Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Bridges, Impressive New East Harlem Condo

I've been driving up Third Avenue for years making a right turn at 2 vacant lots on the East Side of 123rd Street to access the Triboro Bridge. For years I wondered about the potential for the lots on the North and South side of the Street and wondered what a difference it would make if the lots were developed. It finally has happened and fortunately for the entire neighborhood, it has happened in impressively tasteful fashion. I have not been in the building yet, but have one of my agents has shown it several times and she is absolutely in love with it. She tells me that the apartments are spacious and that they are tastefully appointed. Prices are terrific starting at $532/ft for a 1700 Sf 3 bedroom (905k). From the exterior, the twin buildings look like they could easily fit in on the Upper East Side. The faux limestone base evokes the New York of old when more attention was paid to aesthetics and appearance. In short, this looks like a high quality building, priced to move, and best of all transforms blight to light. More details can be found at http://www.thebridgesnyc.com/. The building is handled by Katherine Gauthier of Elliman.


Golfer or not, there is no denying that The Maidstone Club's golf course is one of the most beautiful places on earth! Of course, if you don't have Hundreds of Thousands of dollars laying around, years of patience, and tons of upper-crustic references, the only way you will get on is by invitation of a member, or on one of the few occasions per year that the club generously opens it's grounds to simpletons like me for a charity event. That was the case last week when the event was open for The East Hampton Rotary Club. This was my second year participating, and just the mere recollection of being in such a place will put a smile on my face. The course is laid out along the Atlantic Ocean and an inlet called Hook Pond amongst some of the priciest and most desirable Real Estate in the world. The Johnsons, of J & J fame, have a Mansion just steps from the Western edge of the course. I had the delight of partying in that Mansion as a teenager, but that's another story. Between the pond, the homes, the ocean, the sand dunes, and an incredible variety of vegetation and wildlife native to the area there is no better place to golf. If you can find your way on one way or another, do it!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Links For Market News

Condo Boom Heads North To Harlem (NY Observer)
REBNY interested in Queens West LIC (Curbed)
New Residential Developments Roundup (The Real Deal)
141 Fifth vs. Gramercy Starck (NY Times)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yes, This Is LIC Today

Snapped this week- this is the Waterfront in Hunter's Point, Long Island City. Note the 2nd and 3rd buildings from the left, the new Rockrose "East Coast" building and the new Avalon building. Both will be luxury rentals. I believe that will start renting apartments this Fall. The Powerhouse Condo, not pictured, seems to be crawling along. Still rumored to be opening for sales in the next month, my only question is when will it be finished?

300 East 79th Gets A Little Glass..

I passed 300 East 79th Street last week and snapped a couple of pics of the exterior. Construction seems to be progressing nicely on The H. Thomas O'Hara designed wall of glass condo. The first sight of glass is now evident. The 18 story, 40 home building was reported early in the year to offer 2 bedrooms starting at $1.425 Mil, but let's face it, those prices are so yesterday! Note to developer, if that's your initial offering price, I'll take them all!

Dear Bloomberg...Run in 08!

Not to digress, but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents and urge Mayor Bloomberg to run for President in 2008. The reasons are simple.
First, Bloomberg is incredibly well qualified. Having created a business that has blossomed into a $20-$30 Billion dollar fortune is clear evidence that he knows what he is doing from a business perspective. Let's face it, he is a brilliant businessman. Equally impressive though is the job that he has done as mayor of New York City. There is no question that Mayor Bloomberg was left with an incredibly difficult job when he became Mayor of New York, post-9/11. The City was on the verge of 1970's-style fiscal despair. Bloomberg made some very tough decisions, unpopular at the time (like raising property taxes), which showed true leadership. His decisions turned out to be brilliant and New York has clearly benefited by his exceptional stewardship. In stark contrast to the National economy, New York is booming. The Real Estate market is the strongest in the nation, Wall Street bonuses are through the roof, and the mayor has kept the Wall Streeters here so that the City's coffers are reaping a windfall. Additionally, and admirably, Bloomberg has undertaken to create tens of thousands of affordable housing units throughout the City. In general, the Mayor has made the City eminently more livable. The tough and unpopular decisions continue, from congestion pricing to banning trans-fats, but through experience, New Yorkers have come to trust the Mayor's decisions and his vision.
Second, Bloomberg strikes the perfect balance that this country needs to unite. Bloomberg was a Democrat, then a moderate Republican. In essence, I see him as a prototypical Reagan Democrat. He is a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. The Republicans, formerly known for Fiscal conservatism and laissez-faire social policy, have abandoned their roots and become free spenders who's focus has come to center around pandering to the religious right and corporate interest groups. Meanwhile, the democrats have suffered from an incredible lack of leadership and seem to have put up the only candidates that can't win a general election.
Finally, Bloomberg can and will win if he decides to run for our nation's highest office. As a third party candidate, Bloomberg would be the first to have the financial resources to outspend either party, without taking a dime from the special interest groups that have stood in the way of progress for decades. Ask anyone, if Bloomberg ran, would you vote for him? Ask a Republican, ask a Democrat. I have, and it doesn't seem to matter if they are right wingers or lefty liberals, the unanimous answer is yes, they would vote for Bloomberg. I have never been able to ask that question of such a diverse group and had everyone come up with the same answer.
We are at a critical crossroads in our country's history. We are losing credibility worldwide thanks to misguided, stubborn, and obtuse foreign policy. Our economy and the US Dollar are quickly losing their leadership position in the world. Our federal budget and the trade deficit are out of control. We have serious challenges worldwide. This is a time when we need true leadership, tough decision-making, and a president who is a true uniter.
So, Mr. Mayor, I don't know what it going to take, but if I have to beg, here it is......P-L-E-A-S-E run!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Brompton vs. Lucida, Round 2: Brompton Takes The Lead (sort of)! And, Now That's A Hole!

Lucida...May 12th, 2007Brompton May 12th, 2007The Lucida Hole
It didn't seem likely a month ago, but in the showdown of East 86th Street, The Brompton has clearly taken the lead in terms of construction, at least. What has happened? It seems that The Brompton has started building up (just got above street level), while The Lucida keeps going down, down, down. 60 or 70 feet down in fact. It is a really impressive hole, I know they are going to have a wine cellar, but this is a little overboard. What could be going down there? Well, there was no real answer from the on site, who when asked what was going down there, her answer was "nothing". I know Barnes and Noble is going to build a huge bookstore in there, almost as big as the one at Union Square, but you'd have to figure that a fair amount will be ground level. Feel free to speculate on the comments section of this post, I'd be interested to see what you come up with.

It's not all bad for the Lucida though, it's reported in The Times on Sunday (May 13th) that they have sold 60% of the 110 units in just a matter of a few weeks. So, related may be winning the race to the sky, but Extell's green machine is filling the til and quick.

The Observatory, East Harlem Mystery Condo

Considering that this building on 104th and 1st Avenue has apparently topped off, it is a mystery to me that I could not find one reference to this condo on Google. Never satisfied, a little additional research lead me to the website of the architect, Gary H. Silver. His website provides this information:
"2021 1st Avenue aka The Observatory — Sensitivity to the environment is an appealing contribution to the up and coming neighborhood of East Harlem. This development will be one of East Harlem’s first Green condominium projects. Observatory Place is a mixed use, eleven story building containing both commercial and residential spaces fronting on First Avenue and a residential lobby. The 2nd- 11th floors will be built with windows on three facades: South, East and West allowing for the maximum amount of light and air to penetrate the building and bring in views of downtown Manhattan and the East River on upper levels. Set backs and projections on the floor plan allow for terraces and balconies at nearly each unit. This unique design reveals itself as one building set within another building. The benefit of this design is that the terraces and balconies become concealed within the “outer building”, serving the units as comfortable and privatized outdoor areas. The thirty-eight luxury residential units will also be privy to additional building services such as a gym on the 9th floor roof level, a landscaped roof at the 11th floor roof level, and a modern residential lobby with a doorman which is connected to refrigerated Fresh Direct storage as well as bike storage."

As much as the location at 103rd and First leaves much to be desired, I believe that this building sends an unmistakable message- It doesn't matter where in Manhattan it is, they will build a luxury condo there. Assuming that the units are priced correctly, there seems to be nothing but upside.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gramercy Starck Condo Update

Finally made it into Starck with a client yesterday, and some of my fears were realised. I figured that the building would be a quick mover and that the prime apartments would be picked over or amended up in prices and my experience was a combination of both. Since opening last week, 70 units are in contract. The "D" line that I had targeted for my clients (approx 1100sf, High floor, 2bd/2ba, for 1.24mil) had either gone to contract, or I suspect were pulled from the market awaiting a price amendment. The first price amendment is expected after the weekend, and my best guess is that the D-line will likely be marked up an additional 100k. I'll update on that when it happens. There are still some very exceptional high floor South facing 3 bedrooms that are over 1600 sf for just over 2 Mil.. We'll see if those last through the weekend.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Market Update: Scarcity The Rule In Sub-800k Market

What a difference a couple of months came make. It seems we have a tale of 2 markets in the works. If you divide the market by the price of $800,000., you have 2 very different markets. For argument's sake let's call the sub-$800k "affordable" (a relative term), and everything else "moderate" or "expensive".
The most glaring observation that can be made is in regards to the "affordable" market. This has come to my attention as we have had several clients looking for 1 bedroom apartments, preferably in a condo, in the $700,000 range. The clients have been concentrated in Manhattan, South of 96th Street, but nobody seems to want to do the Financial District. To my surprise, where there were numerous options just a few months ago, suddenly there are few to choose from. What happened? I think there are 2 dynamics at work.
First, rental prices have seen such a rapid ascent lately, that the costs comparison between renting and buying (an affordable apartment), have tilted in favor of buying. If you can afford a 20% down payment on a $750,000 apartment, your mortgage works out to be $3600 (at 6%), and if you are in a building with a 421-a tax abatement and low common charges, your monthly cost can end up around $4200/mo.. Given that a high end 1 bedroom can rent for $3500-$4500, buying makes fiscal sense, especially when considering the tax benefits and equity built from ownership.
Second, the investors are cleaning out the 1 bedroom units. I have seen this in building after building that has opened this Spring. 100 West 18th Street, for instance, sold all of their 1 bedrooms before they even opened for previews. The Platinum, which opened recently, also saw investors come in and clean out many of their over sized studios and 1 bedrooms before their first ads even hit the papers. In addition to large investors, many suburbanite, soon to be retirees, are getting in on the action. Many of these buyers from Westchester, Nassau, and Connecticut are looking for a no-hassle pied-a-terres where they can enjoy the city while keeping their primary residence elsewhere.
The cumulative effect is scarcity in this end of the market. If you can find a new condo 1 bedroom around $1000/ft., consider yourself lucky. With the affluent baby boomers nearing retirement, you could very well have a great investment on your hands.
The news in not all bad. There is what appears to be a sweet spot developing in the market in the $1.3 Mil - $2.5Mil dollar range. It seems that in this recent wave of condo development, builders have overestimated the demand for large 2 and 3 bedroom, "family-sized" units. I have seen the same apartments on the availability lists for many of these hot condos last for months. I have even had a couple of developers call me and see if they could come to my office to make a presentation to my sales staff. Additionally, there seems to be increased willingness to negotiate items like the transfer taxes. These too could wind up being good investments, as the past 5 years have seen a marked increase in children being born and raised in Manhattan and space is likely to get tight for these families over the next few years. In other words, developers are right in seeing the demand, but they may just be too early.
So, we have 2 markets developing. If it's not too late, developers are likely to change plans and construct more 1 bedrooms. If it is too late, look for increased incentives in the 2 and 3 bedroom market.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

NYC Vacancy Rate Nearly Non-Existent


Cheap Dollar Lures Flood of Foreign Investment


More on East Harlem Boom From Blogsoop


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Gramercy Starck Condo Opening

It was May Day in New York City and the largest crowd gathering wasn't in Union Square to protest immigration issues. No, it seemed the real crowds were brokers, celebrities, and gawkers galore crowding to get in to the newly opened showroom for Phillippe Starck's new creation "Gramercy", a condo going up on 23rd Street between First and Second Avenues.
Mr. Starck, a much acclaimed French architect and designer of all forms extraordinaire, certainly puts his unique stamp on the project. His design approach is one of over sized chandeliers, over sized picture frames, and much use of black and white with unexpected contrasting bright colors. He uses minimalism to contrast against over sized ordinary yet elegant objects. What this translates to is a large mainly white lobby with very little in it with the exception of a striking 7 foot tall black chandelier which looks like a lampshade with some sort of renaissance era print on the inside, a 10 foot picture frame, a couple of unusual black armchairs, and on orb-like white leather seating area. Ok, so, I'm a guy who likes prewar elegance, Brooks Brothers suits and Khakis. I will readily admit, call me crusty, that I just don't get it. At the same time, that is the point, as Starck says in both the presentation and the literature, he is not trying to please everyone, "I just try to please my tribe, my friends".
What I do "get" in this new development is that it is a truly exceptional building as a whole, one that was clearly thought out and is exceptional in many ways. I was most impressed by the studio, 2 and 3 bedrooms layouts, while I thought that there were a number of 1 bedrooms that seemed a bit narrow.
What struck me first about the apartment models were the bathrooms, which were absolutely gorgeous. The lines are so clean and symmetrical they exude absolute luxury and cleanliness. These lines frame a Starck model over sized soaking tub which calls to you. Both the shower and the toilet are in enclosed in matching glass doors to the left and right of the tub, while matching bowl sinks and vanities are on your left and right in the foreground.
Another brilliant feature is that you choose between 3 groups of finishes for the apartment. There is the "Classic" finish which features dark oak floors, walnut finishes, and shades of Pale grey. The "Culture" finishes are more modern, and my favorite, the "Nature" collection which uses lighter wood floors and cabinets and blond limestone in the bath. The choice really opens options for people who might otherwise see the project and eliminate it based on a certain finish which they may not like. Third, I am very impressed with the actual look of the building. Floor to ceiling windows, and numerous setbacks make for both a pleasant look and abundant outdoor space options for people to choose from. I didn't mention the kitchen. The kitchens feature top of the line appliances (Sub Zero fridge, Meile oven and range) and are all largely hidden by attractive wood cabinets. Again, the lines are absolutely crisp and clean. This is not a "look at me" kitchen and may not please the obsessive chef, but they are meant to be unobtrusive and they are quite functional and pleasing to the eye.
Incredibly, in my opinion, the prices for these apartments start at $1000/foot with very low common charges and taxes. It would seem to me that this building is clearly headed to be blown out quickly. There were over 1000 people on the wait list for an appointment, and although they open on the May 4th, they are already booked out 2 weeks. I consider myself lucky that I managed to get a couple of appointments for the 10th, I only hope that there is still a wide selection and that they haven't amended prices up in the first week..
To sum it up- Vive Le Starck, whether you get it or just wish you did.