Cary Tamarkin goes smaller to tap into big market

Developer's West Chelsea condo project features less sizable -- and less expensive -- units

From left: 508 West 24th Street and Cary Tamarkin
From left: 508 West 24th Street and Cary Tamarkin

Celebrated architect and developer Cary Tamarkin has a new, 25-unit condo project in the works in West Chelsea – one, he said, that will position itself toward buyers shying away from large, high-priced pads.

“The apartments around here tend to get incredibly expensive because of land,” Tamarkin explained last night inside one of the penthouses at his recently completed 508 West 24th Street as he discussed the effect the High Line has had on area real estate.

At 3,000 square feet, the apartment is the smallest of the building’s three penthouses. With an asking price of $10.5 million, it’s also the least expensive. But at Tamarkin’s newest West Chelsea project, a development a few blocks north at 550 West 29th Street, 3,000 square feet will be the ceiling.

“There are going to be slightly more-value apartments,” he said.

Penthouses at the 25-unit project will start at 2,500 square feet and top out at 3,000. Likewise, condos on the lower floors will range from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, compared to 2,300 square feet for similar apartments at his 24th Street building.

Details were scarce on the new building, but Tamarkin said it would incorporate his signature steel-banded windows, offer river views and have what he called a “holy cow” factor.

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The move represents a conservative turn for the developer who, along with his team from Stribling Marketing Associates headed by Cathy Taub and Alexa Lambert, invited brokers last night to view the condo and engage in a chat about the High Line and real estate.

The Harvard-educated architect wore a gray blazer and dark blue jeans – a dab of White Out left on his wrist from earlier in the day – as he held court inside the cozy, dimly lit apartment with impressive views of the elevated park and the purple-glowing Empire State Building.

Tamarkin said he found it unbelievable how the price of land skyrocketed past the previous highs in the $300 per square foot range when the market started to recover.

“All of a sudden now it’s $800 to $1,000. Like, what happened to four and five [hundred]?” It kind of skipped right over it.”

Soaring land prices have pushed developers to take on riskier and riskier endeavors, in a bet buyers will continue to pay higher prices. But many fear the market is starting to cool, and skeptical as to whether the “build it and they will come” adage will continue to hold true.

“So I think it’s really questionable with a lot of the prices developers are paying whether that’s going to get passed on to customers, whether that’s going to be possible,” Tamarkin said. “I’m not sure how many 10-, $12-million buyers there are in the world.”