marketing miss for Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development, who put up the building and had once considered moving into the huge space with his family.

Mr. Barnett, one of the most active developers in Manhattan, is now building the most expensive condo tower in the city—the $2 billion 1,005-foot skyscraper on West 57th Street, known as One57, where the penthouse is now priced at $115 million.

Several West Side brokers said that on the affluent but studiously unshowy Upper West Side, Mr. Barnett overestimated the market potential for an apartment that measures 13,779 square feet, plus the terrace.

“It was a fabulous space, no question about it,” one neighborhood broker said. “It is just not the place where you can sell that kind of a property.”

Jonathan Miller, an appraiser and president of Miller Samuel Inc., said he thought it was a “case of not pricing correctly to begin with.”

“It doesn’t speak to anything other than the unfounded optimism in the beginning,” Mr. Miller said.

West Side broker Robby Browne of Corcoran Group said simply that the nine-bedroom apartment was “too big for the neighborhood.”

In an email, Mr. Barnett said he decided to break up the penthouse after he “got an offer to split it.” He said a buyer has now signed a contract to buy the top-floor apartment with the terrace. He declined to identify the buyer or the selling price. “Quality and design is appreciated everywhere,” he said in the email. Brokers said the apartment had been completely finished with fine moldings and a connecting staircase between the two floors that will now have to be ripped out. A condo plan amendment shows a new list price of $25.5 million for the penthouse floor, and $19.5 million for the floor below.

Deals at or near such prices would still put them in top ranks of Manhattan condo sales. Only six residences have sold for more than $20 million on the Upper West Side north of West 63rd Street, and all have been in buildings on Central Park West facing Central Park.

Details of the condo split were laid out in filings at the Buildings Department and at the state attorney general’s office. The new floor plans still show the private elevator shaft, with seven bedrooms on the 20th floor and four bedrooms one floor above. A staircase connecting the two apartments is gone.

The plan to split the apartment became known as Extell made a significant price cut on the only other full-floor apartment in the building that hasn’t yet been sold. The price of that apartment, with a wrap around terrace was cut by $1 million to $18.5 million.

Asked about that price cut, Mr. Barnett said it showed that the “market has tightened” with buyers making stronger offers. Lisa Lippman, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens with the listing, declined to comment on it.

When the 22 apartments in the building at 535 West End Ave. went on the market in April 2008 before the downturn, brokers were told that the penthouse was reserved for Mr. Barnett, who was thinking about moving there from his house in Queens that is nearly as large.

But in July, Mr. Barnett brought in Raphael De Niro, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman with many celebrity clients, to try to sell the penthouse behemoth. At the time, Mr. Barnett said that whatever plans he had had about living there had changed.

In November, Mr. De Niro’s listing ended, according to listing data on StreetEasy.com. A few weeks later, Extell filed an amendment announcing the split in apartments. Mr. DeNiro was traveling yesterday, and didn’t respond to emails.

In recent years, as the value of larger apartments soared compared with smaller units, combinations of two or even three apartments became a routine occurrence in Manhattan.

Apartment splits are rare, but not unheard of. Laurie Tisch, the philanthropist and daughter of Robert Preston Tisch, a founder of Loews Corp., listed a co-op on two floors at the Brentmore at 88 Central Park West for $25 million in 2010.

But when it didn’t sell, each floor of the co-op was eventually sold separately last year to neighbors already living in the building, property records show. The combined price was $19.1 million.

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