Tuesday 20 March 2018

Three towers rise in jammed New York apartment market

The three buildings at Waterline Square in New York city fill out the final piece of a development plan begun by Donald Trump two decades ago
The three buildings at Waterline Square in New York city fill out the final piece of a development plan begun by Donald Trump two decades ago

Oshrat Carmiel

It's tough to stand out in Manhattan's overbuilt luxury apartment market, but James Linsley is working on it. Instead of building a single, skyscraping tower designed by a world-famous architect, he's putting up three - on the same site.

The project, by GID Development Group, consists of three glass-sheathed buildings - one each by architects Richard Meier, Rafael Vinoly and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates - rising on Riverside Boulevard between 59th and 61st streets. Linsley, GID's president, is filling out the final piece of a redevelopment plan along the Hudson River that started two decades ago with Donald Trump.

The trio of towers, where amenities include an underground tennis court, soccer field and aeroponic garden, has 263 apartment units in all. GID reports that 53 of them, about 20pc, have sold since marketing began in June. The most expensive was a $15.5m, four-bedroom home selling at $4,097 per square foot, a record for an apartment on Riverside Boulevard, according to listings website StreetEasy.

"Half of our buyers are from the proximate area," said Melissa Ziweslin, a managing director at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, who's overseeing sales at the $2.3bn project, called Waterline Square. Some of them were looking to benefit from a 20-year tax abatement on the new buildings as the rebates on their older Riverside units expire, she said.

Selling pricey apartments in Manhattan these days is an uphill climb, as developers keep splashing the landscape with ever more units for buyers to choose from. This year, 4,600 newly-developed units are expected to reach the sales market, with nearly half of them priced at $2,400 per square foot or higher, according to data compiled by Corcoran Sunshine.

That's on top of the 3,323 new units that were listed for sale in Manhattan last year.

Demand isn't assured. Closed sales for new units in the fourth quarter dropped 19pc from a year earlier to 387, according to Miller Samuel Inc and Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

New apartments over $5m accounted for 20pc of those going into contract in 2017, down from 25pc a year earlier, according to a report by Halstead Property Development

"We're always conscious of what's happening in the marketplace and in our universe of buyers," Linsley said on a recent tour of the property. "In the end, the market's going to tell you if you're right or wrong, and so far what we've done seems to be resonating."

Linsley himself moved into an apartment next door to the project to keep an eye on it. "I open the window and look out before the guys even start work, and I'm out here all the time," he said. "There's not a doorknob or hinge or screw in the building that I'm not aware of."

The master plan for Riverside South, the whole 13-block stretch along the West Side Highway, was first envisioned by Donald Trump, who acquired the 77-acre (31-hectare) site in 1974, sold it and bought it back a decade later, according to CityRealty.

He initially proposed a project named Television City that would have included studios for NBC and a 150-storey tower.

In the early 1990s, facing financial problems amid a softening real estate market, Trump found Chinese investment partners to get the first buildings off the ground. After helping him put up a set of owner-occupier and rental towers bearing his name, the partners sold the rest of the site, setting off a cascade of development by others.

GID bought the last three parcels in 2015 from Extell Development Co and Carlyle Group LP for $676m. Linsley, who started his career working on the Trump buildings at the northernmost part of the redevelopment area, had planned to buy just one parcel.

"For us," he said, "a big moment was to say: Maybe we shouldn't be going after one site - maybe we should buy all the remaining sites and really build something the city hasn't seen before."

Prices at Waterline range from $1.83m for an 820 square-foot (76-square metre) one-bedroom at Two Waterline Square, the Kohn Pedersen Fox tower, to a $27m five-bedroom unit with 6,566 square feet at the Richard Meier building, according to filings with the New York State attorney general's office.

At the foot of the towers will be a 2.6-acre park, and beneath that a common amenity space called the Waterline Club, which in addition to tennis and soccer will include an 80-foot (25m) pool, a recording studio and a basketball court.

A 28,000-square-foot food hall by the Cipriani restaurant group will anchor the street-level retail space at one of the towers.

The project, built in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2019.


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