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Join Gym. Quit Smoking. Sell Condos.

When sales have been sluggish, developers back off, hit reboot, and resolve to start fresh.


I t’s January, and Morgan Lofts, a 68-unit conversion on East 36th Street, is primping for its coming-out party. Or, rather, parties. Sales agents from JC DeNiro & Associates, the firm that’s marketing the building, have scheduled a phalanx of catered lunches and open houses to lure brokers and their clients. Model apartments have been readied, and full-page ads in the local papers are running soon. It’s all part of the usual marketing plan for a new building in the city—except Morgan Lofts isn’t new at all. In fact, it has been open for nearly a year, says JC DeNiro managing partner Christopher Mathieson. But sales sputtered despite the project’s bona fides (twelve-foot ceilings and Andrés Escobar interiors), hobbled in part by a scattershot advertising campaign. “It was all over the place,” he admits. “It didn’t have sex appeal, and yet there’s plenty of sex appeal to the building.” Since his team took over two months ago, they’ve retooled the Website and brochures, increased commissions, and slashed prices, and now the project’s once more ready for its close-up. “We’ve treated it as brand-new,” he says. “We’ve had to.”

In light of the ambivalent, up-and-down market that’s likely to dominate 2007, developers have had to rethink their strategies. Even individual sellers are feeling pressure to regroup. Bellmarc’s Julie Friedman’s clients pulled their two-bedroom—available since September—to repaint and redo the floors so they can try again in the new year. That’s probably wise: Buyers, says Mathieson, have a “herd mentality... If the buzz is that you’re overpriced and stale, people will stay away.”

That seems to be what happened last year to the Stanhope, the hotel conversion with the best location-location-location imaginable (pictured; directly across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum). Extell Development’s Gary Barnett says units were sold using “floor plans and watercolor conceptuals ... but they didn’t do it justice.” In particular, the building somehow gained a reputation for low ceilings, even though they’re the typical prewar nine-footers. “It definitely struggled last year,” he says. Now that he’s finished two models on the fifth floor, though, Barnett hopes “to present the building [the way] it deserves.”


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