Sunday 20 May 2018

'Copies' of 15 Central Park West take over Manhattan

There are now five Robert A.M. Stern Architects projects similar to 15 Central Park West under construction in Manhattan
There are now five Robert A.M. Stern Architects projects similar to 15 Central Park West under construction in Manhattan

James Tarmy

Robert Stern, the former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, has designed dozens of buildings in widely varied styles across New York City. But then he designed 15 Central Park West, a soaring limestone condominium built in 2008 in a faux-prewar style.

Ever since, developers have mostly wanted one thing from him: more of the same. It's understandable. Before it was even completed, 15 CPW broke New York records. In 2007, Sanford Weill, then chairman of Citigroup Inc., set a city record by paying more than $6,400 a square foot for his $43.7m penthouse. Celebrities, including Alex Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, and Sting, filled its halls.

In the initial frenzy, apartments were being flipped just months after they were bought. During the financial crisis, when the rest of the real estate market floundered, the building became its own overheated market. In 2010, Min Kao, the executive chairman of Garmin Corp., paid almost $10,000 per square foot via an LLC for his 41st-floor condo.

There are now five similar Robert A.M. Stern Architects projects under construction in Manhattan. Developers hope each will have the specific appeal that became 15 CPW's hallmark: all the graciousness and convenience of a prewar co-op without any of the hassle. Unlike the 100-year-old buildings that line much of Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, 15 CPW is relatively new, which means everything works.

The apartments are configured for a modern family (large kitchen, fewer bedrooms, expansive living areas) rather than, say, a household that relied on multiple live-in staff members. And most important, it's a condominium, which means that if a buyer has the cash, she can move right in - New York co-ops have notoriously restrictive boards known to reject celebrities and foreign buyers.

And unlike many co-ops, residents of 15 CPW can rent out their apartments. "Fifteen Central Park West changed real estate," says Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty Inc. and publisher of the Olshan Luxury Market Report. "All of a sudden it became extremely cool and elitist to live in that building, and it set the tone for condominiums that came after."

It may seem odd to try to build an exact copy of 15 CPW, albeit smaller or at a less prestigious address. But "it was seen as a successful template," says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraiser and consultant.

"Why on Earth would 220 Central Park South use the same architect as a ­building that's a quarter-­mile away facing the park? Because it sold."

And Miller says Manhattan isn't even close to saturated with Stern condos. Unlike buildings by other starchitects such as Frank Gehry or Jean Nouvel, which are often meant to stand out with striking designs, 15 CPW and its ilk are meant to blend in. And that's why Stern is building more of them than his peers. "The genre of [star­chitecture] is defined by creating something unique," he says. "The multiple versions of 15 Central Park West are a conservative version of something new."

Editor's note: Data below excludes penthouses, which can throw off average prices.

• 20 East End Ave

Location: The far eastern reaches of the Upper East Side, with river views for some apartments.

Neighbouring buildings: Mostly postwar co-ops.

The story: Thirty-four of the original 41 units have sold. That includes a couple of units that were purchased and flipped. The building already has residents and an active buyer pool, with demand consistently matching availability. The most expensive unit, aside from the penthouses, is an 11th-floor, five-bedroom apartment with almost 5,000 square feet, which is listed for $15.5m.

Average price per square foot: $2,860

• 250 West 81st St

Location: The heart of the Upper West Side, nestled among reliable restaurants and shops.

Neighbouring buildings: To the west of Broadway, you'll find endless rows of gracious brick co-ops along either side of West End Avenue. A few blocks over are the co-ops of Central Park West.

The story: 250 W. 81st has 25 active listings, 20 of them in contract. The apartments are fairly manageable in size, ranging from 1,571 sq. ft. to 3,836 sq ft, and relatively affordable: A two-bedroom on the fifth floor costs $3.9m; at the top end, a five-bedroom on 16 goes for $14.8m. The price per square foot is a bargain, too. "They didn't try to kill everybody with the price," Olshan says. "They built the right mix of product, and it moved."

Average price per square foot of all active/in-contract listings: $2,891

• 30 Park Place

Location: Straddling the edge of Tribeca and the Financial District, the building went up in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the US.

Neighbouring buildings: There's a combination of office buildings, lofts, and super-high-end luxury condominiums. The newly converted-to-residential Woolworth Building, with its $110m penthouse, is next door.

The story: The building contains a Four Seasons Hotel and an affiliated set of apartments. The 157 residential units occupy its upper floors and offer access to all of the Four Seasons' amenities, including a 75-foot pool, double-height gym, spa, salon, and catering.

The cheapest apartment, according to StreetEasy, is a two-bedroom unit on the 53rd floor that costs $4.4m. The most expensive, excluding the penthouses, is a 19-room, 8,100-sq ft apartment on 74 that's asking $26.2m.

Average price per square foot: $3,330

• 520 Park Ave

Location: Technically the Upper East Side, but on the border of Midtown East, an area dominated by massive offices and banks.

Neighbouring buildings: It's a few blocks south of the traditional limestone beauties that crowd most of Park Avenue. On the flip side, residents are only half a block from Barneys New York.

The story: There are currently two active listings and 10 past listings, not including the penthouses, according to StreetEasy. Every apartment takes up an entire floor, offering 360-degree views of the city.

Because none have closed, the only information available is the asking price, which means that true prices could be below what's listed. The two active listings on the 19th and 32nd floors, respectively, range in price from $4,443 a square foot to $6,838 a square foot.

Average price per square foot, taken with a grain of salt: $5,144

• 220 Central Park South

Location: Just north of Billionaires' Row, this does its peers on 57th Street one better by being directly on Central Park South. Carnegie Hall, should you want it, is a short walk away.

Neighbouring buildings: It's in expensive company, standing side by side with some of the world's priciest residential real estate.

The story: We don't know much, to be honest. Given that 220 Central Park South isn't releasing sales information, there are no active or past listings on StreetEasy, and the website lists zero availability.

However, there's one indication that easily puts it at the top of the pack: Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth, the building's developer, is on record saying it will cost more than $5,000 per sq ft to build.

Developers, as a rule, aren't in the business of losing money - so the average price per square foot here should easily soar above those of its peers.

Average price per square foot: Well above $5,000.

(Bloomberg)

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