New price, new broker… new layout?

Why some developers are tearing up floor plans

From left: The penthouse kitchen at 1110 Park Avenue before and after and Toll's David Von Spreckelsen
From left: The penthouse kitchen at 1110 Park Avenue before and after and Toll's David Von Spreckelsen

When Toll Brothers City Living first listed the penthouse at 1110 Park Avenue in 2015, the $35 million price tag was justifiable in a luxury market that hadn’t yet turned.

Three years later, the luxury home builder has swapped brokers, cut the price and redrawn the floor plan to attract a buyer. Now asking $25.95 million, the 7,000-square-foot apartment has a new eat-in kitchen and a sprawling great room after Toll tore down a partition between the living and dining rooms.

“It was a significant decision to make because you end up taking the unit offline,” said David von Spreckelsen, who heads Toll’s City Living division in New York. But he said the developer decided it was “well worth” the time and expense if it meant finding a buyer.

Toll isn’t the only developer that has gone back to the drawing board to come up with better layouts and staging for long-suffering listings.

During the last cycle, 15 William Street went through several iterations (as a condo turned rental turned condo). In 2014, when CIM Group was converting it back to condos, it replaced louvered bathroom doors that exposed soaking tubs to the bedrooms.

One of the biggest renovations this cycle was the Woolworth Tower Residences, where Alchemy Properties replaced dark and masculine finishes with light Calacatta marble and sleek Dornbracht hardware.

The Naftali Group also redid the kitchens and bathrooms at 210 West 77th Street, a 25-unit condo designed by Thomas Juul-Hansen, where dark bathroom cabinets were replaced with all-white.

From top: the old unit #16 and the remodeled unit #16 at 210 West 77th Street

“Sometimes you open a sales office and everyone thought things were perfect and you realize they weren’t,” said Stephen Kliegerman, president of Terra Development Marketing, which oversees sales and marketing of new developments for Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens.

At 212 Fifth Avenue, for example, the sponsors scrapped plans for the penthouse’s pool based on feedback from buyers, according to Nikki Field of Sotheby’s International Realty, who is marketing the $74 million pad. (The developers will deliver the triplex with a pool if the buyers want it, she said.)

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

As a general rule, few developers offer units as a “white box,” but some do as a concession to buyers. In January, for example, Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David Weinreb shelled out $38 million for a “white box” penthouse at Scott Resnick’s 551 West 21st Street. The unit had been listed for $50 million.

Erin Boisson Aries, who is marketing the building, declined to comment on Weinreb’s purchase. But she noted that although the palette and design of the project appealed to a variety of buyers, a certain amount of customization is common. “This is an extra level of customization and detailing that’s expected at the penthouse level,” said Boisson Aries, who joined Christie’s International Real Estate this year from Brown Harris Stevens.

In recent years, several developers have carved up mega penthouses into more modest homes in response to a slowdown in the luxury market.

Among them: The $80 million penthouse at 160 Leroy and a $45 million triplex at 10 Sullivan Street. Several full-floor units at 432 Park Avenue were divided into smaller units (though one buyer recently put two back together in a $60 million deal).

Bucking the trend, developer Ben Shaoul expanded his penthouse at 100 Barclay, where he originally planned four units instead of one. The 14,500-square-foot aerie has a 96-foot living room, and hit the market in February asking $59 million.

“I arm wrestled. I was a believer in one crown jewel at the top of this building,” said the Corcoran Group’s Vickey Barron, who is marketing the building. “I said, ‘We have 157 units. Why do we need four more?’” she recalled telling Shaoul. She told him it would be better to have one show-stopping penthouse. “There’s going to be someone that walks in and sees this and says, ‘I want what everyone else can’t have.’”

At 1110 Park, Toll is also offering a grander living space with its new layout. Von Spreckelsen declined to say how much it cost to rearrange the layout, but a building permit filed with the city estimated the price tag at $150,000.

Toll also swapped brokers, replacing the Modlin Group with a trio from Warburg Realty that includes Lisa Chajet, her mother, Bonnie Chajet, and Ronnie Lane.

In addition to the renovation of 1110 Park, Toll has modified other units to meet individual buyer specifications. At 100 Barrow and 55 West 17th Street, for example, the developer has combined the penthouse with units one floor down to create larger apartments.

“When you have the opportunity to sell some very expensive real estate at the top of the building and the potential buyer is saying, ‘It’s great, but it’s not big enough,’ you naturally look to see what unit is nearby that’s would make sense in terms of a combination,” he said.