Billionaires’ Row struggles to live up to its go-go name
City’s wealthiest street sees slowing demand as foreign buyers face increasing scrutiny
Up until quite recently, so-called Billionaires’ Row – the stretch of uber-tall condo towers rising on West 57th Street – was considered emblematic of a new booming era for Manhattan real estate. But with sales now slowing, a look at the deals there offers a compelling snapshot of the city’s luxury market.
There were murmurings of a slowdown as early as 2014, when one developer said the condo market on 57th Street had “stopped.” While a handful of developers plowed ahead with their trophy tower plans, the number of luxury skeptics has increased exponentially since. And yet some remain bullish on high-end sales. (See related story on page 60.)
In the first quarter of 2016, the sales average for the exclusive strip, fueled by closings at superluxury skyscrapers One57 and 432 Park, stood at $10.4 million. But going forward, there are big questions about whether there is enough demand among the global elite for units at that price level.
Part of the problem: No one really knows how many wealthy buyers from around the world are planning to buy a New York apartment in the coming years. Or how economic and political instability around the world might stimulate or curtail those purchases.
Brokers also report that foreign buyers are feeling like they are operating under a cloud, thanks to increased scrutiny of identity-hiding corporations by the U.S. Treasury Department. And new restrictions on capital outflow in China make it harder for foreign investors to use apartments here as investment properties, further generating a slowdown.
As a result, brokers may be focusing closer to home in the future to find buyers. And the good news is that New York City has more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, according to a recent report from CityLab, which found that some 116 billionaires live in NYC, followed by San Francisco with 71, Moscow with 68, Hong Kong with 64 and Los Angeles with 51. NYC also has the richest billionaires, with $537 billion, or 7.6 percent of global billionaire wealth.
Here’s what’s available: There are currently 272 units in the four Billionaires’ Row condo towers on the market: One57, 220 Central Park South, 252 East 57th Street and 432 Park Avenue.
Of those existing listings, 122 units, or 45 percent, are in contract. Asking prices average $22.7 million, or $5,663 per square foot. Even at these superposh towers, prices run the gamut. The priciest apartment, a four-story penthouse spanning 23,000 square feet at 220 Central Park South, reportedly went in contract for $250 million last year, with hedge fund boss Ken Griffin as the lucky buyer. Meanwhile, a one-bedroom pad on the 34th floor of One57 can be had for a mere $4.2 million.
What makes these towers expensive isn’t their 57th Street address, after all, but the park views that their lofty aeries afford, which they share with other buildings on Central Park South, Central Park West and Park Avenue.
The following is a breakdown of what is on the market on Billionaires’ Row.
1. 432 Park Avenue
The 1,396-foot tower, currently the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, is ready for “immediate occupancy,” according to its website, which gives it an advantage over incomplete projects like 220 Central Park South or 111 West 57th Street. And its Park Avenue address has drawn more American buyers than some of its peers, said Jacky Teplitzky of Douglas Elliman. Asking prices range from $6.5 million for a one-bedroom apartment to $95 million for a penthouse. Known buyers: real estate honcho Howard Lorber, financier Bennett LeBow, Qatari diplomat Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, jeweler Jacob Arabov and Saudi billionaire Fawaz Al Hokair.
2. 36 Central Park South
Developers originally planned to build a 1,201-foot-tall condo tower on the site of the current Helmsley Park Lane Hotel but shelved the plans in January, citing a weak luxury market. It was unclear at press time whether condo plans were back on the table.
3. 53 West 53rd Street
Although not technically on Billionaires’ Row, the 1,050-foot MoMA tower designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel is still considered worthy of the moniker. Construction is underway on the building’s 139 units. The listings that hit the market last September were priced from $3.2 million to $70 million.
4. 111 West 57th Street
The 1,438-foot-tall tower is slated to have 65 units with asking prices ranging from $7 million to $58 million. In March, the developers caused a stir by halting sales for up to a year because of a weaker market.
5. 123 West 57th Street
Reportedly, there are plans for a 761-foot tower at 123 West 57th Street, but the project appears stalled.
With a 2011 launch, Extell’s One57 was the first supertall condo tower to hit the market. And it is also the first to see some of its 94 condo units resell. But after a strong start to sales, observers say the tower has felt the impact of growing competition on 57th Street. At least 11 units are unsold, with asking prices ranging from $4.2 million to $58.5 million. Known buyers: hedge fund founder Bill Ackman, fashion tycoon Lawrence Stroll, Hong Kong textile mogul Silas Chou and Brazilian billionaire Edson Bueno.
7. Central Park Tower
With a planned height of 1,550 feet, Extell’s second project on 57th Street would be the city’s new tallest residential building. Backed by a $300 million loan from the Blackstone Group, Extell has started foundation work but has yet to secure actual construction financing.
8. 220 Central Park South
“220 Central Park South is an anomaly,” said Sotheby’s International Realty’s Nikki Field. While other superluxury towers have struggled to sell units, at least 43 out of 90 marketed units here are estimated as being in contract, according to CityRealty. Prices range from $12.3 million to a reported $250 million for a penthouse out of combined units.