I am very excited to share the second edition of my quarterly newsletter. This time I went downtown to talk about what’s blooming this spring—gardens, art and architecture, condos and an urban porch!
Even though winter is usually the slowest time of year for real estate, the condo market in Manhattan started the year with a fair amount of growth as prices stayed high due to the continued low inventory. (There were 3.7% more condos available compared to the same time last year; however, last month's total was still 18.2% lower than the five-year historical average in Manhattan.) Many of you may have seen that the New York Times dubbed 2015 the "Year of the Condo in New York City," with twice as many new developments projected to hit the market as last year. However, it is very important to keep in mind the difference between the uber-luxury condo market (from roughly $20mm to $100mm) and the rest of the market. These exceptionally tall and skinny buildings, like 432 Park Avenue (where I shot this photo from the 95th floor penthouse, 1271 feet up in the sky), are starting to take over our Manhattan skyline. I expect there will be softening in this uber-luxury market, where more inventory is sure to pile up due to fewer buyers rushing to purchase and an increasing number of projects hitting the market. Most of the buyers for these spindly towers are foreign and there is much happening globally which may tighten the spigot of international money flow to the NYC real estate market: oil prices have plummeted, hurting the Russian and South American economies, the dollar has gained significant strength relative to the euro and the Chinese economy is off to a slower start than usual. Though the focus of this update is on the condo market, it is interesting to note that high end sales across the entire market, co-ops included, have been lackluster as well. Sales above $8-9 million have continued the sluggishness we saw beginning last fall. All this said, I do believe the rest of the market will remain strong. The reasons have a lot to do with what is going on right here in our city. New York City is experiencing a uniquely healthy and stable economy, with employment and job growth far exceeding the rest of the country. NYC added over 105,000 jobs in 2014, the most jobs added ever. Those jobs spanned every borough and that growth was led by non-office based industries such as retail, restaurants, health and education. Additionally, the office sector, which historically has been the first sector to add jobs after a recession, is also expected to accelerate in the coming years. Tech jobs too should experience a positive bump this year. Companies in both sectors are signing leases for office space at ever increasing speed. Population growth in NYC is on the rise, with more people than ever (4.1mm) fully employed. Many economists believe inflation will remain stable and interest rates low for at least the short-term (futures traders expect a rate hike in September, but if and when it will happen this year remains anyone's guess). Finally, real estate inventory and absorption rates remain very low. When you consider all these factors, the market is doing exactly what one would expect. The price tags for condos are projected to grow nearly 5% this year, according to the StreetEasy Condo Price Forecast, though if the pace of sales further slows at the same time additional inventory is added, there should be a corresponding downward pressure on prices in the new development projects. Here, the quality (including location) and value of each individual project will determine which buildings sell out quickly and which will see price cuts. In the West Village, the year-over-year median sales price of condos was up 46.6% in January, while in the East Village it was up 27.5%, according to StreetEasy, a result I believe of the still limited supply of condos available to downtown buyers. If and when the $80mm uber-luxury market slows, surely a lot of media sensationalism will follow. Remember...that is an ephemeral marketplace, distinctly unique from the market in which most New Yorkers buy and sell.
When you think art in Manhattan, everyone’s mind goes to Chelsea, but there’s actually a ton going on a little further downtown now. For starters, the big deal in the art world this season will be the grand opening of the Whitney Museum in its new Meatpacking District digs. Right between the High Line and the Hudson, the giant new building is a vast departure from its longtime Upper East Side home, and famed architect Renzo Piano designed galleries that pay equal attention to art and the stunning views, plus a beautiful outdoor gathering space. The first big show when the Whitney reopens on May 1 will be “America Is Hard to See,” a huge U.S. art retrospective encompassing some 650 works from the museum’s world-class collection. The restaurant, Untitled on the High Line, will remain a Danny Meyer project and will be helmed by executive chef Michael Anthony and chef de cuisine Suzanne Cupps, currently sous-chef of the Tavern room at Gramercy Tavern, but it will be a very new restaurant complete with a fresh new menu. (Read about Meyer's new drinkery in "Secret Spot".) Also coming to the area this May is the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, a very eclectic al fresco art fair where I love seeing all kinds of locals selling everything from handmade jewelry to portrait paintings created on the spot. To me, what is most exciting in the world of contemporary art is the number of very young art collectors. Never was that more evident than when my husband and I took our daughter to the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair a couple of weeks ago. The show opened on the day of a big snowstorm, which seemed to deter no one as the Metropolitan Pavilion was filled to capacity by early in the evening. Ironically, it was the uptown stylish gallery owner of the Voltz Clarke gallery who inspired me to head to the downtown show. Blair Clarke, who fills her New York City apartment with the work of the artists she represents,recently introduced me to the work of Natasha Law, an artist who paints these simple but striking silhouettes. Voltz Clarke also earned a well-deserved shout out as one of the Top 10 finds at the recent PULSE art fair.
Now that the spring has finally sprung after a very unforgiving winter, I wanted to share a hidden gem on Hudson Street: the Gardens at Saint Luke in the Fields. Without even getting in your car or crossing a bridge, you can escape the chaos of the city in just a few subways stops. Read a book on a bench or stroll through the flagstone paths and take in the numerous varieties of blooming flowers and dozens of migrating birds and butterflies. On the grounds of the Church of St. Luke of the Fields, this verdant garden complex encompassing two-thirds of an acre is enclosed by a high redbrick wall. Open to the public all day long, it’s a great spot for a picnic either with or without kids. If you have a teenager, you know that many of them are budding foodies—mine for one is looking forward to bringing her picnic basket filled with avocado toast and chia seeds and some complex juice concoction to this urban hideaway. If urban gardens in springtime are your thing, be sure to head to the other side of the Village to explore some of the community gardens in the East Village, 39 green oases from 14th Street down to Houston that have been maintained for decades by attentive locals. It’s the ultimate non-tourist weekend activity. After being cooped up all winter, the spring vibe surely won’t disappoint. If dreaming of spring also conjures up images of suburban porches, just head to far west Chelsea where you can check out famed Danny Meyer’s brand new digs and his first stand alone bar. (In "Big Deal" read about Meyer's refreshed restaurant at the new Whitney Museum opening in a little over a month from now.) Porchlight, which opened earlier this month, is a southern style watering hole with a cool laid-back warmth. The cocktail menu is simple–twelve craft cocktails, all $14 each–many with whiskey, though the two I tried were unexpectedly light and refreshing (a welcome surprise for someone like me who rarely drinks anything but red wine). The bar menu is a modern twist on southern leaning fare ranging from smoked swordfish and fried frog legs to my personal favorite, avocado and crab toast. And yes, Porchlight has an actual (indoor) porch complete with wooden rocking chairs, giving us urbanites a chance to experience that springtime tradition right here at home. Who needs grass when you can sip a Gun Metal Blue cocktail while gazing out on 11th Avenue?
Closings will be commencing next quarter at the project known as 35XV, a 25-story modern tower of condos with a graceful glass facade. Occupying a coveted midblock location on quiet West 15th Street where the Village meets Chelsea, there are only 26 apartments at this boutique new development, many filled with generous sunlight and breezy layouts. My client will be closing here soon on a beautiful three-bedroom apartment, where units are trading around $2,600 per square foot—a relative bargain when compared to the surrounding downtown area, with projects like The Greenwich Lane and many other new developments selling at much higher prices. With even the lowest residences starting at 100 feet off the ground, the unobstructed panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline are truly something to write home about, featuring such iconic New York City landmarks as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building and dotted with my favorite urban symbol – the water tower. On-site amenities here include a gym, entertainment lounge, children's playroom and a walk-in wine cellar for each residence. Additionally, at a time when many Catholic Schools are being cut back or closed, this project has allowed Xavier High School to expand and renovate its space with a new six-story wing, the result of a collaboration with developer Alchemy Properties, who bought the air rights on the condition of building new space for Xavier. 35XV is almost sold out, but please reach out if you are interested in learning more about the few remaining available apartments. Next on the to-see agenda: Alchemy Properties’ highly anticipated Woolworth Tower condos. Oh, and good news for those of you lovers of urban parks and gardens—one of the next new developments to debut in Greenwich Village (at the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site) will include yet another public park!
It’s been a record-breaking year in Manhattan real estate, although things have slowed down just a bit this fall as more inventory has become available. As the most recent Warburg Market Report shows, various segments of the market are reacting differently. Co-ops priced below $2 million—often the most popular segment of the market—are still selling very briskly, while the demand for pricier homes may have peaked, with an increased average time on the market leading to more availability. Here on the Upper East Side, the median price for new developments more than doubled in the third quarter, reaching $4.5 million. Resale co-ops on the UES rose by a more modest 8%, and those above $4 million (even on Fifth and Park Avenues) are languishing except when renovated and priced appropriately. Overall, I expect the market in 2015 to look very much like it has this past year. The inventory shortage likely will persist in the under $2 million market and especially for two-bedroom apartments under $1.5 million, continuing to drive strong sales in that segment. Meanwhile, the very high-end new development market has shown signs of stalling as a flood of pricey towers debut along the 57th Street corridor (sales at the ultra-luxury One57, for example, have slowed sharply as of late), and I would expect sales to continue to slow there. One segment of the new condo market that does remain strong is on the UES, where co-ops make up such a large percentage of the housing stock and condos are a rare commodity. New condo developments like 60 East 86th, 151 East 78th and 135 East 79th have sold quite well. Streeteasy predicts a 3.9% growth rate in the Manhattan condo market throughout 2015 and that sounds about right. As always, reach out to me directly for news and advice about specific properties or neighborhoods.
Here’s the Upper East Side opening I’m most excited about right now: After a three-year, $81 million renovation, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in Carnegie Hill finally reopened last Friday, December 12 (my birthday—and also the same day back in 1902 that Andrew Carnegie moved into the mansion with his wife and daughter). I saw them putting up the holiday lights on the museum last week to signify the opening was near and it is absolutely beautiful. Inside, the renovation has preserved the Carnegie Mansion’s antique ambiance, with intricately carved teak wood running throughout, while updating it with 60 percent more gallery space, all fully equipped for cutting-edge design exhibits like the very exciting Immersion Room, where the Cooper Hewitt’s much-lauded collection of wall coverings are displayed and visitors can sketch their own designs and project them onto the wall. The most intriguing allure of the museum is the melding of the traditional with the modern. A passive museum no longer, it is filled with interactive digital tools that bring out the accidental designer in all of us. It was as accessible to me as it was to my eight-year-old son. I was particularly thrilled to watch a 3-D printer in action, churning out objects such as a prosthetic limb (coincidently high school math students at my daughter’s school across the street are doing the same thing). Tip: buy your tickets online to save $2 and more importantly—skip the lines.
If you’re looking for lunch after the museum trip, take a stroll down 92nd Street to Bar Roma a great new Italian bistro that opened a few months ago. The baby sister restaurant of Via Quadrono and Bottega del Vino, it remains a serene neighborhood secret. Bar Roma’s allure is as much about the ambiance as it is about the food. Stepping into this quaint little spot is like being transported to a trattoria in Rome—my other favorite city— cozy wooden tables, terracotta walls, a curved wood ceiling, and warm and attentive service. The food, like the staff, is right out of Italy. The wine and cheese selection is uniquely Italian. The chilled asparagus salad and freshly-made tomato and basil penne (cooked perfectly al dente) make for a deliciously light lunch. The braised ossobuco and lamb meatballs are more hearty dishes, perfect for a snowy winter day alongside a glass of the Altemura Primitivo. Note also that the portion size is also authentically European, giving you a perfect excuse to order an extra pasta dish for the table to share!
This gracious two-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home is a beautiful light-filled apartment in a premiere white-glove Park Avenue coop with gorgeous leafy views of stately townhouses and Park Avenue. The 28-foot living room and adjacent dining room provide ample space for entertaining, while the flexible layout allows for easy conversion to a three-bedroom. Both bedrooms are generously proportioned and the bathrooms feature floor-to-ceiling marble. All just minutes from Central Park on one of the Upper East Side’s very best blocks. Contact me for more details or see the full listing here.