Since 2015, the trophy penthouse atop the Woolworth Building has quietly waited for the right buyer to come along. It’s gotten one substantial discount — from $110 million to $79 million — and recently re-listed at that eye-popping price tag late last month.
But in the pandemic-hammered luxury real estate market, one might wonder: Is there a taker out there for this apartment?
The 9,680-square-foot penthouse — dubbed “The Pinnacle” — occupies the top five floors of the landmark skyscraper’s neo-Gothic crown, with 24-foot ceilings, 125 windows and a private 408-square-foot observatory terrace that takes up the 58th floor.
Ken Horn, the president of developer Alchemy Properties, says the firm decided to bring the penthouse back to market now as Covid-19 restrictions have lessened and more units within the building are finding buyers. Horn said that the development is now more than 75 percent sold, although some of its units have been selling at substantial discounts.
“We always knew that a buyer who is going to come in and execute on the purchase of this unit really wants to see that the building was a success,” Horn said.
The apartment’s unique layout has also made marketing it a challenge.
“What you have here doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Horn. “It doesn’t exist anywhere in New York, where you’re on the top of a building … you literally have a castle which is now raw space. How does one live in it?”
For more than a year, the developer worked with architects Thierry Despont and David Hotson to illustrate how the space could be designed for functionality. While the unit will be offered as a white box so a buyer can customize it, renderings produced by Despont and Hotson show how spiral staircases, built-in bookshelves and walls of oddly shaped windows could feel livable.
To Compass’ Vickey Barron, that was a smart move. “Now that it’s priced where it is and the market seems to be picking up and people are wanting to have assets and not their money sitting liquid, there’s a good opportunity for them to capture that buyer,” Barron said.
Barron, who worked on Walker Tower’s record-setting penthouse sale in 2014, speculated that a buyer would likely be someone with a deep appreciation for architecture and a desire to put their own stamp on the property.
“You can’t really guess what that end user’s going to want, and there’s nothing worse than to have them rip it out after it was just put in,” Barron said.
But Compass broker Clayton Orrigo — who has marketed similar high-end properties, including a $50 million penthouse at 56 Leonard Street — called the white box concept “problematic.”
“A lot of people, now more than ever, lack patience,” said Orrigo. “People during the pandemic realized that having the home of your dreams today is more valuable than having it tomorrow.”
Richard Steinberg, a broker at Douglas Elliman, was more blunt. “I just don’t think people are going to want to do a project like this,” he said. “I don’t see it, I just don’t.”
He expects a buyer would be someone looking for a second (or third, or fourth) home: “A billionaire who wants it as a pied-á-terre and at that point may want to undergo the two-year renovation, [and] doesn’t really care because it’s not their primary residence.”
As more people are vaccinated and travel restrictions loosen up, Orrigo has seen more potential buyers queue up to see trophy listings in person. He imagines the same will happen with this property.
“The reality is, there’s only so many buyers for this,” Orrigo said. “It’s a lot of international buyers who would buy these trophy assets, and most of these international buyers have not been able to come here in a year. … It’s hard to pull the trigger and transact on an asset of that size without seeing it in person.”
Stan Ponte of Sotheby’s International Realty, who is marketing the penthouse, argues that the Pinnacle isn’t an ordinary apartment; it’s a “piece of art” that will be more attractive in a post-Covid world.
Ponte thinks the property can attract a “leader of an industry, someone who has made their mark on the world, and who wants to bring their mark to New York City,” he added. “There’s a lot of energy around that, locally, nationally and internationally.”