The Real Deal New York

Alchemy brings in Sotheby’s to ramp up sales at the Woolworth

Former sales director JP Forbes departed firm last year
By Katherine Clarke | April 14, 2016 07:00AM

Ken Horn and a rendering of the Woolworth residences

Ken Horn and a rendering of the Woolworth residences

Alchemy Properties is bringing in the cavalry to help spur sales at one of the city’s most high-profile conversion projects.

The company, led by Ken Horn, has tapped Sotheby’s International Realty brokers Stan Ponte and Joshua Judge to market units at the 33-unit Woolworth Building conversion, six months after sales director JP Forbes left the firm amid rumblings of slow sales. It’s the first time Alchemy has tapped an outside firm to market a project from scratch.

The company is also “tweaking” some of the building’s Thierry Despont-designed finishes, including scaling back some of the custom millwork. Market insiders had grumbled for months that the finishes were too specific and didn’t appeal to a broad range of buyers, sources said.

“We’re making it a little more contemporary rather than 1920s,” Horn told The Real Deal. “People had said that perhaps the finishes were too personal or too masculine.”

Horn said Alchemy made a conscious decision over the past six months to hold back on its marketing efforts at the property, which is still undergoing construction. But, now that the company is just 18 months away from delivering a product, it’s time to ramp up.

He declined to comment on exactly how many of the units have been sold since the building’s offering plan was first approved in 2014.

Ponte said he’s confident that buyers will gravitate towards the uniqueness of the product, particularly as the delivery date nears.

“The buyers that we’re talking to are interested in owning a piece of the Woolworth,” Ponte told TRD. “We’re not just selling the interior. We’re also selling the exterior and that’s where the opportunity lies. Buyers these days are hedging towards properties that are not replicable, where there are not going to be 30 of the same buildings going up in the next couple of years.”

Alchemy bought the top 30 floors of the historic building, at 233 Broadway, for $68 million in 2012 and has poured many more millions into the conversion. Horn said previously that the cost of the restoration turned out to be significantly higher than even he expected.

Prices start at $3.5 million for a 1,200-square-foot pad on the 44th floor. The penthouse is slated to ask a record-breaking $110 million, according to the offering plan.

The Woolworth developers are trying to woo buyers at a time when the market is flush with luxury product.

Roughly 14,500 units are expected to hit the market between 2015 and 2017, according to a new analysis by Miller Samuel for TRD. Going by the current rate of sales, it would take more than five years to sell all that excess inventory.