Taking Tower Verre to the Next Level

For a few years, Houston-based property developer Hines had been working to secure permits and funding for Tower Verre, a residential high-rise designed by Jean Nouvel on 53 West 53rd Street. Today, it looks like the firm's plans are finally being actualized.

On September 18, The Real Deal reported that Hines paid $85.3 million for over 240,000 square feet of air rights from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and St. Thomas Episcopal Church, which surround the lot where Tower Verre will stand. Moreover, the 31,389 square feet of rights from MoMA would add up to around $453 per foot, while the 210,000 square feet from the church was at nearly $340 per foot.

The developer bought the Midtown West site for Tower Verre, now also called the MoMA Tower or 53W53, in 2007. At the time, it was set to be 1,250 feet and thus the tallest building in New York. But in the grueling process of city approvals, the planned height was cut by 200 feet, which would only make the structure about as high as the Chrysler Building. Other factors like the financial crisis delayed the project, so One57 and 432 Park Avenue were eventually named the tallest buildings instead.

About a year ago, a hefty investment was made for 53W53. Hines and its partner for the project, Goldman Sachs, forged an equity agreement with Singapore's Pontiac Land Group, owned by the affluent Kwee family. There's also an $860 million construction loan from a group of banks in Asia, which include United Overseas Bank Ltd., DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, and Maybank. Hence, if schedules follow through, those who avail of the tower's units can move in starting 2018.

The 82-story skyscraper will not only have around 140 living spaces, but also some levels allotted for MoMA's largest expansion since 2004. Its floor plans show that there will be six penthouses, with the most luxurious at 7,892 square feet. There will also be 30 staff quarters, on floors 14-16, with the most modest at 417 square feet.

At the MoMA tower, the available homes will be 32 one-bedroom units, 51 two-bedrooms, 47 three-bedrooms, nine four-bedrooms, and only two five-bedrooms. The five-bedroom apartments, which are both over 7,000 square feet, can be found on the building's 60th and 61st floors.

Unit prices have not yet been revealed, but a sales office manned by Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group will open on Fifth Avenue in early 2015.