“Pyramid scheme” catches on with Manhattan developers

Builders take ancient tomb design and flip it to put riches at top

From left: Bruce Eichner, Winston Fisher and Francis Greenburger
From left: Bruce Eichner, Winston Fisher and Francis Greenburger

The developers behind three of Manhattan’s tallest condo towers are engaging in pyramid schemes.

Ian Bruce Eichner, Fisher Brothers and Francis Greenburger’s Time Equities are developing buildings cleverly designed to expand in width as they climb upward.

The design — like an inverted pyramid — has the effect of placing more of the developer’s buildable square footage on the higher floors, where the premium views command more dollars than the real estate on lower floors.

Credit for two of the designs goes to the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, which drew up plans for Eichner’s 45 East 22nd Street and 111 Murray Street, the 62-story Tribeca building Fisher Brothers is developing along with the Witkoff Group and Douglas Elliman chairman Howard Lorber.

“The tower distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects by providing additional real estate where it is most wanted – above surrounding buildings,” KPF’s website says of 111 Murray, which launched sales in June. “An increase in floor plate size above the 40th floor results in a gently flared silhouette, accented by a sculpted crown, gesturing openly to the midtown skyline.”

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Eichner, who received $420 million in financing to construct 45 East 22nd Street, said he had seen “nothing like it in North America,” when he held an architectural design competition. KPF beat out other firms to design his 65-story building in the Flatiron District, which will be the tallest between Midtown and Lower Manhattan when it tops out.

KPF’s design features a 75-foot-wide masonry base that gives way to a glass-and-steel spire 125 feet wide at the top. Beginning above the building’s cantilever, each floor steps out 4.5 inches wider than the one below until the top reaches out 17 feet wider that it would have in a building with a vertical wall.

“That puts more than 55 percent of my saleable area at the top,” Eichner explained. Sales at 45 East 22nd Street are currently underway.

The pyramid-like design is less pronounced at Time Equities’ Helmut Jahn-designed 50 West Street, though the building does grow wider through the first dozen-or-so floors of its base.

“I used to joke that the ideal developer building would be an inverted pyramid,” said Roy Kim, a new-development expert at Douglas Elliman who helped design One57 while an employee at Extell Development. “Now you’re actually seeing this.”