"Starchitect" Buildings Weather the Storm

100 Eleventh Avenue's Luxury Apartments and Condos in ManhattanNow that the dust has settled, it’s time to see how the pre-financial crisis wave of upscale Manhattan luxury condominiums built by the world’s best architects are faring. The fortunes of such buildings reveal many important lessons about the Manhattan luxury real estate market - mainly that market trends and location are still bigger factors than architecture. Prices for luxury condominiums in Manhattan are 10% below 2008’s high-water mark, and “Starchitect” buildings are holding up better than most othe luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan. In the short-term, the boom-time mentality that a brand name architect makes a significant pricing difference has dissapated because their values have gone down, albeit not as much as other luxury apartments in Manhattan. But depressed resale prices are only a part of the story. This wave of innovative architecture will still benefit buyers, neighbors, and Manhattanites for decades to come.

Going down the list of big-time architects and their buildings reveals that few maintained their initial values after the crash. Starchitect buildings couldn't avoid the declining resale prices that characterized the market after 2008, but this isn't the fault of the buildings themselves and it doesn't indicate that their value will permanently remain that way; price declines between 1% and 20% are regarded as stable in today’s market. Sales prices have declined by more than 20% from their original value at modern buildings such as Philip Johnson’s Urban Glass House in SoHo, Enrique Norton’s One York Street in Tribeca, and Downtown by Philippe Starck at 15 Broad Street. And location appears to be just as important as it ever was: Annebelle Selldorf’s “sky-garage” building at 200 Eleventh Avenue and Jean Nouvel’s neighboring 100 Eleventh Avenue in Chelsea – buildings with "hypermodern" architecture located next to the West Side Highway – have suffered the same fate of offering their luxury condos for sale at a discount.

That’s good news if you’re looking to buy a luxury apartment in Manhattan at the very high end of the market, but most New Yorkers aren’t; after the financial crisis, brokers say that many don’t want to live in a new, cutting-edge building with a built-in lifestyle, they just want something that suits the lifestyle that they already have (although the same can’t be said for foreign buyers). There are exceptions to these trends though: Robert A.M. Stern’s Superior Ink is exceeding its initial value, and 15 Central Park West is breaking sales records; and Richard Meire’s 173-176 Perry and 165 Charles are doing so well that they’ve expanded the boundaries of the West Village. While these are examples of buildings that have escaped market trends, they still indicate that what Manhattan buyers want more than anything else is location.

Looking at this from the long-term perspective, the picture gets brighter. The boom of the late 20’s led developers to commission top architects such as J.E.R. Carpenter and Emery Roth to construct new apartment buildings, and decades later those buildings are still coveted spaces that stand out from their contemporaries. Furthermore, those buildings beautified Manhattan, raised construction standards, and added to the charm, history, and legend of New York City. Despite their short-term difficulties, there’s no reason that the new crop of landmark buildings won’t do the same.

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