In Manhattan, Downtown Looks Up

The Wall Street JournalDecember 13, 2012
A new crop of luxury buildings takes inspiration from the Upper East Side; going beyond the glass box
In the rebirth of downtown living in New York, first there was the converted gritty industrial loft, then the minimalist "glass box" condo tower. Now the glass box has given way to a new demand—for elaborately finished condominiums that echo the gracious prewar apartments of the Upper East Side.

Until this fall, the record deal for a downtown condominium was the $31.5 million sale in 2010 of a raw, do-it-yourself-style penthouse: a vast unfinished concrete space at the top of Superior Ink, a condominium on the Hudson River in the West Village that was badly flooded during superstorm Sandy.

Tastes are changing. The biggest recent deals downtown have been in condominium conversions that take their inspiration from Fifth and Park Avenues. In September, a $42 million penthouse went into contract at 18 Gramercy Park, a former Salvation Army women's hotel that was redesigned by Robert A.M. Stern, the architect behind luxury developments uptown like 15 Central Park West.

A few weeks ago, a buyer signed a contract to combine two penthouses together for $34 million at Walker Tower, an Art Deco skyscraper located in a former telephone company switching station in Chelsea. With half of the 50 condos in contract at Walker Tower, the asking price of the most expensive penthouse in the building was recently raised to $55 million from $50 million, according to Shaun Osher, the founder of CORE, the brokerage company that is handling sales in the building.

Walker Tower, completed in 1929, has a decidedly traditional aesthetic. Apartments at Walker Tower come with a formal entrance gallery, coffered ceilings, 10-foot-high paneled windows and large terraces. There are white marble bathrooms streaked with gray veins, herringbone oak floors, big kitchens with marble and limestone countertops, cabinetry designed by the fashionable U.K. company Smallbone of Devizes and hidden high-tech features.

Converted buildings like Walker Tower are a far cry from the glass-walled condominiums that sprung up all over downtown beginning in 2002 with a series of three modernist buildings in the West Village designed by Richard Meier. Many more glass towers followed, often with designs commonly seen in office buildings, with lightweight glass and aluminum skins for the facade. Inside the spaces were often dominated by a "great room"—a combination open kitchen, dining and living room.

Brokers say that high-rise glass towers still have their fans: Buildings like One57 and 432 Park Ave., now under construction in midtown, are two examples. But some say that the excitement surrounding glass-walled condos has cooled as the buildings have proliferated. For the same square footage, they say, many buyers, especially New Yorkers, now prefer the romance of the older buildings and neighborhoods.

"If you think of Singapore or Dubai, you think of modern glass towers, which have their own elegance," Mr. Osher said. "But New York is an old city in a modern world, like London or Paris. A lot of the richness and heritage of the city is in its prewar aesthetic."

That aesthetic guided the conversion of the Abingdon, a former hotel and nursing home completed in 1906 in the West Village that has been remade as a condo building. The apartments at the Abingdon have a formal layout, with separate public and private spaces, divided by a traditional entrance gallery. Tim Crowley, a managing director at Flank, the architecture and development firm that handled the conversion, says the architects studied prewar interior layouts by Rosario Candela and Emery Roth, who designed many of the grand apartment buildings along Central Park.

Only two condos are unsold at the Abingdon: the model apartment, and the largest condo, a 9,615 square foot, three-story "mansion" with its own separate entrance, which is about to come on the market. The price has not been set, but offering documents list it at $25 million
The 22-story Walker Tower also draws heavily on the past. It was built by New York Telephone in the 1920s, at a time when telephone companies, like banks, created large imposing buildings to impress the public. The architect was Ralph Walker, a once prominent figure in Art Deco skyscraper design, who had been largely forgotten.

Verizon still owns the building below the eighth floor, but sold the top for $25.5 million in 2009 in the midst of the real-estate slump. The buyers, JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group, set about celebrating Mr. Walker and turning the building into an upscale showpiece.

They commissioned a book about Mr. Walker from an architectural historian, Kathryn E. Holliday, that was published in September by Rizzoli New York. They sponsored an exhibition with scale models of his best-known buildings in the lobby.

The developers brought in CettraRuddy, an architectural firm, to restore the building, enlarge the windows and design the interiors. The architects are creating a new crown for the top of the building, a feature that the phone company had trimmed back from Mr. Walker's original design because of the cost.

Inside, the units have oak doors, hand cut mosaic tiles in the bathrooms, ebonized mahogany trim in a marble powder room and custom-made door knobs and fixtures to echo the building's Art Deco design. Hidden automated shades can be lowered on the tall windows, and air conditioning is provided through narrow slits in the ceiling rather than ducts. Radiant heating comes through pipes encased in the floors, a feature rarely seen in Manhattan buildings. Electronic controls in the wall, as well as an iPad provided with each unit, control the music, security system, lighting, shades, heating and cooling in each room in the apartment.

Elliott Joseph, a principal in Property Markets Group along with Kevin Maloney, said that at one meeting about the design, the developers asked whether they had omitted any features that a wealthy private owner might add in an individual Manhattan apartment renovation. The engineers had one suggestion: a system to control humidity to protect art work. A multiple-zone humidification system was added soon after.

“Stale” New York Homes are Back in Play, Amid Inventory Shortage

The Real DealDecember 12, 2012
A slew of luxury listings that have languished on the market for several years have been scooped up in recent months, as a shortage of high-end residential inventory has brought so-called “stale” listings back into play. In the last several months, brokers said they’ve seen the pieces finally fall into place for a range of transactions – starting at around $3 million all the way up to $25 million — that have been absorbed long after they were first listed.

Supply has been outpacing demand for some time. Chronic inventory shortages have put Manhattan sellers in control of the market, they said. Condo inventory in Manhattan is down 24.3 percent year-over-year — its lowest level since 2005 – according to third quarter market figures from Douglas Elliman.

After sitting on the market for nearly seven years and going through a litany of prices changes, the Upper East Side’s Rothschild Mansion finally traded to Leroy Schechter for $25 million in October for instance. And last month, Elliman agent Xiaolan Shang, known as Sherri, finally sold a $9 million apartment at Trump International that had been on the market on and off for a decade.

Shang, who hails from China, picked up an exclusive on the listing just three months prior to the sale; it had previously been listed by a spate of other brokers, including Elliman’s Ariel Cohen, Sotheby’s Roger Erickson and Trump’s Susan James. James eventually brought the buyer, Barbara Ullman, in the final deal. The buyer paid all cash, Shang said.

The price of that apartment had fluctuated since 2008, when first shows the apartment being put on the market. It was listed for $8.2 million in 2008 and then for $8.75 million in 2011 before being de-listed. Shang picked the listing up in April, putting it online for $8.9 million, but later raised the price according per the seller’s wishes to $9.5 million. The seller was French businessman Guy Benhamou, according to public records. Erickson apparently suggested placing the unit on the market for around $7 million a few years ago, according to an email sent by the seller to Erickson December 5.

“I still can’t believe it,” Shang said of the deal, which hit records on Monday. “People were coming up to me asking what was going on with the property and why it wouldn’t sell.”

CORE broker Michael Graves faced the same challenge when he took on two penthouse listings at adjoining buildings at 10 East 18th Street and 7 East 17th Street, owned by Elliot Joseph’s Property Markets Group. Both penthouses had been on and off the market since 2008, when the buildings were initially brought to market. The properties, both asking $3.595 million, had bounced from broker to broker before Graves secured the exclusive this summer.

“In early discussions [with the sponsor] after I received the exclusive, I was asked by the sponsor’s partners ‘Michael, how much price reduction do you need? We know these listings aren’t stale, they’re dead.’”

But Graves was confident he didn’t need a price reduction. He had recently completed deals above $2,500 per square foot nearby at 240 Park Avenue South and thought it was a change in marketing, not price, that was needed to sell the apartment. “When something has been on and off the market for three years, a change is definitely needed. But you cannot just blame the broker — market conditions and many other variables are always in play,” he said.

In addition to brightening up the photography on the marketing materials, Graves identified a unit at 7 East 17th Street on a lower floor that had similar proportions and which was already renovated to a high standard. “I convinced that owner to allow me to show his unit in tandem with the penthouses in order to illustrate what could be done,” he said. “We effectively took the imagination out of it and gave buyers something real.”

The tactic paid off; the first unit went into contract for the full asking price just a week after Graves took over, while the second found a buyer six weeks later for some $115,000 over the asking price. The deals for both units closed in September.

“This is a very small building in our portfolio,” Jospeh said. “The partners wanted to be finished with the asset. I was so beat up from having it on and off the market for years. I just wanted to sell it already. To get over ask, that’s amazing.”

Meanwhile, the Rothschild Mansion was originally listed in November 2005 for $25 million, where it sat on the market for almost two years. It was briefly taken off the market and relisted with a $35 million asking price in July 2007. The deal closed in October.

Just Sold!: 400 E. 67th St.

New York PostDecember 12, 2012

UPPER EAST SIDE $2,200,000

400 E. 67th St.

Two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath condo, 1,417 square feet, with Sub-Zero and Gaggenau kitchen appliances and Zuma soaking tub; building features doorman, parking and 12,000-square-foot amenity space with two pools and screening room. Common charges $1,315, taxes $145. Asking price $2,250,000, on market 13 weeks. Brokers: Alison Abovsky, Core and Therese Bateman, Town Residential

Selling New York S6E1: Soho, Sneakers and More Sneakers

CurbedDecember 07, 2012
HGTV's Selling New York rides along with brokerages CORE, Gumley Haft Kleier and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here's our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world, penned by Angela Bunt. Episode air date: 12/6/2012.

The sixth season of Selling New York returns with a new broker and a rare quest: a search for commercial space. Warburg's Linette Semino has to find enough closet space for a recording artist with a bit of a sneaker fetish. Meanwhile, Core's Maggie Kent must help a client whose closet is probably filled with ballet shoes, and who wants light and space for her ballet studio in Soho...for no more than $15,000/month. Will these two folks' near-impossible needs be met?

The fun begins when Warburg Associate Broker Linette Semino meets with recording artist O'Neal McKnight in the studio, where he's recording what's sure to be another smash single. Wait a second—you've never heard of this guy, either? Perhaps that's why his budget is only $2M max (mere pocket change for most of the people featured on this show). What is O'Neal looking for in an apartment? Well, after living on the UES for years, he's ready to take it downtown to Chinatown. JK! He wants to go to Soho or Chelsea, and says he's looking for a place where he can settle down and start a life with his fiancee...and his sneakers.

The first property Linette shows O'Neal is a 1BR, 2BA on 305 Second Avenue, listed at $1.475M. Maybe a little too contemporary for the rapper, who puzzles over the lack of cabinet handles in the kitchen. Is it an Italian thing? No. It's a modern thing. While the apartment is big enough for McNeal to get "his risky business on" (his words, not mine), unfortunately, despite the 17-foot-tall ceilings, this lofty pad's master bedroom is a bit too small for the rapper (despite his petite stature), and there's simply not enough closet space for his shoes.

The second property is a 2BR, 2BA listed at $1.795M. Things get off to a rocky start when O'Neal is 45 minutes late for his appointment with Linette. Doesn't this rapper know the meaning of "time is money?" The apartment has a large closet, so Mr. Bradshaw can rest easy knowing his sneakers are well taken care of. Naturally, he's interested in the apartment, but still wants to see more. Ya know, because he has so much free time.

The third property is a 2BR on Prince and Mott. Linette waits. And waits. And waits. And O'Neal is a no-show. A disgruntled Linette spouts off to the camera that she's angry to be stood up, and that she herself is never late. In fact, she's always 15 to 20 minutes early (in all fairness, 20 minutes is a bit too early, dontcha think?). O'Neal calls and says he's going to meet with Russell Simmons at Global Grind, and will have no time to visit the apartment. Oh, I see how it is: You can be Mr. Busypants and have no time for me, yet you don't respect MY time or MY money? This can't be a one-sided relationship, dammit! Uhhh, sorry. Lost myself a little bit back there. Despite the six-inch advantage Linette has on O'Neal, she fights back the urge to step on him.

When Linette meets up with O'Neal to show in the fourth property, a $1.55M 1BR, 2BA at 49 East 21st Street, she doesn't mince words with him regarding his easy-come-easy-go attitude. "Remember that time you stood me up?" Yeesh. Upon hearing the news that all of the previous properties he'd been interested in are now off the market, he nonchalantly replies, "well, it wasn't meant for me." Hey, you know what they say: If you love something, let it go, and if it comes back it's yours. Unfortunately, in NYC real estate, that type of thinking might end up with you living amongst The Mole People. Fortunately for O'Neal, this place does seem like a perfect fit. Pre-war, soundproof walls for the rapper, a separate storage unit for his kicks, and a traditional kitchen (the cabinets have handles). O'Neal says he can totally see himself living there. So is he ready to place an offer? Mmm, nope! He's actually heading to L.A. for a week and doesn't want to make a big commitment. Another property bites the dust.

In the end, Linette meets up with O'Neal and his fiancé, Miriam, who clearly wears the pants in the relationship (while O'Neal wears the sneakers). The decision is made for them to apartment-hunt as a threeway. Hot! I smell a rap song coming on...

Also featured on the season premiere is Maggie Kent, the core of Core (see what I did there?), who is meeting Rosie Lanziero, a soft-spoken dance instructor from the Soul Arts Academy. After maxing out her current space in the East Village, she's looking for a commercial space downtown and wants to make new roots in Soho (I mean, who doesn't?) Mutual friend Alyson Palmer is so excited about the Soho move, her eyes might just pop out of her head:

Rosie thinks everything is "marvelous" and "amazing," and the woman rocks a pashmina like it's going out of style, which is silly because pashminas will obvi never go out of style. Maggie heads to the Core office to recruit the expertise of David Beare (how youuu doin'), the go-to guy for commercial spaces in the city.

Before checking out potential rentals, Maggie takes Rosie to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater & School to give her some inspiration and help her figure out what her needs are. Rosie loves the light and airiness of the place, and the feeling of open energy that it exudes. So, all completely intangible concepts. She can "see the energy" and "feel the energy," yet I don't think I've ever seen those types of qualities mentioned in a real estate listing.

David, Maggie and Rosie make their way to 552 Broadway in Soho to check out a potential dance studio space. With its exposed brick and natural light, and 5,500 square-feet of space, Rosie is feeling the vibe and says she wants her dance studio to have the same soul and spirit. Hmm, soul, spirit AND natural light in an NYC rental space? Now you're just talking crazy talk. All this woman wants is space, light and energy. And to continue to wear her silver leggings without judgement.

Unfortunately, the space is listed as $18k a month and she has a budget of $15k. But in true Maggie Kent fashion, she says she'll go to bat for her client. Anything for that commission—mama needs a new pair of shoes! Oh wait, that's O'Neal.

Great news! The spirit guides were shining down on Rosie that day, and Maggie is able to get the price down to $15K. The catch? She only has six weeks of free rent which would serve as renovation time. Despite Rosie's free spirit and oozing aura, she knows how to play hardball, and asks for three months instead. Luckily, Maggie steps up to the plate (how many baseball references can we make in the span of one paragraph?) and is able to get her the extra renovation time needed. Cheers to that!

Maggie pays Rosie a visit in her new palatial palace of light, energy and spirituality, AKA her dance studio. In all fairness, it does look pretty great. With sandblasted brick walls, an open floor plan, and tons of natural light, the space is a perfect fit for Rosie and her young dancers. Maggie feels all warm and fuzzy inside knowing she was able to help Rosie's business expand, and ya know what? I feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside, too.

Episode Review: The fact that SNY is finally back has us feeling happy, which is an automatic extra cackling Kleier. So the season premiere gets 4 out of 5 cackling Kleiers.

CurbedWire: 241 Fifth Ave. Teaser Website; 837 Washington Groundbreaking

CurbedDecember 07, 2012
FLATIRON—Yesterday, 241 Fifth Avenue received some signage, and we hoped the teaser website would be next. And it was! The minimalist website is live, and it provides a sliver of new information: the building will have one- to four-bedroom units, and pricing falls somewhere in the range of less than $1 million to more than $2 million. Interested parties can submit an information form on the website.

MEATPACKING DISTRICT—Due to Hurricane Sandy, the groundbreaking for 837 Washington, the twisty office and retail building by Morris Adjmi, was rescheduled for next Tuesday, December 11. The 55,000-square-foot building will rise beside the High Line across from the Standard Hotel, and it will be ready for occupancy by fall 2013. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, as you may recall, loved the design once Adjmi chopped it down to an acceptable height.

Race to the Top (Price) at a Tony Address

The Wall Street JournalDecember 07, 2012
What do Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, actor Denzel Washington and Nascar driver Jeff Gordon have in common? An address.
Manhattan's 15 Central Park West, just north of Columbus Circle, is one of the most exclusive—and expensive—addresses in a city full of exclusive, expensive residential buildings. The first of its 202 units hit the market in 2005 and sold out by the time construction was completed in 2007, raking in about $2 billion for the developers.

Today, the building continues to break price records as apartments hit the resale market. Many units have been elaborately upgraded and priced at more than double what owners paid for them a few years ago. In January, former Citigroup Chairman Sanford Weill sold his penthouse there for $88 million, making it the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York City, at more than $13,000 per square foot. (The average Manhattan condo sells for about $1,300 per square foot, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman's most recent Manhattan market report.)

Some real-estate observers say that despite a record of stratospheric sales, asking prices today in the building have gotten overeager. While the average price per square foot in the building continues to rise, sales volume has slowed in the past few months, says appraiser Jonathan Miller. So far this year, five apartments have sold, compared with 17 last year and 15 in 2010, according to data from Brown Harris Stevens.

Rick Kelly, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, says some of the pricing there today is tied to an "irrational exuberance" over the past few months about the building and the high-end market in general, with roughly $4,500 to $7,000 per square foot a more realistic price for units on lower floors without park views and no outdoor space, and $8,000 to $10,000 per square foot for apartments on higher floors with park views. With seven units currently for sale in the building, "there's room for negotiating," he says.

That hasn't deterred some residents from setting ever-higher prices in the wake of Mr. Weill's record-setting $88 million sale. Steel magnate Leroy Schechter has priced two combined units on the 35th floor—the units are still under construction—at $95 million, or $15,835 per square foot. He still hasn't gotten any takers. (Emily Beare, Mr. Schecter's listing broker, says she plans to begin fully marketing the apartment in January, once it is complete.)

Ms. Beare acknowledges pricing the work-in-progress apartment "was tricky." The unit is 700 square feet smaller than Mr. Weill's and does not include outdoor space. But unlike Mr. Weill's penthouse, it includes panoramic views of Central Park and the Hudson River, compared with park and interior-courtyard views. Slated for completion in January, it has its own elevator landing and includes an apartment that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez rented for a time. Mr. Schecter says the price is justified because there isn't anything similar currently on the market and "it's the only building of its kind." The nearly 6,000-square-foot apartment will have five bedrooms, including a master suite with a sitting room and dressing area, seven bathrooms and two separate laundry rooms.

One high-price listing was just taken off the market. In September, two adjacent units on the 24th floor with a total of roughly 4,000 square feet were listed for $44 million. Last week, the seller decided to delist them, and one is now available for rent at $38,000 a month. According to public records, the apartment is owned Neil Witriol, the retired president of a company that makes steam baths and showers. He paid $7.8 million for the first unit in 2008. Listing broker Roberta Golubock, of Sotheby's International Realty, says that unit has been gut renovated and includes a bathroom with chromotherapy showers (so the owner gets bathed in light as well as water). He paid $8.9 million for the second unit in 2010, which he is currently leasing.

The least expensive apartment available in the building: a 1,900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment on the 16th floor asking $8.5 million, according to

Broker and luxury-market tracker Donna Olshan says many residents at 15 Central Park West have spent upwards of $1,500 per square foot on gut renovations and upgrades to the relatively basic fixtures that came in units purchased from the developer.

The building now faces some competition in the neighborhood. Under construction a few blocks away are two ultra-high-rise, ultra-high-priced buildings also attracting billionaire and multimillionaire buyers, including many from overseas. Developers of One57, a 90-story building across from Carnegie Hall with views of Central Park, say two buyers are in contract to pay more than $90 million for two apartments. The former site of the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue is slated to become a nearly 1,400-foot-tall ultra-luxury condominium. It includes a penthouse marketed for $85 million.

William Lie Zeckendorf, who developed 15 Central Park West with his brother, Arthur, says in general, he thinks units in the building on the market today may actually be underpriced. Unlike the coming high-rises, his building is directly on Central Park and already built. "I think the building is frankly so much better than what's out there," he says. "I think the prices should be higher."

The Zeckendorfs were met with widespread skepticism when they began developing the building nearly a decade ago. In 2003, they paid $401 million for the Mayflower Hotel and a surrounding lot—a record price for a development site at the time. William Zeckendorf says they modeled the project somewhat after another building they did at 515 Park Ave., known for its old-world look, modern amenities and generous floor plans. With 15 Central Park West, he says, they decided to make the apartments even larger and the building's amenities even grander. "We were trying to fill a segment of the market we felt had been under-built for 30 to 40 years in Manhattan," he says.

They hired architect Robert A.M. Stern to create the design, which Mr. Zeckendorf says they closely oversaw themselves, meeting with Mr. Stern or his office five to six times a week for a year to discuss layouts, amenities and finishes. The result is a towering building clad in limestone with a formal oak-paneled lobby and grand columns; the building is meant to evoke the city's classically grand prewar buildings.

The complex is actually made up of two connected buildings, or wings, because of zoning restrictions. The front building, known as "the House," has 20 stories overlooking Central Park and includes Mr. Weill's former apartment, which was purchased by a trust linked to Ekaterina Rybolovlev, the 23-year-old daughter of Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. In the back is "the Tower," a 43-story building that, on its upper floors, includes both park views to the east and Hudson River views to the west, and is home to celebrities like rocker Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. Average apartment size in the complex: roughly 5,500 square feet.

Owners also have access to a private 14,000-square-foot fitness center, an indoor swimming pool and a screening room. With a full-time staff of more than 50, the building also has two separate entrances, including an old-world-style gated motor court. The building also includes 29 smaller "suites" designed as separate quarters for staff, guests or home offices, available for purchase only to residents. Some have sold for upward of $2 million. Also available for residents to purchase are roughly 30 climate-controlled wine rooms with access to a central tasting area; none are currently available.

The building also has a private restaurant open only to residents and their guests—one of only three such establishments in the city, and the first built in more than 50 years, according to the developers. The menu ranges from burgers and fries to a more formal seasonally rotating menu, also available as room service.

The building's board of directors has set strict rental restrictions, allowing owners to rent their units for just one year at a time with no guarantee of a lease renewal without board approval; renters aren't allowed to have pets or smoke in the building, according to brokers familiar with the policies. They also, of course, face steep price tags. Mr. Kelly, of Prudential Douglas Elliman, says there are five apartments for rent in the building, including a 2,700-square-foot, three bedroom unit for $40,000 per month in a midlevel floor with park views. Additional fees include 5% of the monthly price for building wear-and-tear, plus a standard Manhattan broker's fee of 15% of one year's rent.

But for some, there's the hope that paying such a premium might pay off. "Business deals get done on cocktail napkins there," says Mr. Kelly. "I think a big draw on the rental side is that proximity."

Small Screen Reminders

CurbedDecember 06, 2012
Selling New York, the non-Vampire Diaries highlight of our Thursdays, returns to our TVs tonight. The first episode of season six begins at the new time of 6:30 p.m.. Which means we should all leave our desks right to get home in time.

Condo Conversion 93 Worth Launches Sales, Unveils Interiors

CurbedDecember 06, 2012
Finally! Office-to-condo conversion 93 Worth in Tribeca has stopped teasing us and officially launched sales. So how much do the condos cost? Forty listings are currently live on StreetEasy, with 475-square-foot studios starting at $600K and the most expensive unit, a three-bedroom duplex penthouse with a terrace, asking $4.5 million. One-bedrooms range from $950,000 to $1.4 million, and two-bedrooms are listed for $1.415 to $2.15 million. Fifty-two more apartments, including six more penthouses, will be released at a future date. The sales team at CORE sent along a few photos of the on-site sales office, which is designed to look like the 13-story building's lobby, with lit Corian panels, vaulted ceilings, and original chanedliers.

In the gallery above, there are a few images of a model apartment, along with a couple artist's renderings showing the interiors. Developed by IGI-US and designed by ODA-Architecture, the apartments feature custom seven-foot windows, high ceilings, solid oak floors, and a washer/dryer. The open kitchens have European cabinetry and appliances from Viking, Sub-zero, and Miele, while the master bath has an iron claw-foot tub inside a marble "wet room" with a "rainforest showerhead." Building amenities include a 24-hour concierge, a rooftop terrace with a pergola and kitchen, a fitness center, children's play room, bike storage, and a dog-washing station.

241 Fifth Avenue Gets Signage

CurbedDecember 06, 2012
FLATIRON—Exciting news: under-construction condo 241 Fifth Avenue has signage! The building has been slow rising over the last year, and it topped out earlier this fall. CORE will be marketing the 42-48 condo development, which is being developed by Victor Homes. We hope a teaser website will be next.

In the News: 93 Worth Debuts

Tribeca CitizenDecember 06, 2012
“A long-awaited new Tribeca condo conversion has hit the market today after hiking its prices 10 percent just a few weeks prior to the launch. Units at 93 Worth Street, between Broadway and Church Street, are set to come online today with prices ranging from $545,000 for a studio to $6.33 million for a four-bedroom spread [....] There are 92 units at the property in total, including seven penthouse additions. Apartments range in size from 475 square feet to 3,300 square feet.” —The Real Deal; photos and floor plans are at

Which Flatiron Loft is More Attractive to Potential Buyers?

CurbedDecember 06, 2012
Imagine you have around $2,700,000 to spend on an apartment and you've narrowed it down to two condos in the same neighborhood. How do you make up your mind? The answer is simple: you shove them into a metaphorical cage and let them battle it out until one emerges victorious. It's time for Real Estate Deathmatch.

Address 21 East 22nd Street #10GH
14 East 17th Street #7

Price $2,400,000 $2,650,000
Maintenance $1,962 $1,720
Beds, Baths 2, 2 2, 2

14 East 17th Street is the more conventional of these two Flatiron co-ops, but retains its gritty loft-ness. 21 East 22nd Street, also a loft, has a more interesting layout, with a 126-square-foot home office/possible second bedroom jutting out into the expansive living room. It also has a smaller kitchen, however.

Pointers for Buyers Seeking Peak-Worthy Homes

The Wall Street JournalDecember 06, 2012
Buyers don’t necessarily need to head out West to scout for mountaintop homes that offer privacy and wide-open vistas. New York’s Hudson Valley and parts of New Jersey may not abut ski lodges, but they offer some mountain touches, as detailed in three homes profiled recently as a House of the Day:

Lots that were once part of old, large estates can still be found in parts of New Jersey. This 30-room home atop Bernardsville Mountain once belonged to a 500-acre estate and the homeowners built their house on the stone foundation of the estate’s original mansion.

The views offered by a 12,450-square-feet home in Holland Township, N.J., were what won over Chester and Leslie Siuda when they scouted for land in the area. They built their home using over a dozen types of wood to give it the feeling of a rustic mountain home, and Ms. Siuda regularly goes horseriding in the area.

For those in the market for a mountain-style home, upstate New York broker David Knudsen has some suggestions. He guides prospective owners through house hunts in the Catskills region. Read more on the Developments blog.

93 Worth Launches, with Revised Price-Tags

The Real DealDecember 05, 2012
A long-awaited new Tribeca condo conversion has hit the market today after hiking its prices 10 percent just a few weeks prior to the launch.

Units at 93 Worth Street, between Broadway and Church Street, are set to come online today with prices ranging from $545,000 for a studio to $6.33 million for a four-bedroom spread, said a spokesperson for CORE, the exclusive marketing agent for the development. There are 92 units at the property in total, including seven penthouse additions. Apartments range in size from 475 square feet to 3,300 square feet.

CORE is marketing the property on behalf of developer Izaki Group Investments, which purchased the building last October for $49.8 million. The 88-year-old building previously served as a garment loft and still features the property’s original exposed steel columns.

The development represents an influx of new housing stock into the Tribeca market, where inventory is chronically tight. CORE CEO Shaun Osher said the neighborhood was like an “abyss” for available units. He noted that more than 300 prospective buyers signed up to see the Worth Street project before the launch of a sales office, inspiring the developer to increase sales prices by around 10 percent, compared to what was listed in the offering plan.

Expansive industrial loft buildings such as these are difficult to come by, Osher said, but are ripe for conversion. The executive said he expects the building to sell out in time for closings commencing sometime in the middle or latter part of 2013. He said the current prices are very much in line with the market.

The property’s vaulted lobby features perforated Corian panels inspired by Tribeca’s historic textile industry, a spokesperson for CORE said. The building’s amenities include a common rooftop with city views, a 24-hour concierge, a fitness center, a children’s playroom and a dog washing station.

IGI is also behind a condo development at 15 Renwick Street, which CORE is also marketing.

Storm Leaves Mark, but Some Buyers Persist

The Wall Street JournalDecember 04, 2012
Superstorm Sandy wrecked the basement of a large warehouse with cast-iron-columns that was in the midst of a condo conversion in TriBeCa.

But soon after the water was pumped out—when the building had no heat and limited electricity powered by a generator—buyers started coming back in force: Since Sandy, two deals were struck for apartments worth a total of more than $7.5 million.

The deals and the steady stream of potential buyers—an average a four a day have come through the show room at the former warehouse at 250 West St.—show how a strong downtown condo market is overpowering some qualms about the impact of the recent flooding.

The market, especially in TriBeCa, is extremely tight, with the supply of new condominiums after an influx of new downtown buildings sold out. As a result, prices for the remaining available units have been rising, brokers say.

At 93 Worth St., a conversion of a 1924 former garment loft and office building into 92 apartments near Broadway, more than 300 potential buyers signed up to see the project before the launch of a sales office in the next few days. Because of the strong early demand, asking prices were raised nearly 10% in November.

"The market is crazy right now," said Shaun Osher, the founder of CORE, a brokerage company that is marketing the 93 Worth St. apartments. The building lost power in the poststorm blackout but wasn't flooded.

Thomas Elliott, executive vice president for sales and marketing at El Ad US Holding Inc., the developers of 250 West St., said that buyers wanted a look at the last condos in the building, despite Sandy. More than 80% of the apartments are now in contract.

"It is surprising that in the face of all this, there is still interest in TriBeCa in general and our building in particular," he said.
Asking prices for units at 93 Worth St., were raised nearly 10% in November.

At 250 West, one buyer signed a contract for a three-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor for $3.545 million. Another is considering a contract for a two-bedroom apartment at $3.97 million, with six windows looking out at the Hudson River. Both contracts are at the full list price.

To be sure, brokers say that some would-be buyers in lower-priced condos in the Financial District have pulled back since Sandy, or have been looking to renegotiate prices. In luxury riverfront buildings that remain closed, like Superior Ink on West 12th Street overlooking the river, brokers withdrew some listings after the building was shut down.

Brett Miles, a broker at Town Residential, said demand was still "astonishing" at Superior Ink. He pulled down a listing for one-bedroom condo priced at $3.2 million after the storm hit, only to have brokers continue to call asking to see it.

A buyer in contract to buy another two-bedroom apartment he listed in the building at nearly $4.4 million is going ahead with the deal, he said. Meanwhile, brokers representing other prospective buyers have been calling to check with him just in case the deal falls through, he said.

At the W Downtown Hotel and Residences, just across the street from the World Trade Center, buyers are back, too. During the storm, the lobby of the W Downtown was filled with two feet of water, and the building was closed for about 10 days, according to Richard Nassimi, a broker at Corcoran Group, who is overseeing sales there.

But once the building reopened and crews began rebuilding the lobby, buyers signed contracts for eight condominiums, he said. A string of closings are scheduled for December.

"People started to feel better because the building bounced back from an act of God," he said.

At 250 West St., 88 of 106 condominiums are in contract, and the building was due to start closing before the end of the year until Sandy hit. Though the basement flooded, the lobby located above street level was undamaged.

Mr. Elliott said that all the equipment in the basement—pumps, boilers and electrical panels—were being refurbished for temporary use. But they would then replace the basement mechanicals with new equipment, so that it would be covered by warranties from manufacturers.

He said closings will be delayed until the first quarter but he expected all deals in contract to close. El Ad is studying how to add a backup generator as well, he said.

At 93 Worth St., the developer, IGI USA, part of a global real-estate company based in Israel, is adding four stories of boxlike glass-walled penthouses with terraces on top of the 14-story brick-and-stone building.

The building includes a mix of studios beginning at under $600,000 to a penthouse with a 2,000-square-foot private terrace with Empire State Building views listed at $6.75 million.

The apartments have 7-foot-high picture windows, exposed steel columns to give them a loft-like feel, wide oak-plank floors, and brass and bronzed fixtures throughout.

Sales Check: 93 Worth

CurbedDecember 04, 2012
Flooding? What flooding? Buyers don't seem to be worried about the threat of future Sandy-like floods at downtown luxury buildings. At 250 West Street, two buyers have spent more than $7.5 million on apartments since the storm. At 93 Worth Street, prices have been upped before the official on-market date due to the number of interested buyers. Eight units have gone into contract at the W since Sandy, too.

93 Worth, Restored Classic Loft Conversion in Tribeca, Launches Residential Sales

December 04, 2012
NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 4, 2012) – Izaki Group Investments USA (IGI USA) and CORE announce that sales have commenced at 93 Worth Street, a coveted residential conversion in New York City. Located at 93 Worth Street, between Broadway and Church Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, 93 Worth has been converted, restored and modernized into 92 condominium units that combine historic detail with the conveniences of modern loft living.

Built in 1924, 93 Worth is an 18-story building offering a mix of studio, one, two, three and four-bedroom residences, along with seven grand penthouses. The lofts feature oversized, custom 7-foot windows, solid wood doors, high ceilings, original exposed steel columns, 7-inch wide white oak plank floors and private laundry.

The kitchens include custom, hand-finished patina brass fixtures with appliances from Viking, Sub-Zero and Miele. Bathrooms consist of custom, brass patina fixtures, stained oak cabinet vanities with marble tops, and marble-tiled floors and walls. Most residences feature a wet room with enameled, cast iron clawfoot tub and ceiling mount rainforest showerhead.

“93 Worth fills a void in the market. It is rare to find homes like these in a pedigreed building in one of the best neighborhoods in New York City.” noted Shaun Osher, CEO of CORE, the exclusive sales and marketing agency for 93 Worth.

93 Worth boasts an original, grand vaulted lobby with details including perforated Corian panels inspired by Tribeca’s historic textile industry. In addition to a 24/7 concierge, 93 Worth's amenities include a common rooftop with panoramic city views, open lounge with pergola and kitchen station, a fitness center, children's playroom, dog washing station, bicycle storage and available private storage.

In addition to the residential living space, designed by Eran Chen of ODA Architecture, the property will offer approximately 10,000-square feet of commercial/retail space.


With over 60 years of experience and a record number of achievements in real estate, IGI is well-positioned for success in its endeavors developing commercial, residential, hotel and office properties. IGI has built a strong global presence, with investments and teams in New York, London, Tel Aviv, Warsaw and Budapest. Innovative thinking, a strong financial backbone and a breadth of experience give IGI a competitive advantage in the global arena of upscale real estate development. IGI USA, the US arm of IGI, is a fully integrated development company based in New York City. IGI USA focuses primarily on multi-family conversions and new residential real estate development projects. The firm’s expertise is in developing innovative residential buildings with a focus on aesthetics and detail. For more information about IGI-USA please visit

About CORE

CORE is a real estate sales and marketing firm delivering the best in brokerage, communications and advisory services for the luxury residential segment. In addition, CORE’s elite group of highly experienced and successful professionals service developers who value efficient, no-nonsense results. CORE was founded by Shaun Osher as a full-service boutique firm with a strict adherence to the principles of integrity, efficiency and results. For more information visit

A Restful New York Mountain Home

The Wall Street JournalDecember 03, 2012
Price: $4,495,000
Location: Carmel, NY
Type of Home: Mountain Home

This 33-acre property, once owned by the musician Moby, provided its current owner with a peaceful escape from the city and more than enough space for his active dogs to run around.

On the Market

The New York TimesDecember 02, 2012
Chelsea Co-op $697,000
Manhattan: 357 West 29th Street (Eighth and Ninth Avenues), #3B

A one-bedroom, one-bathroom with a wood-burning fireplace and a balcony in a prewar walk-up. Doug Bowen (646)247-0822, Winchester Brown III (212)500-2119, CORE Group;

PROS: The open renovated kitchen has limestone counters and new appliances. The unit has ample storage, tall windows and central air-conditioning.

CONS: The apartment is five flights up. There is no in-unit washer/dryer.

Stuck in Limbo: How Fiscal Policy Negotiations in D.C. are Impacting NYC’s Housing Market

The Real DealDecember 01, 2012
Manhattan’s luxury residential real estate market will remain in limbo for the remainder of the year as speculation continues over how negotiations on the nation’s fiscal policy play out in Washington, brokers say.

While some buyers and sellers are rushing to close on deals already in motion in order to avoid an inevitable rise in capital gains taxes, brokers said, consumers still considering a sale or purchase are holding off. They are waiting until Congress agrees on a plan to deal with a confluence of fiscal issues, including the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, spending cuts and the national deficit.

If the government does not reach a solution by Jan. 1 — the date that the nation goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff” — capital gains could reportedly go from 15 to 20 or 25 percent, while taxes on dividends may go as high as 43 percent from 15 percent for the wealthiest Americans.

Wealthy Manhattanites looking to gift their children pricey properties may also be in trouble: If Congress fails to act, a lifetime gift-tax exemption allowing the transfer of assets worth up to $5.2 million, in place since the beginning of 2011, is set to revert to just $1 million on Dec. 31. That would mean all transfers over $1 million could be taxed as high as 50 percent.

Sotheby’s International Realty broker Nikki Field said she’s seeing hypermotivated sellers flood the market, with the aim of closing on pricey properties before the end of the year.

“The talk of a fiscal cliff is accelerating, rather than slowing down, sales at the high end,” she said. “Some sellers are concerned because the possibility of the [tax] rise reduces their profit margin significantly, while a few are even willing to discount prime properties for a quick close before the end of the year.”

She said her team has recently worked on several deals in which the seller accepted the buyers’ offer on the condition that the deal close by the end of 2012.

Indeed, real estate attorney Bruce Cohen, of the Manhattan law firm Cohen & Frankel, said he didn’t plan a December vacation this year precisely so he could deal with the volume of clients looking to close in the last quarter.

Some of the superpricey transactions that have recently closed include last month’s purchase by Susan Weber Soros, ex-wife of billionaire George Soros, of a townhouse at 116 East 70th Street near Park Avenue for its full $22.5 million asking price. Also last month, media mogul David Geffen paid $54 million for a penthouse duplex owned by socialite Denise Rich at 785 Fifth Avenue.

In the current climate, buyers are able to take advantage of sellers’ eagerness to sell before the end of the year, said Michael Graves, a broker at CORE.

“The fiscal cliff and capital gains tax could negatively affect property values next year, and that volatility is heavy ammunition” for the buyer, he said.

Another factor working in buyers’ favor is that condo inventory is on the rise. According to a report issued by the real estate website StreetEasy last month, the number of apartments for sale in new development projects in Manhattan has risen 10.2 percent in the last six months.

However, those high-end buyers who don’t already have deals in the works are sitting back for the moment. That’s because most buyers are also under-the-gun to sell their own property before they buy another home and will end up getting hit with the capital gains tax on that end of their transaction.

“The probability of a tax increase on the wealthy may cause some high-end buyers hesitation,” said Patricia Levan of Levan Real Estate. “However, when the expected tax compromise comes through, most buyers will feel relieved, and this will increase demand.”

Factoring in both the political situation in Washington and the impact Superstorm Sandy has had on closing volume in November, Jonathan Miller, CEO and president of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said he predicts a slightly slower fourth quarter than seasonal expectations normally suggest.

According to preliminary data provided to The Real Deal by StreetEasy, just 43 closings that took place citywide in the week immediately after the storm have been recorded so far, compared with 662 closings the previous week. In Manhattan, only 17 closings had been recorded by press time, compared with 238 the week prior.

However, the dip is not expected to be catastrophic in the long term.

A greater concern, Miller said, is what will happen to the housing markets if Congress doesn’t hammer out a compromise before Jan. 1.
“The betting money says that if we do go fully into this fiscal cliff, we’re going into a recession,” he said. “That means rising unemployment and easing demand for housing. We would see the default rate rise and another heavy foreclosure cycle.”

House of the Day: A Dream New York Penthouse

The Wall Street JournalNovember 23, 2012
New York, NY
Price: $5,950,000

Owning a New York penthouse was a dream-come-true for producer Don Blanton. Now, the place that gave him views of a city that has seen him through good times and bad is on the market for $5.95 million.

Ultimate Kitchens for the Holidays

ForbesNovember 21, 2012
Kitchens are the heart of the home. It’s where we cook, eat, and congregate – especially during the holidays. In honor of the season, we’ve spotlighted dream kitchens sure to set a merry mood not just for those holiday house guests — but for the host too.

“A modern kitchen is very important to people – whether you cook or don’t cook – because so much time is spent in there,” says Jarrod Randolph, a luxury broker with CORE Real Estate. “When you walk into a home or apartment –even if it’s older — and the kitchen is newly done and done well, it makes it ten times easier sell.”

With the help of, Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker Previews International and, Forbes has cherry-picked a variety of for sale homes offering tantalizing cook spaces, outrageous amenities and delectable layouts sure to set spirits bright.

Homebuyers and owners fork over top dollar for kitchens, which can run into the hundreds of thousands for top-of-the-line materials and appliances. Alongside bathrooms, kitchens are the most common remodeling projects taken up by homeowners, according to the National Association of Home Builders. And they’re on the rise: kitchen projects are up 17% this year compared to 2010.

Open layouts that blend with the surrounding living areas prevail when it comes to homeowners’ floor plan aspirations, according to the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey. Breakfast bars with counter stools and large islands that serve as workspaces and entertaining/dining spaces, all of which bolster an open layout, are among the most popular kitchen details, adds Liza Hausman, a vice president at Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design concepts.

In some homes, multiple islands have been implemented to allow the space adaptability to operate as a catering kitchen as well. A $30 million Bel Air compound in Los Angeles, Calif. boasts among its many party-centric amenities a commercial-grade kitchen with two islands, each equipped with twin sets of appliances.

A gourmet kitchen tucked inside an $18.9 million Fort Lauderdale, Fla. mansion has double islands, including one with a griddle and warming drawers, a breakfast banquet and a granite eat-in bar with beverage fridge that extends out into a 2,000-square foot great room. A professional chef works within the lavish space daily, yet, hiding behind a swinging door at the back of the room is a butler’s pantry fully finished with a double fridge, electric stove, and commercial-grade dishwasher. The pantry also has two additional doors that swing out to a formal dining room and an outdoor dining verandah.

“This kitchen essentially has another kitchen behind it so that if you are having parties, you have plenty of room,” says Eileen Kedersha, the ONE Sotheby’s International broker that represents the South Florida home.

High-end appliances are a must, with owners installing Sub-Zero refrigerators, six-burner ranges by Viking and Dynasty (to name a few), and double dishwashers from Miele. “What we’re seeing more of are complete integration of appliances – not just paneled dishwashers and refrigerators, but ovens and microwaves that look like part of the cabinetry,” explains Hausman.

The most decadent of kitchens even incorporate restaurant-ready gadgets like rotisseries, built-in espresso machines, and pasta drawers. One $12.9 million Dutch Colonial in Fairfield, Conn. boasts a wood-burning pizza oven (a foodie feature typically found outside, if at all).

The American Institute of Architects has found that renovation projects are increasingly spanning nontraditional features like computer stations or recharging areas for electronic devices, built-in recycling centers and wine storage areas as well.

Perhaps the most unexpected amenity creeping into kitchens is the fireplace. In Beverly Hills, Calif., a recently finished massive $58 million mansion dubbed the Crescent Palace boasts a massive 5,000-square foot “kitchen” filled with seating for 16, a commercial-sized freezer, a glass walk-in pantry, multiple flat screen TVs – and a lounge area donning a gas fireplace. In Water Mill, N.Y., a $39.5 million Hamptons estate’s state-of-the-art kitchen has its own fireplace bedecked living room as well, so guests can get cozy while looking out on the water of Mecox Bay.

In New York City, where space is notoriously cramped, developers of new multi-family projects haven’t fixated on fireplaces just yet but they are experimenting with ergonomics to make the kitchen feel more like the living room. “We’ve rotated the kitchen so that the cooking surface faces the guests so that you can socialize while cooking,” says Michael Namer, founder and principal of Alfa Development/Management, the New York developer of up-and-coming green condo building Chelsea Green.

All of the kitchens in Chelsea Green are designed by celebrity chef Eric Rippert for Poggenpohl. Facing out toward the rest of the apartment, the space includes a Miele induction cooktop with a Smeg oven, a garbage/recycling pull-out cabinet on the right side and a pots-and-pans cabinet on the left, ensuring no need to turn your back on guests. And its drawing buyers: despite a 2013 completion date, all but three of the project’s 51 units have been bought.

Big Deal: In San Francisco, Life With Out “Starchitects”

The New York TimesNovember 16, 2012
Whether it’s Frank Gehry at New York by Gehry, Christian de Portzamparc at One57 or Robert A. M. Stern at 15 Central Park West, showcasing a “starchitect” is part of the arms race that is luxury condo development in Manhattan these days.

The developers of Walker Tower, a luxury condo conversion in Chelsea, have taken it a step further, trumpeting the original designer of the former commercial building, Ralph Walker, whom The New York Times in 1957 called the “architect of the century.” They have even erected a small museum about Mr. Walker, who died in 1973, in the tower’s sales center.

But across the country, San Francisco offers an intriguing counterpoint: distinctive architecture is conspicuously lacking in the high-rise building boom.
Forty years after it was completed, the 850-foot Transamerica Pyramid remains the most recognizable high-rise tower built in the City by the Bay. Designed by the architect William Pereira, it took a lot of flak from locals during its planning and construction, with detractors sometimes referring to it as a phallic symbol, though their actual wording was more blunt.

Nevetheless, it became a fixture of the city’s skyline. Today it stands mostly alone in a city more interested in conserving its old Victorian-style homes than in making a statement with new development. It is a puzzling phenomenon in a part of the country often seen as an engine of American innovation.

“People work hard to preserve old things without taking the risk to build something new,” Mr. Gehry said about San Francisco in a recent phone conversation.

He was critical of the high-rise building boom under way in San Francisco’s South of Market area, where the newly built towers are boxy and utilitarian. “It’s business without heart,” he said.

In the past decade, 13 high-rise condo towers of 20 stories or more have been built in San Francisco. Another four such projects have been approved by the city, according to the Mark Company, a real estate marketing and sales firm.

There is nary a brand-name architecture firm to be found among the towers that have already been built, though Handel Architects did design the sleek Millennium Tower. A new luxury high-rise being designed by Richard Meier is still struggling to get approved by the city after almost five years of development.

The new buildings South of Market are meant to attract singles and young couples, many of whom are working in the tech industry and don’t yet want the hassles of a single-family home. And while higher-end offerings like the Millennium have attracted a few prominent locals — like the former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana — foreigners, especially from China, make up a large chunk of the buyers.

At the Madrone, another high-rise in the newly developed neighborhood of Mission Bay, a young techie apartment owner I spoke with said that the architecture of the building had never really been a consideration.

That doesn’t surprise Mr. Stern, who doesn’t see young tech buyers as having the sophistication to care about buildings (though, it must be said, they may have refined tastes in the subtle design touches of the latest smartphones). “I think it takes them awhile to get over the initial high-dose blast of wealth to realize that wealth can be used more creatively than just buying big shoebox spaces and sticking in foosball games and other things like that,” Mr. Stern said.

The young software engineers may not care too much about the quality of architecture where they live, but down in Silicon Valley some big tech firms have tapped world-renowned architects to design their new headquarters.

Facebook hired Mr. Gehry, 83, for the expansion of its campus in Menlo Park. Mr. Gehry designed a 433,555-square-foot building with a rooftop garden that will be built on stilts. “It should look like a floating forest where the building peeks from beneath a series of trees,” said Slater Tow, a Facebook spokesman. “We are not out to make an architectural statement, we are out to make the most functional building for engineers.”

It was Steve Jobs himself who commissioned Sir Norman Foster to design Apple’s new 2.8-million-square-foot headquarters in Cupertino, which Mr. Jobs described as a “spaceship.”

Both the Apple and Facebook projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

But just a commute away in San Francisco, there is little buzz about big-name designers. “San Francisco is not a place where people shout architects’ names on a building,” said Mary Comerio, a professor in the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. “You get more controversy when that happens.”

Indeed, developers in San Francisco are loath to take architectural risks because the city’s approval process for new development is long and rigorous, perhaps the most onerous in the country, architects say.

It’s hard to fault their caution when you consider how small San Francisco really is — 47 square miles (Manhattan alone is 23 square miles) — with much of the area consumed by neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. More than the pedigree of the architect, the city worries about things like shadows and wind and, of course, earthquakes.

The earthquake issue is not as tough to navigate as you might think, but it is still a costly concern. The Bay Area remains highly susceptible to earthquakes, and “seismic readiness” can add as much as 15 percent to the cost of a new structure, said Mark Sarkisian, director of seismic and structural engineering in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which built the John Hancock Center and Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago.

Not surprisingly, the science of engineering tall buildings has come a long way in the last 20 years. The structures have special joints to dissipate energy without fracturing during a quake. They can bend, almost like a fishing pole.

In the South of Market area, the sandy soil creates a bigger risk if a big one hits. So developers need to dig foundations 100 to 125 feet deep, Mr. Sarkisian said.

All the engineering advances have made newer high-rises less susceptible to collapse than lower-rise brick structures being held together by gravity, experts say.

But it hasn’t been fear of earthquakes that has held up the approval of a residential tower being designed by Mr. Meier’s firm for the corner of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. City planners were concerned about how an early design for the building, currently scheduled to have 37 floors, would affect wind conditions for pedestrians, said Bernhard Karpf, an associate partner at Richard Meier & Partners, who is in charge of the project.

“They describe that area as having ‘hazardous wind conditions,’ where people would literally get blown off the street,” Mr. Karpf said.

The developer David Choo asked Mr. Meier in 2009 to do something that was “not your traditional San Francisco architecture,” Mr. Karpf said. Meier & Partners initially designed a “free-standing sculptural object” on the small site. With approval threatened, the firm hired a Canadian company to test a scale model in a wind tunnel, delaying the design process by another year.

“We had never heard of these kinds of wind regulations,” Mr. Karpf said. “It became almost obsessive on the planning board’s side to make sure wind is mitigated.”

Their frustration mounting, the Meier architects asked the Canadian company to give them three or four shapes that would meet the wind requirements. “We have to move forward,” Mr. Karpf said he told them. “We have to find a solution that works. It may look horrible, but let’s see if we can reverse the process and turn it into a building.”

In the end, the slender shape of the building “was strongly influenced” by studies in the wind tunnel laboratory, which showed that it would “actually improve wind conditions in this part of town,” he said.

When Mr. Karpf asked Mr. Choo how he could stand to buy a property and still have nothing to show for it some five years later, he shrugged and told the architect, “That’s the way it works in San Francisco.”

Walker Tower in Chelsea Teases Us With Three More Penthouses

ZimbioNovember 16, 2012
Walker Tower, located at 212 W. 18th Street, consists of 50 luxury condominiums. Eighteen units from the first round of available apartments at the restored Ralph Walker-designed building are in contract. The tower, erected before neighborhood height limits, boasts protected 360-degree views of Manhattan, which partially explains the sky-high pricing.

Penthouse 8, a three-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex, is asking $12.495 million, or $4,068 per square foot. Penthouse 3 has a price tag of $20.99 million, or $6,035 per square foot, while Penthouse 4 is asking $12.895 million, or $5,005 per square foot.

Model unit photographs and floor plans below, courtesy of CORE:
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119