Ten months after she and her husband moved into 111 Worth Street, Catherine Locker’s still impressed. Mornings, the staff serves coffee and baked goods to residents; evenings, it’s milk and cookies. An on-site valet takes care of her dry-cleaning, and, if she’s so inclined, she can teleconference at the business center. The pièce de résistance: a putting green (pictured) and a driving range. “I’ve never used it,” she admits. “But I like the idea that I can.”
Like overaccessorized belles at a debutante ball, residential developments are entering the market with outrageous amenities. A pet spa at 505 Greenwich. A catering kitchen at Williamsburg’s Schaefer Landing. Private rooftop cabanas at Dumbo’s Sweeney Building and 70 Washington; a robotic car-retrieval system at 123 Baxter Street in Little Italy; butler service from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant Perry at 165 Charles; and a ballet studio, reflecting pool, basketball court, and bowling alley at Philippe Starck’s 15 Broad Street. Why are new buildings stricken with amenititis? Developers have to keep up with the Joneses (or the Lefraks). “A roof deck and a gym is pretty much standard,” explains Citi Habitats’ Michele Gershwin. Most of all, though, piling on the fun stuff sets a new building apart, in a market loaded—not to say glutted—with new luxury towers. A new fillip makes a building memorable to buyers who have seen dozens of identical granite countertops. “To make the project viable, they have to sell at or above a prior level set in that neighborhood,” says residential appraiser Jonathan Miller. “They have to offer a higher level of amenities to substantiate the price.” It also helps attract buyers to off-prime locations: “It’s the carrot at the end of the stick,” says Gershwin. For example, 111 Worth claims Tribeca as its neighborhood, but sits on the edge, near Chinatown.
Brokers say that, oddly enough, renters are more easily wooed by the fancy stuff than buyers are. “The amenities help people make a decision only if they’re stuck between two similar apartments,” says Warren King of Brown Harris Stevens. (For the tried-and-true prewar crowd, for whom a Candela classic six trumps a cinema room, they’re unnecessary.) Caterina Zulfiantini, who’s looking to spend about $550,000 on a one-bedroom, says she’d take bigger rooms and closet space over a pet spa. “I don’t need the extras,” she says. “If a building has them, I’ll pay more maintenance.”
Great Big Stuff
John Lithgow may have lost out on a third Tony Award for his delightful turn as a dirty rotten scoundrel on Broadway—co-star Norbert Leo Butz claimed the prize instead—but it looks as if he knows he’s got a winner of an apartment. Early last summer, the genial thespian moved into a plush two-bedroom rental on West 63rd Street just off Central Park, where his neighbors included Gabby Karan and, until recently, cabaret performer Michael Feinstein, and sources in the building say he’s re-upped twelve months later. Citi Habitats agent Constance Houghton, who was said to have represented the apartment’s owner when he was looking for a tenant last year, refused to comment on Lithgow or his living situation. But given how beloved the actor is on the Great White Way—he’s starred in no fewer than nineteen shows, and nobody in the Broadway community seems to have a bad word to say about him—he may want to consider buying instead of renting sometime soon.
44 Laight Street, Penthouse A
2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, 21⁄2-bath condo.
Asking Price: $4.15 million.
Charges and Taxes: $3,007.
Brokers: Tom Postilio and Steve Ganz, CORE Group Marketing.
Anywhere else, this apartment’s a smash. But in Tribeca, where buyers have come to demand the spectacular, our panelists deem this space short on drama and worth way less than the asking price.
Toni Scott, Brown Harris Stevens: Despite nice touches like a Philippe Starck tub, the location is a problem: “It’s right near the Holland Tunnel, and Hudson Street gets very congested on weekdays,” Scott says. “Buyers are really concerned about that.”
Her assessment: $3.1 million.
Barry Silverman, Halstead: With terraces off the master suite and the living room, plus the rooftop, “you get to a point where you have too much outdoor space—it becomes superfluous,” says Silverman. “I wouldn’t pay a dime for the rooftop, and going through a common space to get to it further devalues it.”
His assessment: $3 million.
Jennifer Regenstreich, JC DeNiro: “It has a nice-size living area, but the bedrooms are tiny!” says Regenstreich. Because it’s a three-bedroom, the property will attract families, she says, but they’ll need a better layout than what it has to offer.
Her assessment: $2.9 million.