New York City — especially Manhattan — may seem to have little room left on which to build, but when it comes to finding space for new residential construction, there’s always something new around the corner. While the occasional co-op building does still get built from scratch in the city, the vast majority of conversions and new construction are intended as condos, says Tim Norton of Cantor Pecorella, a marketing firm that represents many developers and their projects.
The reasons for the disparity are simple, according to Norton. “There are a lot more benefits to condominiums than co-ops,” he says. “With a condominium, you own your home free and clear, there are a lot fewer restrictions, and more freedom for the individual owner.”
And while talk of a slowdown in the city’s real estate market has been swirling for months, it appears to be mostly rumor and conjecture, at least for some developers and brokerages. For example, developer Related Residential Sales claims that in less than a year, their own newest properties are between 65 percent and 85 percent occupied, and sales are brisk. With that in mind, here’s an update on some of the city’s newest and upcoming properties.
In every neighborhood and borough it seems, the noise of construction activity is evident. From the farthest reaches of Manhattan to across the Verrazano Bridge, projects are going up faster than a supersonic transport. According to Yale Robbins Inc.’s Guide to Construction Activity in New York City, there were 7,954 newly constructed and renovated units scheduled to come online in 2005, and another 7,562 on tap for 2006 just in Manhattan alone up to 96th Street. Further uptown north of 96th Street in Manhattan another 4,459 units are either in the process of being built or on the drawing board. Proposed new construction and alterations planned for Manhattan neighborhoods in 2007 and beyond is nearly 25,000 units. In Brooklyn over 15,000 units are in the pipeline or proposed; Queens has 9,340 units of new construction and renovations planned; the Bronx, 3,866 units of new construction; and Staten Island, nearly 300 units.
The Upper East
Related Residential Sales has several new projects in the works all across the city, mostly focusing on super luxury high-rise condominiums. One of the company’s three newest projects is One Carnegie Hill, at 215 East 96th Street, which features amenities and interiors designed by David Rockwell, and is offering both rental and for-sale apartments. Ground broke on the 42-story, 475-unit tower in the summer of 2004, and the project was finished this past summer. Future Related developments include Riverwalk Place and Riverwalk Landing — two projects Related is promoting as the first luxury condominiums on Roosevelt Island.
Further down on the Upper East Side, Related is awaiting word on whether or not a transit easement is needed before the company can begin work on The Veneto, their new development at 250 East 53rd Street and Second Avenue. The 137-unit condo tower is slated for occupancy in the fall of 2007.
West Side Wonders
Across the park at 555 West 59th Street, foundation work has begun on Brack Capital and Continental Equities’ Element tower, a 35-story, 200-unit condo development between West End and Amsterdam Avenues. The building will sport a sleek blue glass façade and will have multiple amenities, including an adjoining parking garage, basketball courts, a private gym, and no fewer than three swimming pools.
And at 322 West 57th Street, conversion is afoot at one of the city’s largest apartment buildings. The Sheffield has about 845 units, and is being converted from a rental to condominium offering.
The 50-story building went up in 1978, and its surroundings have become decidedly more posh as its neighborhood has gentrified around it. The new Time Warner Center is just a block to the north, and the swanky Hudson Hotel is a neighbor as well. Unit owners at The Sheffield will enjoy the use of the building’s large plaza, health club, adjacent parking garage, and roof deck.
Also on the West Side, just south of Rockefeller Plaza at 18 West 48th Street, excavation work is proceeding on the Centria, a 33-story, 150-unit tower under the auspices of the J. D. Carlisle Development Corporation. The dark blue-green glass tower will have a spa on the first floor, and a conference center, club room and lounge for the residents on the second floor.
Also on West 48th Street, but somewhat farther west is 1600 Broadway on the Square, a new 27-story, 137-unit condo project going up just north of Times Square in what is fast becoming Manhattan’s busiest residential development corridor. Developer Sherwood Equities has sold nearly all the units in the building, which is slated to be ready for occupancy later this spring. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the blazing lights and bustle of Times Square itself are just one of the development’s selling points — others include in-unit washer/dryers, custom cabinetry, stainless-steel appliances, a health club, a private billiards club on-site, and a full-service business center. Most special of all, perhaps, is the fourth-floor terrace, which according to press releases will be fully landscaped with trees, lawns, and even a putting green for golf enthusiasts. Unit prices range from $1.6 million to nearly $3 million for penthouse units.
Other West 42nd Street developments include The 550-unit Orion at 350 West 42nd Street, and a proposed 800-unit behemoth at 440 West 42nd Street currently in the early design phases and being overseen by a consortium of developers, including Twining Properties, MacFarlane Partners and The Related Companies. And construction has begun on the Atelier, a luxury condominium at 627 West 42nd Street being developed by The Moinan Group and MacFarlane Partners. The 478 units will feature the designing talent of Costas Kondylis.
Midtown and Chelsea
Of course, not all the development action is Uptown. On Broadway between 33rd and 34th Streets in the heart of Midtown, the 690 units of the Herald Towers rental building are going condo. The apartments are small — mostly one-bedrooms and studios — but residents have the use of a full gym and concierge service, not to mention views of Macy’s department store and the heart of Herald Square itself. According to CityRealty.com, prices for the condos range from around $425,000 for a studio to upward of $725,000 for a one-bedroom unit.
Moving further downtown, The Clarett Group is in the early development phase of its tall, slender Sky House project at 11 East 29th Street. The 139-unit, one- and two-bedroom condo building designed by FX Fowle Architects will tower 55 stories over the street, with a setback on its northern face.
According to the architects, “To help the building blend with its lower-scale surroundings, it’s divided into three slender masses,” each clad in a red-brown iron-spot brick. “The element facing 29th Street…is set back from the street and has an architectural expression of vertical piers.”
Creating some controversy in the Flatiron District overlooking Madison Square Park is the proposed conversion of the two buildings (15 stories and 16 stories, respectively) known as The Toy Center into luxury condos. Developers The Chetrit Group are seeking to create 460 condominium units out of the spaces at 200 Fifth Avenue and 1107 Broadway, between 23rd and 24th Streets. The complex would be called Madison Park West, and would include a large parking garage adjacent to one of the buildings. Issues have arisen between developers and the many toy companies who have offices and showrooms in the buildings — pending the relocation of the companies, work may begin on converting their former home into new homes for condo buyers.
In Manhattan’s Flower District, Pennsylvania-based developer LCOR is turning an empty lot on Sixth Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets into a 37-story, 199-unit condo tower that will be ready for residents sometime in 2007. The new condo will have private balconies, a roof deck, entertainment facilities for the residents, and a basketball court.
Closer to completion and occupancy is the 337-unit red-brick condominium building at 555 West 23rd Street. Situated between 10th and 11th Avenues. The building’s one- and two-bedroom apartments have terraces and balconies, and share common areas — including an outdoor courtyard — designed by noted interior designer Andi Pepper, whose other recent West Side projects include the swanky Gansevoort Hotel in the hot Meatpacking District further down 10th Avenue.
Farther downtown in the heart of Chelsea, parking lot owner/operator Edison Properties LLC has proposed a 2007 start-date for construction on a massive two-tower, 869-unit condo development on the site of a parking lot on West 17th Street currently used by law enforcement. The taller of the two buildings outlined in Edison’s plan would be nearly 400 feet high, and both buildings would occupy the entire block between 10th and 11th Avenues — an area that’s home to scores of nightclubs, art galleries, and the controversial High Line, which the city has designated for use as a public park.
For the last 25 years or so, Downtown Manhattan — encompassing iconic neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, and Nolita — has been one of the hottest, hippest, most desirable parts of the city. While space is at a premium below 14th Street, development still continues apace, and prices reflect the demand.
One project underway downtown is One York Street, currently in the early stages of development and slated for occupancy in April 2007. According to Norton, whose firm is representing One York Street’s developers, apartments are already selling in the 40-unit building, which is a something-old-something-new project occupying an entire block in the northernmost part of Tribeca. Architect Enrique Noten has designed an ultra-modern glass-and-steel addition to the existing historic structure, and units will range in price from $1 million for a one-bedroom to $15 million for the penthouse.
A 1,820 square-foot two-bedroom apartment with two-and-a-half baths will sell for around $2.4 million, says Norton, adding that the building’s fourth floor will feature a gym and swimming pool, and that the penthouse has its own outdoor pool. “Also,” says Norton, “there’s a fully automated parking garage connected to the building, featuring a system from Germany where you put in your keycard, and your car is put away and picked up for you.”
“This has been the hottest spot in the city for the past five to 10 years,” Norton continues. It’s on the cusp of both Tribeca and Soho — it bridges the divide between the two. It draws the young and hip people, as well as families. It’s the best of both worlds for so many people because there’s so much going on there culturally.”
Related Residential’s downtown gem is the new Astor Place condo project at 445 Lafayette Street. The tower’s undulating glass exterior was designed by Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel Architects, and has been described as a “glass and steel castle.” The building sits directly across from the famed Cooper Union on the border between Greenwich and East Villages, with the famed rotating monolith long known as the “Astor Place Cube” functioning as a post-modern lawn ornament of sorts.
The Astor Place building features 39 units priced from just under $2 million for a 1,449-square-foot two-bedroom to nearly $10 million for a 3,147 square-foot penthouse. The four penthouses have private elevator entrances, working fireplaces, terraces and 360-degree views of Manhattan’s most vibrant downtown neighborhoods. Amenities include a full-time doorman and concierge, and an on-site garage. Apartments feature polished wood floors, beamed ceilings, and kitchens complete with state-of-the-art appliances, custom cabinetry, and smooth stone countertops.
For future development, Red Brick Properties has lots in store for Greene Street in Soho. According to CityRealty.com, Red Brick recently bought two adjacent five-story, mixed-use cast-iron buildings at 67-69 Green Street, after acquiring buildings at 72-76, and 65-67.
The buildings at 72-76 Greene Street were once known as the “Kings of Greene Street” and were originally a warehouse for the Gardner Colby Company.
Barry Farhi, vice president of Itzhaki Properties represented David Slaven, a principal at Red Brick Properties, in the $11.3 million acquisition of 65-67.
“My client is bullish on Soho,” says Farhi, “so this purchase made absolute sense for them. Plus, 65 and 67 Greene Street are excellent condominium conversion candidates.”
According to Deborah Guttoff of Eastern Consolidated, who represented Slaven in his $23 million acquisition of 72-76 Greene Street from Extell Development Corporation, Slaven intends to convert those properties to residential condominiums with first floor retail uses.
In the Financial District, the conversion of a 42-story office building at 15 Broad Street and its five-story neighbor at 23 Wall Street into 325-unit luxury condo development is complete, and residents are moving in. The development, known alternately as 55 Exchange Place or Downtown by Philippe Starck and helmed by developer Leviev Boymelgreen is the former J. P. Morgan Chase & Company headquarters. Units sold very quickly after the sales office was officially opened in the summer of 2004, with prices for apartment units range from $335,000 for a studio to more than $4.5 million for a terraced two-bedroom.
Celebrated French designer Philippe Starck designed the building’s one-of-a-kind common areas, including such unusual elements as multi-media sculptures and fiber-optic lighting. The smaller of the two buildings will house multiple amenities for residents, including a private rooftop park complete with reflecting pool and an outdoor dining area for lounging and entertaining. Lower floors will contain a bowling alley, private screening room, a gym with an indoor pool, a playroom for children, and a fully functional business center for meetings and other activities.
Another landmark luxury property has opened at 55 Wall Street, just a few doors down from the Philippe Starck condos. The Cipriani Club Residences occupy a historic landmark building that was once the home of the New York Stock Exchange. 55 Wall Street has gone through a number of incarnations since, including a bank headquarters and then a hotel — which included the famous Cipriani restaurant for which the new condo development was named. After the hotel closed in 2004, however, plans to convert the rooms into $700,000-to-$3 million condos were solidified.
The finished includes 106 fully furnished units — broken down into 45 studio apartments, eight two-bedroom units, and four three-bedrooms. Unit owners were able to specify which of three professional interior design schemes they preferred, and can take advantage of the building’s top-tier amenities, including a full-service spa, private wine cellars, a salon and barbershop, a private screening room, valet parking, and a complete library — librarian included. In the spirit of the building’s former life as a hotel, residents can order “room service” from the Cipriani restaurant downstairs, which still occupies its original space.
An Interesting Trend
Perhaps one of the more noteworthy development trends afoot in the city has been the conversion of former hotels into condo residences. More than a half-dozen historic hotels have changed hands over the last year or so, with the new owners planning big changes for the buildings.
Probably the most famous example of the trend is the 805-room Plaza Hotel at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue. The iconic home of Eloise, the Oak Room, and the Palm Court shut its doors on April 30, 2005 for major renovations under the administration of its new owner, Elad Properties. Elad purchased the landmark overlooking Central Park in 2004 for a breathtaking $675 million, and according to sources, the plan is to reopen the Plaza in late 2006 as a mixed-use building with about 150 luxury hotel rooms, 200 condominiums on its top 12 stories, and brand-new retail space.
The purchase and proposed conversion of the Plaza has generated a great deal of controversy — both over the fate of the hotel’s employees, many of whom had worked there for decades, and over what would become of its landmark restaurants and interior spaces. According to the Elad development team, the Plaza’s most famous restaurants and at least one of its grand ballrooms will remain largely unchanged and will reopen in 2006 with the rest of the building.
Also on Fifth Avenue, the St. Regis hotel is in the final stages of converting more than 50 of its guestrooms into luxury condominiums. Once that phase is completed, the St. Regis reportedly will launch a $15 million renovation of its remaining guestrooms and an overhaul of its legendary restaurant, Lespinasse.
Another landmark condo project on the site of a former hotel is underway at 15 Central Park West, between 61st and 62nd Streets. Developers Arthur W. and William Lie Zeckendorf of Zeckendorf Development, LLC reportedly paid nearly $700 per buildable square-foot for what used to be the Mayflower Hotel — a record amount, even in Manhattan’s overheated real estate market.
The condo replacing the Mayflower will include two towers connected at the base: one 20 stories high, to be called “The House,” and the other 43 stories, to be called “The Tower. According to press releases, 15 Central Park West will include 202 condo units as well as 29 “suites,” which unit owners can purchase for guests, household staff, or for use as home offices. Up to 250 units may eventually be built.
According to the developer’s press release, apartment units will range from 6,617 square-foot, full-floor penthouses to 6,139 square-foot, terraced duplex penthouses to oversized, 1,026 square-foot, one-bedroom apartments — and nearly all of them will have park views. Amenities are to include wood-burning fireplaces and 10- to 14-foot ceilings in apartments, a private dining room, a private screening room, a business center, a game room, full-time maid and maintenance services, individual wine cellars, bicycle storage rooms, private storage units, and a 13,500 square-foot fitness center with a 75-foot, skylit swimming pool.
Continuing the hotel-to-condo trend, Alchemy Properties has purchased the Sutton East Hotel at 330 East 57th Street for over $52 million, according to CityRealty.com. The new owners have not made their designs on the property public as of yet, but the company is known for condo developments, and it’s not out of the question that they would convert their latest acquisition into condos as well. CityRealty.com also reports that the Stanhope Hotel at 995 Fifth Avenue has been purchased and is in the process of condo-ification, and the Drake Hotel at 440 Park Avenue will likely be demolished entirely to make way for a 70-story mixed-use tower.
If that isn’t enough to warrant being called a major trend, Philadelphia-based Berwind Property Group is converting the former Barbizon Hotel at 140 East 63rd Street and the corner of Lexington Avenue to about 65 condominium apartments as well. The developer acquired the 23-story property in 2002, renovating it and converting it to the Melrose Hotel. The hotel closed recently, but still has some existing tenants.
So much new construction and conversion focuses on high-end and luxury homes — even at the expense of valuable hotel rooms — it’s hard to find anybody who’s investing in middle- or lower-income housing, particularly in Manhattan. The issue of affordable housing has the New York City’s Department of City Planning trying hard to keep growth strong in areas that are more affordable.
“Where there’s transportation, we’ve been facilitating for growth,” says Rachaele Raynoff, press secretary for the DCP. “And where the areas are mostly lower-scale, yet successful residential areas, we’ve been preserving the scales, such as a good deal of the far West Village, because we want to have a variety of housing choices for New Yorkers as we go forward.”
Raynoff adds that the city is also offering incentives to planners, such as additional floor space in exchange for the building adding affordable units to a development.
While some developers opt to take advantage of those incentives, others choose instead to cash in on the white-hot real estate market and market their newest projects directly to buyers in the city’s top financial tiers. Regardless of the marketing plan, however — or the price-tag on the apartment — it seems like the mantra for Manhattan developers at least is, “If you build it, they will come.”
Anthony Stoeckert is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Cooperator. Associate Editor Hannah Fons and Managing Editor Debra A. Estock contributed additional research to this article.