Wednesday, September 16, 2015

70-Story Condo Tower Planned for Mosque Site near Ground Zero

Developer Soho Properties is preparing to build a 667-foot condominium tower at lower Manhattan's 45 Park Place. The 70-story glass skyscraper, anticipated to break ground before the end of the year, will include at least 15 full-floor super-luxury units of 3,700 square feet, with private elevators and average prices higher than $3,000 a square foot. The tower is scheduled for completion in 2017.
It's been four years since Manhattan developer Sharif El-Gamal shelved plans to build a 15-story Islamic cultural center —two blocks north of where the former World Trade Center towers stood—that drew international debate.

Protesters called it the "Ground Zero mosque" and said its placement near the site of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history would be an insult to those who were killed there.

The developer is now looking to attract a different kind of attention for his current project on the site.

The ultra-luxury focus of the building highlights the newfound allure of lower Manhattan as an upscale destination, yet it comes amid growing concern about an oversupply of apartments for multimillionaire buyers.

The planned 70-story skyscraper, with varying tiers of balconies slightly offset from its core, was designed by Michel Abboud, founder of New York architectural firm SOMA. Ismael Leyva Architects is translating the exterior design concepts into floor layouts and detailed construction plans.

Unobstructed views to the north begin at close to 300 feet, above which all the apartments will be full-floor units with private elevators. Those residences will have 12-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, offering panoramic views of Midtown, the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty. Two duplex penthouses will sit on the uppermost floors of the skyscraper.

Luxury amenities aim to evoke a five-star hotel, with a 50-foot Olympic-size swimming pool in the basement, concierge service, and a high- ceilinged private lounge. Adjacent to the tower, Soho Properties will build a public plaza connected to a three-story Islamic museum and prayer space to be designed by architect Jean Nouvel.

"The tower is going to be a market-maker," Mr. El-Gamal told us. "We're planning a building that's really going to share in a unique moment."

Mr. El-Gamal is now seeking to take advantage of Manhattan's luxury-condo boom and a downtown renaissance that has sent home prices up 28 percent since 2012.

The median price of apartments that sold in the area south of Chambers Street this year was $1.15 million, a 6.4 percent increase from all of 2014. In 2012, the lower Manhattan median was $895,530. The area has gained 3,000 residents since that year.

It’s been a long road toward building the tower, which is scheduled for completion in 2017. Soho Properties bought the lot in 2009 for $4.85 million. The project has $33 million in preconstruction financing from Madison Realty Capital, and construction loans will be in place shortly.

About 5,500 units are being planned or are under construction in the area south of Chambers Street, according to the Downtown Alliance.

Elsewhere in Manhattan, developers are shifting toward less-pricey condos because the surge in new units has been priced at levels that only the ultra-wealthy can afford.

Mr. El-Gamal sees a rosier picture of a neighborhood in which a penthouse in the Woolworth tower is listed for $110 million, luxury retailers are opening stores, and such media and technology companies as Conde Nast and Time are relocating.

45 Park Place will still have a lower price per square foot, on average, than the towers being constructed on midtown's 57th Street, a corridor that's been dubbed Billionaire's Row.

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