The American dream is alive and well for those who can afford it, and apparently, there are lots of people who can afford to embrace ‘the lifestyles of the rich and famous’ in the Big Apple. The latest residential sales to take place in Manhattan confirm this fact, and it’s been a truly eventful first quarter for the market. Billionaire Ken Griffin kicked off the year in style, as the buyer in the priciest home sale in the U.S.—ever. Griffin forked over $240 million for a 24,000-square-foot penthouse at Vornado’s luxurious Midtown Manhattan project at 220 Central Park South in January, and odds are this will be the biggest sale of the year, and probably of the next few years as well. The previous record was the $101 million that Michael Dell paid for a condo unit at One57 in 2015, and the sale at 220 CPS has now shattered that record. But there were many other notable sales to close in the city over the past months, most of them on Billionaires’ Row along Central Park South.
We compiled a list of the 20 priciest residential sales to close in New York City during the first quarter of 2019. All of them took place in Manhattan, as we already know that apartments here command some of the highest prices in the world. But the main conclusion of our analysis is that Vornado’s glossy new 220 Central Park South project is an absolute success and the belle of the ball—10 of the 20 sales on our list were of condos within the 70-story tower. Check out the full list below and scroll down for some more highlights of Q1:
Billionaires' Row Continues to Attract, Well, Billionaires
A few years ago, as foreign investors began to gradually step down from the U.S. real estate limelight and economic uncertainty abroad made local investors more cautious about where they invested their money, industry experts proclaimed that the ‘eight-digit boom’ in New York real estate was over. Fast-forward to 2019, and that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The very Manhattan staples that were then said to have lost their appeal to investors were home to the biggest sales of Q1 2019, including 520 Park Avenue, 432 Park Avenue, and One57—the original ‘Billionaire Building.’ It naturally takes a while to bring such developments to full occupancy, as the asking prices for these condos are sky-high and out of reach for regular homebuyers. And the billionaire buyers on our list didn’t even pay the initial asking price for these units. For instance, the asking price for unit #50 at 220 Central Park South was $250 million, and the initial asking price for unit DPH54 at 520 Park Avenue was $76 million, yet ultimately it sold for $64 million. But what’s so special about these apartments that makes investors willing to pay the big bucks?
It’s all about prestige and location. The area surrounding 57th Street has become a billionaire Mecca, with several luxury condominium towers crowding this portion of the Midtown skyline over the past years. It all started in 2014 with the completion of the supertall One57 and continued with 432 Park Avenue, 252 East 57th Street, 520 Park Avenue, 220 Central Park South, and 53 West 53rd Street. The Steinway Tower at 111 West 57th Street is currently under construction, and so is Central Park Tower, which, once completed, will become the second-tallest skyscraper in the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere.
Besides the one-of-a-kind location, these residential projects offer high-end amenities that cater to those looking to live a luxurious life in the heart of Manhattan. From wine cellars and five-star restaurants to swimming pools and state-of-the-art fitness centers, the towers on Billionaires’ Row offer a plethora of amenities that you don’t get anywhere else. Couple that with sweeping views of Central Park and the NYC skyline, and you have a recipe for success. Those who can afford to purchase condos in these towers will continue to do so, and chances are the eight-digit boom will not come to a halt anytime soon.
Vornado's 220 Central Park South Steals the Show in Q1
For a few years, the 75-story tower at 157 West 57th Street, also known as One57, was synonymous with record-breaking residential sales. You can blame Michael Dell, founder of Dell Technologies, for that: in 2015, he paid $100.5 million for the tower’s penthouse, in what was then the most expensive home sale ever recorded in the city. Ken Griffin’s $240 million purchase of the condo at 220 Central Park South has put an end to the One57 rule, as it was not only the priciest-ever home sale in New York City but also the priciest in the U.S.
This kind of attention is all good news for Vornado Realty Trust, the owner and developer of the 70-story, 116-unit tower at 220 Central Park South. The project is now nearing completion, and deals are starting to close for condos within the tower. The deal with Griffin was initialized in 2015, with the initial asking price for the 24,000 square-foot penthouse set at $250 million. If such a price seems insane to most people, it didn’t phase Ken Griffin, who has a history of making pricy real estate investments in the world’s most famous cities. Just two days before closing the 220 Central Park South deal, Griffin broke another record by acquiring the most expensive home to sell in London since 2008. The owner of the Citadel hedge fund paid $122 million to buy Charles de Gaulle’s former mansion near Buckingham Palace. Griffin was also placed at #152 on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index of the world’s 500 wealthiest people, with a fortune of roughly $9.8 billion.
But unit #50, the penthouse now owned by Griffin, wasn’t the only notable home to sell at 220 Central Park South in Q1, as half of the 20 deals on our list were for condos within Vornado’s new project. Buyers are drawn by the prestigious location right next to Central Park Tower, currently under construction, and by the impressive amenity package. 220 CPS will offer residents a porte-cochère, a wine cellar, swimming pool, fitness facilities, private dining rooms, children’s play areas, a library, as well as a basketball course and a golf simulator. According to Vornado’s first quarter financial release, the project was 89% complete as of April, and the company closed on the sale of 12 condominium units for net proceeds aggregating $425 million during the first quarter of 2019. Closings are scheduled to go on through 2020, with other reported buyers possibly including, among others, musician Sting and his wife, Trudy Styler.
Zeckendorf's 520 Park Avenue Lands 3 Major Q1 Home Sales
Besides Vornado, there was just one other company to make our list with multiple sales. That company is New York City-based Zeckendorf Development, which managed to sell three condo units at its 64-story, recently-completed 520 Park Avenue tower on the Upper East Side. The skyscraper was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the same architecture firm that designed 220 Central Park South and houses 35 luxury residences and plenty of amenities, including a salon, a fitness center with a swimming pool, a club room, children’s play areas, a wine cellar, and a landscaped garden.
520 Park Avenue was home to the second-biggest home sale of the quarter; an anonymous buyer paid $64 million for the 9,138 square-foot duplex dubbed DPH54, under the name of CJFGK LLC. That LLC is reportedly managed by Moshe Oppenheim, an attorney with First Quality in Great Neck, N.Y. The other two 520 Park sales to make our list landed at #6 and #7, with both buyers protecting their identity through LLCs. 520 Park Avenue PH48 LLC and 520 Park PH51 LLC each bought a $32 million penthouse within the tower. Initially, the landlord marketed a single penthouse unit with an asking price of $130 million but ultimately decided to split the space to find a buyer quicker.
Zeckendorf’s strategy seems to have worked, as it managed to close on 20 units for a total of $647 million as of April 2019. Other notable tenants who have reportedly bought units at 520 Park Avenue include vacuum cleaner mogul James Dyson, billionaire Frank Fertitta, and Ken Moelis, among others, though many of these purchases have not been officially confirmed.
Data sources: The New York City Department of Finance - ACRIS & Rolling Sales data, proprietary research.