June 25th 2010
The Wall Street Journal
In the upper stratosphere of the Manhattan real-estate market there are a few buildings that seem impervious to the downward drag of the economy. Fifteen Central Park West is one of these, if a recent deal involving a three-bedroom apartment there is any guide.
An unidentified buyer this week signed a contract to buy the unit for about $19 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. If it’s completed, the deal would mark one of the most expensive New York City sales ever on a square-foot basis.
The condo owner, a Senegalese telecommunications mogul, bought the condo for $10.3 million after signing a contract in 2006. While much residential real estate is up slightly since then, his unit will have appreciated by more than 80% if the deal closes.
Considered in absolute dollar terms, the sale isn’t especially notable for Manhattan, where apartments have gone for more than twice that amount. But it is among the highest ever in New York when measured by square footage, the industry metric typically used to compare prices on apartments of different sizes.
The sale of the 2,761-square-foot apartment amounts to a price per square foot of about $6,882. That would be higher than all but four other Manhattan apartments that have sold for $10 million or more, according to appraisers Miller Samuel.
The apartment fetched that lofty price the same week that the federal government reported May new-home sales plunged to a record low. In New York, fear remains that a nascent recovery remains vulnerable to the possibility of stock market correction or economic setbacks.
While apartments in most price ranges have enjoyed a rebound since the depths of the downturn, values for most are still far off what they were at the market’s peak.
In the ultra-luxury end of the market, condos have been outperforming co-operative apartments as evidenced in deals like the one at 15 Central Park West.
The most expensive condo ever sold by this measure is also at 15 Central Park West: apartment 38A, which went for $27 million in 2008 at $9,486 per square foot, according to Miller Samuel. Three other apartments also sold with prices of more than $7,000 per square foot, including ones at 515 Park Ave. and the Mandarin Oriental residences at Columbus Circle, across the street from 15 Central Park West.
The 15 Central Park West apartment now in contract was listed for $21 million. The six-room condo boasts 11-foot ceilings and panoramic views of Central Park and the river, according to the website of listing broker Corcoran. Corcoran’s agent declined to discuss the apartment while the deal is “in contract” or to identify the buyer.
The sale took some veteran brokers by surprise. “I see this as an outlier sale,” says Frederick Peters, president of Warburg Realty Partners. “It’s not a question of comps. Sometimes a buyer just wants a particular apartment.”
Others say that 15 Central Park West has a certain cache shared by only a handful of condo buildings that can command premiums.
“This building has been operating somewhat independent of the luxury market,” says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive at Miller Samuel. “It’s one of the best built luxury condos of its era and it has seen tremendous appreciation.”
Developed by William and Arthur Zeckendorf, the building between 61st and 62nd streets and the park and Broadway is home to numerous hedge fund managers and Wall Street executives, including Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Sanford Weill, former head of Citigroup.
Unlike the city’s many recent sleek glass-tower developments, architect Robert A.M. Stern designed 15 Central Park West in the more conservative style of Manhattan’s grand limestone buildings of the early 20th century on Park and Fifth avenues.