Will buyers want to swim laps in luxury?

TRD New York /
Mar.March 13, 2009 04:47 PM
 A private pool is being built in a Lux 74 unit (right), similar to the one at 704 Broadway (left)

Difficult market or not, Core Development Group is diving in.

The company has just finished construction on a private indoor pool — one of only a few of its kind in the city — located in a 5,920-square-foot triplex condo on the Upper East Side. Now that the pool is finished, Core has launched a marketing campaign for the five-bedroom unit located in Lux 74, a 12-unit condominium under development at 433 East 74th Street between York and First avenues.

The unit, #1C, is priced at $8.2 million, or $1,385 per square foot, and has a private screening room and an 1,850-square-foot outdoor space, complete with an open-air kitchen.

Such frills are a tough sell in a market where ostentatious wealth has become so passé that Sharon Baum is trading in her Rolls Royce for a station wagon. But developer Josh Guberman, CEO of Core Development Group, is hoping that the pool’s uniqueness will work in the listing’s favor when combined with the (relatively) reasonable price.

“What we did with this product is make sure that there are amenities and services that clearly differentiate it from everything else,” Guberman said.

Similar listings on the market do seem to have less bang for the buck. A penthouse at 885 Park Avenue priced at $8.25 million, or $2,062 a square foot, is 4,000 square feet with four-bedrooms, according to Streeteasy.com. A five-bedroom at 255 East 74th Street, between Second and Third avenues, is listed at $8.075 million, or $2,311 per square foot.

Any other listing “would be $15 million because of the private pool,” said Kirk Rundhaug, a senior vice president at Core Group Marketing (different than the development group), who has the listing.

But unit #1C almost didn’t get its pool.

Lux 74  went on the market in the spring of 2008 as a co-exclusive by Core Marketing Group and the Corcoran Group. Rundhaug, who impressed Guberman by selling several units in the building, became the exclusive broker for sales in the building in August. He quickly netted a buyer for unit #1C, then listed at $8.2 million, the same price it is now, and the unit went to contract August 12.

The buyers weren’t interested in the planned swimming pool, however, so the pool’s construction was scrapped.  But the deal fell apart “once the market went crazy,” Rundhaug said. “When they backed out of the deal, we went ahead and put the swimming pool in.”

The triplex, which Guberman refers to as a townhouse, is in the process of being staged, said Rundhaug, who said he hasn’t started actively marketing it until now. “People need to see a finished product before they’re going to buy anything right now,” he said.

Now completed, the gunite pool is on the basement level of the triplex, along with a full wine cellar and wet bar and a home theater with a 12-foot screen, stadium-style seating and surround sound.

There are a few private pools sprinkled throughout the city, said Tamir Shemesh, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman. An 11,000-square-foot penthouse at 704 Broadway, for example, has a private pool on the rooftop terrace. And, in November, Telecom mogul Michael Hirtenstein made headlines when he forfeited a large deposit by walking away from six combined units, with pool and hot tub, at Tribeca’s One York.

Private pools are more common in townhouses, Shemesh said, often occupying the basement level, than in multi-unit apartment buildings, due to the extra engineering involved.

A popular amenity in a hot market, pools aren’t necessarily a draw in the current market, he said.

“I can’t imagine buyers would be interested in pools in this type of market,” he said. “A lot of people are not looking to be very flashy right now. They understand that there is a problem out there.”

But Guberman is confident that the unit’s uniqueness will pay off.

“If there are five apartments that are similarly priced, the one that has an amazing pool is going to be on the one that sells,” he said.

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