Alchemy to keep Woolworth Building sales in-house

Developer recruits ex-Corcoran Sunshine vet JP Forbes to sell condos at iconic tower

TRD New York /
Aug.August 19, 2014 10:45 AM

To sell the condominiums at the Woolworth Building, Alchemy Properties isn’t opting for high-profile new development firms such as Douglas Elliman Development Group or Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. Instead, the developer recruited Corcoran Sunshine veteran JP Forbes as its new managing director of sales and will keep the sales process at the iconic tower in-house.

“If you look at Alchemy as a whole,” Forbes told The Real Deal, “there’s fabulous stuff that they do on acquisition, pre-development and construction. Bringing me in is essentially like adding the fourth leg of a chair.”

Alchemy paid $68 million for the top 30 floors of the building at 233 Broadway, and is converting them into 34 luxury condos designed by Thierry Despont. Forbes declined to discuss pricing at the project, but according to Alchemy’s proposed offering plan, prices start at $3.5 million for a 1,209-square-foot, 44th-floor pad, while three units are asking north of $20 million. In addition, a nine-story, 8,975-square-foot penthouse is asking a whopping $110 million — a record for Downtown.

The Attorney General’s office has yet to formally approve the offering plan, which is required before Alchemy can commence sales. But a source familiar with the property said that the plan received verbal approval. The project is slated for a 2016 move-in.

Forbes, who is married to Kleier Residential’s Samantha Kleier, has worked on projects such as the Brodsky Organization’s 135 East 79th Street and the Mark at 25 East 77th Street. When asked about the opportunity to sell the residences at the Woolworth — which was the tallest skyscraper in the world until 1930 and remains one of the anchors of New York City’s skyline – he said it was “as if people could buy apartments in the Chrysler Building — it just doesn’t happen.”

At its condo project 35XV at 35 West 15th Street, Alchemy sold about 60 percent of the 55 units in-house, but then tapped Elliman’s Frances Katzen to sell the remaining units. By hiring Forbes, the firm reckons it can see projects over the finish line.

For new development sales, developers don’t appear to have a set rule on whether to go with a specialized marketing firm or stay in-house. Harry Macklowe and CIM Group opted to bring in Elliman to help with sales at 432 Park Avenue, while the Related Companies tapped Corcoran Sunshine as a sales partner on about $5 billion worth of projects in the pipeline, including the Hudson Yards residences and the Zaha Hadid-designed 520 West 28th Street. Gary Barnett’s Extell Development, however, decided to keep things internal at One57, as did Toll Brothers at 400 Park Avenue South.

New development firms tout their expertise in branding and marketing as well as access to a pool of wealthy buyers and relevant market information. Developers, however, sometimes find that it makes financial sense to stay in-house, and that they are perfectly capable of achieving the same sales results as these outside firms.

“I’ve often wondered why developers aren’t trying to do this themselves,” said industry veteran and William Raveis New York managing director Paul Purcell. “Back in the day, Louise Sunshine [of the Sunshine Group] created this incredible niche and it was very valuable. But now, condos aren’t a foreign species to New York City.”

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