I had the pleasure of seeing a number of new developments in the past few weeks, too many to cover in one blog post.
Today, I’ll cover 498 West End and 45 East 22nd Street, incredibly different properties, but not necessarily appealing to different buyers.
Both are in prime locations, 84th and West End, and 22nd and Park Avenue South, respectively.
Both are offering large floorplans to fit large families or those looking for oversized apartments, while in boutique buildings with smaller unit counts.
Both are delivering extremely high-end finishes.
But the similarities end there.
A rental conversion of a smaller West End Avenue building, 498 West End originally featured four units per floor, now reducing the unit count to 2 or 3, depending on where holdover tenants remain.
The developer/owner, Samson, has done other rental conversions in the past, including 220 West 93rd Street, 905 West End Avenue, 317 West 89th Street, and many others.
Frankly, some of the others have not been that impressive, and part of the reason is when they went to market.
905 West End, for instance, hit the market in 2009, when things were, as you may recall, pretty terrible!! The seller chose not to spend too much time reconfiguring layouts to improve master baths, for instance, leaving VERY small spaces.
Now, with the luxury afforded by this robust market, Samson is taking an approach 180 degrees from the past.
Gorgeous central air conditioning and HVAC ,
combining smaller units to create incredibly interesting and open layouts, adding in luxurious baths and kitchens, structurally improving the building to eliminate some ceiling beams, taking advantage of air shafts for updating electric, plumbing etc, improving the lobby and installing a doorman – all in the spirit of maximizing the building.
Bully for the rent stabilized tenants who get a new service – a doorman.
With only 20 apartments or so coming available, this is the seller’s heavy bet on the strength of the large apartment market.
With 1650-square-foot three bedrooms asking about $3.25mm, or $2000 per square foot to start, and 3400-square-foot four bedrooms, starting at $7,400,000, they already have sold out all of their smaller three bedrooms units, with only one duplex with less-stellar views on the market for around $4mm.
Clearly, the market is ready to absorb these apartments due to location, level of finish, and size.
I was given early access to 45 East 22nd Street and really appreciate the challenge facing developers of tall glass towers right now.
Buyers want light, air, floor-to-ceiling windows, and views, but they also need livable spaces.
Someone recently wrote that their shins cannot appreciate the view, and therefore saw no reason for floor-to-ceiling windows.
It’s a funny thought, coupled with the fact that art, furniture, and often TV’s need walls to go against.
However, the challenge of building spaces in these glassy envelopes is accomplished more easily than deciding the finishes.
I feel the pain of those buyers who might be looking for finishes more along the spectrum toward contemporary.
The palettes of a Martin Brudnizki
or Thomas Juul-Hansen, the latter who has worked so closely with Richard Meier, today trend toward the middle with this transitional style,
which isn’t contemporary or traditional, and, ever so slightly, you might feel this conflict, this juxtaposition, when you’re living at 600 or 700 feet in the air.
More broadly speaking, does the way people live really change so much when they are on the 45th floor of a tower?
Should it change?
Should their furnishings or kitchen finishes change when they are in the sky?
Do furnishings and finishes look different from that elevation?
Does one’s impression of them change?
A building like the Woolworth Building, where those penthouse units were fitted out by Thierry Despont, only work, if they work, because of the mammoth proportions and the age of the building.
The steeped history and detail.
And, the ornate detail of a very traditional finish really only works in very large-scale rooms.
I was in McKim Mead & White’s University Club recently and noted that the finishes of the main floor reading room would never work in a room with less grandeur.
I’m not claiming in any way
that there is some issue with a middle ground in interior design with these new developments.
Developers are working to create spaces that appeal to the broadest audience possible.
However, I would argue that a buyer whose tastes runs to the contemporary is seeing the ground moving toward the center underneath her feet.
The all-white, stark, negative space presented by the likes of a Richard Meier, for example, largely is
absent in development today.
Perhaps we’ll see the pendulum swing in that direction, but the buyers don’t seem to miss it today, given what is being presented and scooped up across Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Maybe the Zaha Hadid project, and others in Chelsea and Brooklyn, will pick up the baton on the contemporary and clean.
We shall see.
For now, let’s talk about 45 East 22nd Street.
The large floor plate and the views to the East and South from the building will be amazing.
Once above 400 feet, the North views start to open up.
The choice to deliver some high-floor amenity spaces should help make up for a lesser view of Madison Square Park than what can be seen from One Madison.
Pricing starting in the $2500/square foot range
on the lower floors may end up being a successful approach, while mid-floor units with lesser views at $3200/square foot and high floors at $4000 and up
per square foot
should find an audience.
I’ve kept this short on purpose, and would encourage you to visit their website.
If you have more detailed questions about either 498 WEA or 45 East 22nd, please give me a call or email me!