Like its continental counterpart in London, there is little to say about New York that hasn’t already been said. With due respect to China and the European Union, New York is the beating heart of the world’s primary economic, social and cultural powerhouse (we all wanted to see The Avengers save NYC) and chances of that changing drastically any time soon are low. New York has weathered fires, race riots, economic devastation, crime levels that inspired songs, bureaucratic corruption, near bankruptcy, natural disasters and a terrorist attack that redefined the way we all live and move — as a start. And it’s still standing and flourishing as well as at any time in its 115-year history.
New York also weathered the mess of 2008’s global financial meltdown, ironic considering so many of the major banks and financial institutions fingered as the culprits are located there. Everyone blamed Wall Street. Indeed the city took a hit — up to 40 percent by some estimates — but prices didn’t fall as far or stay low for as long as in other markets, such as Las Vegas and Miami where prices fell, in some cases, 70 percent. Ultimately, “It didn’t suffer economically the way the rest of the country did,” theorises Richard Wallgren, executive vice president of sales and marketing for developer Macklowe Properties.
According to Knight Frank’s Prime Global Forecast, “Demand is strengthening in New York’s prime market but so too is supply. The majority of the new condo development is priced for the luxury end of the market. This is in sharp contrast to the wider market, which is seeing limited new development and will probably see tighter market conditions compared to the prime market. Overall luxury prices are expected to stay largely flat due to expanding supply and some vendors pricing themselves out of the market.” Activity in the luxury sector will remain focused in Midtown in 2014, with demand from international buyers also remaining high. Among the new supply is Extell Development’s One57, Chetrit Group’s plans to convert some of the newly purchased Sony Building into residences, Zeckendorf Development’s 50 United Nations Plaza and TriBeCa’s Baccarat Hotel & Residences.
If there is a property wild card it could be new mayor Bill de Blasio, the first Democrat in two decades to hold the seat. De Blasio won the seat in a landslide after 12 years of business-friendly Michael Bloomberg and whether his election marks a sea change in the city is yet to be seen. One thing’s for sure. As a white man with a black poet wife and two kids that attended public schools the new mayor is a nearly ideal avatar for the city and all it represents.
A New Icon
Also new (as of 2015) to Manhattan’s already impressive cityscape is 432 Park Avenue. Located between 56th and 57th Streets, not too far from Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Radio City Music Hall and endless shopping, CIM Group and Macklowe Properties’ 96-storey, 104-unit tower is looking to set a new bar for luxury real estate. Not at all surprisingly, the building’s amenities include one floor dedicated to function space that features a private residents’ restaurant with a 300-square foot terrace, a 25-metre pool, spa, fitness centre, screening room and catering and concierge services. The residences have 3.5-metre ceilings, with architecture and interiors by Rafael Vinoly Architects (Battersea Power Station master plan) and Bentel & Bentel. “The smallest is 2,000 square feet, but most are about 4,000 square feet. And they have large, square rooms. Designers love square rooms,” Wallgren notes. Other details that set 432 Park apart include careful design that can be personalised and touches like, “Humidification that is appealing to art collectors and also for comfortable living. Our finishes are classic. They’re not au courant. People ask about how flexible the spaces are [to] informing personality. They’re quite malleable.” Prices at 432 Park range between US$17 and $95 million (HK$132 to $736million). Peak prices to say the very least.
Despite that 432 Park Avenue is selling. The property has already moved US$1 billion worth of real estate — including all of the US$7 million one-bedroom units — and Macklowe’s commitment to privacy and anonymity (the developer points out anonymous purchases are still accepted in New York) is a major motivator for many high net worth buyers. Asked more than once for hard data on how many Mainland buyers purchased units, Wallgren defers with a polite, “Several is all I can say.” What he will say is, “Two-thirds of our purchasers so far are American. Half are from New York, half are from California; the wealth is concentrated on the two coasts. But we have buyers from Canada, Hong Kong, Russia, China, Brazil, Qatar. We’re the United Nations.”
At those prices, 432 Park Avenue is a capital appreciation property and that most buyers are in it for the long haul. Again, like London, New York is an education hotbed, home to NYU, Columbia and Rockefeller University, Juilliard, The New School and campuses of Cornell among dozens of others. Combined with the business, cultural and lifestyle elements the city is known for and increased diversification by international investors and it appears predictions for a stable New York investment market are correct. It’s not going anywhere.