District nears finish line

By Candace Taylor | June 11, 2010 02:30PM

Broker Stephen McArdle and District

It’s been a long road for District, the Lower Manhattan condominium that became synonymous with the excesses of the condo boom when it hired nightclub queen Amy Sacco in 2007 as a “lifestyle consultant.”

But the building, located at 111 Fulton Street in the Financial District, is finally approaching the sold-out mark, according to the sales team.

The 163-unit building has only five units left, according to Stephen McArdle, a principal at Urban Marketing, who is handling sales at the project. That includes three two-bedroom penthouses with prices starting at $1.75 million for a 1,117-square-foot unit; a 1,243-square-foot one-bedroom with a home office listed at $1 million; and a 551-square-foot studio for $590,000. McArdle said he has contracts out on several of those units.

McArdle said sales in the building in recent months have averaged between $935 and $950 per square foot — prices that have made buyers “very happy.”

“Even after the history, it worked out very well,” McArdle said.

District has a checkered past. When the building first went on sale in 2007, it was marketed as “smart, sexy and available” by now-defunct brokerage JC DeNiro & Associates. JC DeNiro reportedly sold around 80 percent of the units, but firm founder Jack DeNiro told The Real Deal in 2009 that some of those deals fell through after the real estate crash.

Project developers Africa Israel, Wonder Works Construction and Urban Equities NY decided to switch sales firms, hiring Brown Harris Stevens Select.  A few months later, they switched gears again, this time hiring Urban Marketing.

While the recession raged, the Financial District was drawing families rather than the young professionals developers had banked on.

When Urban Marketing took the reins, McArdle said, the marketing firm revamped the condo’s chic and sexy image.

“When we took over, we repositioned it as a high-amenity, full-service building and got rid of the discussion of the nightclub atmosphere,” he said of the condo, which now has a Chipotle restaurant as a retail tenant.

Of course, McArdle still had a few marketing tricks up his sleeve: In late 2009, it was announced that 10 finalists in the Victoria’s Secret nationwide model search would be staying in a District penthouse.

It also helped that the prices have come down. Penthouse 102, for example, closed in May for $1.48 million, city records show. It was initially listed by BHS in 2009 at $2.065 million, according to Streeteasy.com.

Other factors that may have helped with sales: construction was completed in 2008, McArdle said, and the building has a high percentage of units occupied by their owners — 90 percent, he said. Both of these factors help buyers get mortgages despite the credit crunch.

“Unlike many of the new developments that needed to do bulk sales, we never had to,” he said.

McArdle said the developer isn’t offering any special incentives to move the last few units. “The building really is selling itself,” he said.