Condos Converting Lower Manhattan to 24/7

While it might take a few years, Lower Manhattan seems solidly on its way to becoming a 24/7 neighborhood.

By 2005, 12,000 units are expected to be added to the current total of 30,000. There will be more luxury, and the new developments will feature more built-in amenities – such as swimming pools and basketball courts – than in other parts in the city.

Many new condos in the Financial District are catering to families, who are drawn by prices 15 to 20 percent less than Tribeca and tax abatements on new buildings.

And it’s not just the big name projects – condos at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Battery Park City, Santiago Calatrava’s cube-design tower at South Street, or 15 Broad and 90 West Street. Smaller three or four-story “boutique” buildings are being converted in increasing numbers as well.

“There are a number of projects in the early stages,” said Shaun Osher, executive vice president at Douglas Elliman. “And in the next five years you’re going to see a lot more coming to market. There’s going to be a nice cross mix of small loft buildings, with little or no services, and the high-end projects.”

Among the big projects, The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton are already complete, and the next major development to come online in the area will be 15 Broad Street, opening in May.

At the Ritz-Carlton, developer Millennium Partners changed course midstream to account for more families moving to Lower Manhattan.

They originally planned to build 150 units with a large number of one-bedrooms, but ended up with 114 units and more two- and three-bedrooms.

“The Ritz Carlton has become an anchor building filled with families,” said Louise Phillips Forbes, a senior vice president at Halstead. “Units are still available, and are selling for around $1,000 to $1,100 a square foot.”

In a neighborhood with a reputation for few amenities (a mischaracterization, according to Osher), extensive in-house amenities will be in supply at 15 Broad Street.

The former home of J.P. Morgan is being converted to 250 condos, and will include basketball courts, a swimming pool and a bowling alley developed by Boymelgreen Developers.

“We understand the needs of an extensive amenities package,” said Louise Sunshine, whose firm The Sunshine Group is marketing the site. “The building will take on a life of its own. All the services you need will be right there.”

Sunshine added that Philippe Starck – in his first New York City residential project – has designed the building to be “very modern and young spirited.”

Sunshine, whose recent work includes the Time Warner Center, is also working on two other still top-secret projects in Lower Manhattan.

“If I have anything to do with it, I see Wall Street and the Financial District as the next residential corridor in Manhattan,” she said.

Donald Trump may be working on a project downtown, too.

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In an interview in February with <i>The Real Deal</i>, developer Tamir Sapir said he had plans to work with Trump on a residential project in Lower Manhattan that will involve one of Sapir’s buildings. Details of the project haven’t been confirmed.

There is also the Spanish architect Calatrava’s design for a stunning 835-foot tall residential tower at 80 South Street, near the South Street Seaport.

The F.J. Sciame Construction project is slated for completion in 2006 or 2007, but some have questioned whether it will be too expensive to build. Dubbed “Townhouses in the Sky,” each of the 12 cubes will be four stories high, and will contain a duplex, triplex or four-story townhouse.

Little boutique condos are also sprouting up.

Forbes said 25 Ann Street, a small building with only 2,500 square feet per floor, was “one of the only small condo conversions four years ago. Now there are so many of them.”

“Those little boutique buildings are becoming great choices for people to benefit from some of the larger-scale projects that will be coming in,” Forbes said.

Forbes said a $1,000 to $1,200 per square foot space in a doorman building in Tribeca would be around $800 per square foot in the Financial District.

Simliarly, Osher said prices are about 15 percent less than in Tribeca.

He also noted that tax abatements for new buildings can bring down costs, and “brought down taxes at least 50 percent” at 15 Nassau, a relatively new project in the City Hall area north of the Financial Distrct.

Overall, while there is much development in the works, Osher said, “there is not that much on the market now.”

He said he doesn’t find Battery Park an ideal destination, where most co-ops have maintenance costs “through the roof,” and only a few buildings have great views.

But Lower Manhattan in general, he said, benefits from its close access to nearly all subway lines and highways in Manhattan. “Everything comes together down there,” he said.

Going forward, Osher said the most promising areas for development will be east of Broadway, south of City Hall and north of Battery Park.

Outside of condos, rental development has been booming, fueled by the federal government’s Liberty Bond Program, which doesn’t apply to condo development.

Developers Nathan Berman and Ronny Bruckner are turning the former Brown Brothers Harriman & Company headquarters at 63 Wall Street into 476 rental units, with leasing to begin this month. They also just bought 67 Wall Street and 20 Exchange Place and plan to convert those buildings.

Richard Born and Ira Drukier are converting 90 West Street, a 1902 Cass Gilbert office building next to Ground Zero, into a 410-unit rental building. The Ocean at 17 Battery Place is another rental conversion, and Rockrose is currently completing Liberty-Bond-financed 2 Gold Street, with 50 floors and 650 units to be finished in 2005.

Finally, 100 Maiden Lane, the 325,000-square-foot former headquarters of law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is also being turned into a 400-unit rental building. The building was recently purchased by developer Frank Lalezarian for $57 million.