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Manhattan developer Zeckendorf confident $130M penthouse will sell

The address 520 Park Ave. is still mostly a hole in the ground, but the sales office is now open for business and redefining the luxury price point in New York City. Luxury condominium prices already hit a record this year, according to several reports released Thursday on the Manhattan market. This as more units go up, but global financial markets fall.

"Everything concerns me, but, very funny, we think we've seen more Chinese buyers in the last 60 days than ever before," said William Lie Zeckendorf, the developer behind 520 Park. "I think, frankly, what's unsettled China has made the U.S. that much more appealing."

A rendering of 520 Park Avenue, New York.
Source: Zeckendorf
A rendering of 520 Park Avenue, New York.

The 54-story tower is another team effort by Zeckendorf and architect Robert A.M. Stern; they collaborated on 15 Central Park West, which opened in 2008. A now legendary celebrity magnet, its units originally sold for a collective $2 billion, but some owners have already sold for three times their original investment.

The tower at 520 Park, which is on track to be completed in 2018, will house 33 full-floor units with five duplex penthouses. The basic units will be 5,100 square feet with 360 degree views, some better than others depending on the floor. They will start at $30 million.

The crown jewel will be a 12,400-square-foot penthouse with an additional 1,700 square feet of outdoor space. It is listed at $130 million, which Zeckendorf revealed last year but said is still the right price.

"Probably more likely now than ever. We are seeing more and more interest in New York City from across the world, we're also seeing record-breaking prices being paid by New Yorkers," said Zeckendorf, who claims that the majority of his buyers are still from the tri-state area.


Manhattan's luxury market, which is defined as the upper 10 percent of all co-op and condos, saw a median sale price of $5,499,365 in the third quarter of this year, up 10 percent from a year ago, according to Jonathan Miller of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, in a report for Douglas Elliman, a real estate firm. Meanwhile, listing inventory was down 9 percent, putting more pressure on prices.

In the new development market, the price per square foot reached a record, up nearly 17 percent from a year ago, and sales surged 61 percent.

"The sky is the limit. I was once asked could we exceed a hundred million and I think we can keep on going up," said Wendy Sarasohn, a real estate agent with Brown Harris Stevens in Manhattan, adding, "My prime buyers are from the metropolitan tri-state area, California and then international buyers."

Kitchen display at the newly opened sales center for 520 Park Avenue, New York.
Source: Zeckendorf
Kitchen display at the newly opened sales center for 520 Park Avenue, New York.

The tower at 520 Park, which is actually on East 60th St. between Madison and Park avenues (Zeckendorf paid tens of millions of dollars to Christ Church on the corner of Park and 60th for air rights and its address), is one of several luxury condominium towers now under construction in midtown Manhattan. While prices have softened somewhat for less expensive, older Manhattan apartments, the high end, at least, according to Zeckendorf, is not faltering.

"Supply is low, demand is high, and the question becomes, on the new development side, what will that do to the overall market? Given the size of our market, I'm not convinced one, two, three, four, five thousand more units is going to impact the overall market, it might impact the submarkets," said Zeckendorf.

He also said his building is unique in being the only new luxury addition to the Upper East Side, which has seen some of its historic appeal bow to trendier downtown neighborhoods.