High-end Buildings Play Leading Role




Clockwise from top left: THE LEONARD 66 Units; 101 West 87th Street 62 units; One Riverside Park219 units; 56 Leonard Street 145 units; 150 Charles Street 91 units; 432 Park Avenue 104 units.

 After a four-year dry spell, a crop of new luxury condominiums aimed at the superrich opened in Manhattan and were snapped up faster and at prices surpassing those attained before the recession.

The total number of new development contracts jumped 20 percent, to 1,847, through the third quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, as wealthy buyers rushed to sign contracts for apartments still in the construction phase, according to the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.

For the same period the average contract price surged nearly 60 percent, to a record $3.43 million from $2.16 million, surpassing the previous new-development high of $2.21 million in the third quarter of 2008. And the pace of sales was rapid-fire, underscoring the strength of demand for Manhattan condos built for the upper echelons.  

 Just 49 residential buildings opened in Manhattan in 2013, not counting Harlem and Upper Manhattan, with a total of 2,269 units, according to Corcoran Sunshine. That’s more than the 1,309 units across 30 buildings that came to market last year. But it’s still below historical averages of about 3,000 units normally required to meet demand, Corcoran Sunshine found. During the boom of 2007, 8,052 new units were listed.

Developers focused on ultra-high-end condos with every conceivable amenity to justify the expense of building amid surging land costs. In early December there were 256 listings for less than $2 million in new condo developments, down from more than 2,000 at the end of 2008. By contrast, there were 458 for more than $2 million, down from 1,129 about five years ago.

Among the most talked-about buildings was 56 Leonard, a 145-unit TriBeCa tower by Alexico Group and Hines that was shelved during the recession, only to open to enormous interest earlier this year. More than 90 percent of its units were sold within nine months, at an average price of $3,200 a square foot.

In June, a penthouse at 56 Leonard went into contract for $47 million, a new high for a condo sale downtown. But it was soon outdone by a $50-million-plus penthouse atop Walker Tower, a newly converted luxury condominium in Chelsea.

Stories abounded of condos flying off the shelves. A luxury condominium developed by the Witkoff Group in the West Village,150 Charles Street, had found buyers for all 91 luxury apartments just six weeks after sales opened in February. The average price was $3,400 a square foot, according to Susan M. de França, the president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, which handled the sales.

In NoMad, another Witkoff project, 10 Madison Square West, a 125-unit condominium conversion, had similar success, with nearly 90 percent of its one- to five-bedroom residences in contract within five months of opening sales in July. That included the penthouse, which was never officially listed but went into contract for about $36.5 million in under 90 days.

In TriBeCa, the Leonard, a 66-unit condo conversion at 101 Leonard Street by Bizzi & Partners Development, was more than 80 percent sold within two months of its July opening. Just three units are left, including a three-bedroom for about $3 million and a four-bedroom penthouse with a private rooftop terrace for $7.5 million.

The Jefferson, a project by CBSK Ironstate, was the only condo to open in the East Village this year. Its 82 units were priced from $795,000 to $3.595 million; the final contract was signed earlier this month.

The frenetic sales activity wasn’t limited to downtown. Sales began earlier this year at 432 Park Avenue, a Midtown luxury condominium developed by CIM Group and Macklowe Properties. When completed in 2015, it will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. Half of its 104 units are in contract, for roughly $1 billion in potential sales, including a $95 million penthouse that will set a price record if it closes.

On the Upper West Side, the sales campaign at 101 West 87 Street, a 62-unit condominium by Bazbaz Development that opened in January, lasted just seven and half months, with the $7.6 million penthouse among the first units to go.

One Riverside Park, an Extell Development project overlooking the Hudson at 50 Riverside Boulevard, opened sales last month. Already half of the 219 units are in contract.

At that rate, One57 appears to be positioning itself as next year’s “It” development. And if the avalanche of trophy contracts signed all over town in 2013 translate into closed sales, 2014 may well earn the sobriquet of the year of the splurge.