With Aby Rosen out, Chinese developer slashes Midtown condo prices

“Not a fire sale,” insists broker at Vanke’s troubled luxury building

Vanke US managing director Kai-yan Lee, RFR’s Aby Rosen and 100 East 53rd Street (Vanke US, Getty, M18 Public Relations)
Vanke US managing director Kai-yan Lee, RFR’s Aby Rosen and 100 East 53rd Street (Vanke US, Getty, Williams New York)

After ending a bad marriage with Aby Rosen, a Chinese developer is scrambling to save its luxury Midtown condo.

Step one: Cut prices. A lot.

And get a new broker.

Sales are on again at Vanke’s “Selene,” the rebranded 63-story tower at the corner of 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue, which has sold just 28 of its 94 apartments since marketing began in 2019.

Compass, which had been sharing sales with the in-house brokerage team at Rosen’s RFR, quit in late 2020 with Vanke and Rosen fighting and the project in disarray. Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing is now the exclusive broker.

“Unfortunately, the developer’s pricing aspirations combined with Covid and ownership disputes were not aligned with market conditions,” said Compass’ Leonard Steinberg, who led the team previously in charge of sales.

“We feel certain that with the notable pricing revisions, the building will sell out,” he added.

Notable, they are. An amended offering plan filed May 3 shows the 6,800-square-foot penthouse, which was asking $65 million, is now $35 million. The 10th-floor, 6,600-square-foot “garden mansion” with a 5,300-square-foot terrace is now $20 million, down from nearly $30 million.

The discounts extend to smaller units, too. A two-bedroom, two-and-half bath apartment on the 27th floor sold in January for $2,100 per square foot. An identical unit one flight up had fetched $2,675 per square foot in 2019, and a 42nd-floor unit that year sold for a building-best $3,300 per square foot.

The “improved pricing” represents “significant value,” said Robin Schneiderman, a managing director at Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing. He added, “This is not a fire sale in any way, shape or form.”

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Schneiderman’s team has sold two units since the start of April for a total $7.8 million.

One-bedrooms are listed for $1,504 per square foot, or $1.7 million, and two-bedrooms for $2,091 per square foot, or $3.4 million. Lofted units start at $1,448 per square foot, or about $6 million. Full-floor units with three bedrooms are also for sale.

In 2020 Rosen had sued Vanke, which was seeking to remove RFR from the project. Vanke accused Rosen of using litigation to extract a large buyout. Sales were halted, but resumed after Rosen accepted a settlement for his minority stake and left.

The project, at 100 East 53rd Street behind the Seagram building in Midtown East, has some catching up to do. It was built with a $360 million loan from a Chinese bank, but sold only $108 million worth of units before Rosen’s exit.

100 East 53rd Street (Williams New York)

100 East 53rd Street (Williams New York)

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The building, designed by Foster + Partners, features radiant heated flooring and free-standing tubs. Amenities include a spa, fitness room, swimming pool and private entrance to the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Jardinier, scheduled to reopen soon.

Vanke is among several China-based developers that have encountered obstacles in New York City. Oceanwide just lost control of a Financial District site where it planned a skyscraper, and Anbang suffered cost overruns at the Waldorf Astoria, then was taken over by Chinese authorities.

The city’s condo market has been buoyed by limited supply, according to Schneiderman.

“Inventory levels of newly developed condos is under 6,000 units for the first time since 2018,” he said, predicting that “the market will have less than two years of inventory by year-end.”