At the top of New York City’s luxury residential market, developers are getting more and more creative about the amenities included in their pricey buildings, but do buyers really care?
For the Witkoff Group, they have no doubt.
The developer’s new condo building in the Financial District, 111 Murray, will be the first residential building in the country to have a private blow-dry salon just for residents.
Drybar, the California-based hair salon chain that has 56 locations in 11 states, is one of the leaders in the blow-dry salon trend that has become massively popular among women in Manhattan. The company partnered with Witkoff in a first-of-its-kind deal.
“We started to think about what would really cater to our residents, what is really useful,” said Lauren Witkoff, executive vice president and partner at Witkoff.
“We find there are so many things in these buildings, but nothing people use on a daily basis. One of the first thing that came to mind was dry bars.”
A huge fan of the trend herself, Witkoff has been getting blowouts for years, and knew the idea would resonate with residents.
She brought the idea to Drybar and they jumped on board, and Witkoff agreed to build out the salon to the company’s specifications. “We are getting amazing response,” said Witkoff.
The building held an event recently celebrating the Drybar opening, and the president of the chain flew in to attend. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“There was an unbelievable reaction on social media. People were saying ‘I have to move to that building,” said Witkoff. “Sometimes you think of small idea and it really blossoms and people really react — just a small thing like that makes people want to live here.”
It’s not the only creative idea Witkoff had for 111 Murray — the condo building also offers a private jet concierge for residents.
In a partnership with Blue Star Jets, the building will offer private jet and helicopter service that’s literally just a phone call away.
“We’re really trying to cater to the family needs, wellness needs, and entertainment needs of purchasers, and we’re offering partnerships that haven’t been done before,” said Witkoff.
Besides the blow-dry bar and private jet service, 111 Murray’s amenities also include “everything you can think of under the sun.
“The market has changed a lot in three or four years,” said Witkoff of increasingly over-the-top amenities developers have begun offering.
“To be competitive in this market you have to think of the next bigger and better thing — but for me it’s better if it’s more positive things that people use every day.”
It’s not just the Witkoff Group thinking outside the box — buildings throughout the city are offering new and often unusual amenities for luxury buyers.
At Circa, a new development at 285 West 110th Street in Manhattan, developer Artimus Construction’s rollout of amenities includes electric car charging stations, and remote control sailboats to take to Central Park.
Downtown, at the Hakimian Group’s 75 Wall, a recent promotional event for the luxury building featured a customized workout by a duo of celebrity trainers.
The building also has a partnership with Luxury Attache, which describes itself as “the world’s premier concierge management company.”
Instrata Lifestyle Residences, a group of luxury rental buildings in Gramercy Park, Nomad, Hell’s Kitchen, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, recently held a butcher shop event for residents of its buildings at the Chelsea Market on the High Line.
Part of its “lifestyle programming,” the event also offered beer and wine tastings.
Instrata residents can also order same-day groceries from local stores online or via app, thanks to a partnership between Instrata Lifestyle Residences and Instacart.
“We observed the service at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, and wanted to implement the amenity as a way to continue raising the bar in terms of convenience and luxury for our residents,” Rob Neiffer, a director of Invesco Real Estate, the sponsor of Instrata Lifestyle Residences, told New York Smash.
“The perk didn’t result from any resident requests, as we try to always anticipate their needs and wants, and search for what we can provide next.”
Victoria Rong Kennedy, an agent with Citi Habitats, said, “Developers particularly are really trying to get
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more buyers and are being competitive, it’s not more clients searching for it, rather it’s the developers trying to stand out compared to the previous product.”
“They’re promoting something they offer that’s different, rather by design or something unique like an in-house restaurant. A pool is not as special any more.”
Another example is Wolfgang Puck’s first New York restaurant slated to open at Silverstein Properties’ 30 Park Place.
“I think in each different neighborhood they are targeting different types of clientele with amenities,” said Kennedy.
“In Chelsea, they’d probably focus on something like a gallery or art place or showroom, in Central Park perhaps more into food, and Downtown with Wall Street it’d be high-end car service, or a helicopter pick-up spot, things like that.”
JDS certainly knew the demographic they were targeting when designing the amenities for its Copper Buildings luxury rental towers in Midtown East.
The three-level skybridge that connects the two towers will house some of the building’s 60,000 s/f of amenities, which include a 75-foot lap pool, a residents’ bar and lounge. The East Tower will have rooftop amenities like an infinity view pool with outdoor shower as well as a rooftop dining and grilling.
“The East Tower is going to be Soho House but 400 feet in the air,” Michael Stern, CEO of JDS Development, told Broker’s Weekly at a press tour of the building last month. “This neighborhood needed a shot of adrenaline, something refreshing.”
Mukul Lalchandani, a broker with Level Group, equates the collapse of the market to the birth of the amenities race.
“I’ve been doing this business for eight years, I started when the market crashed, and at that time it was really hard to move things in the market, so a lot of buildings started adding amenities,” said Lalchandani.
Starting with just fitness centers and lounges, developers found that their buildings were getting better returns by adding the amenities.
Fast forward to 2016, and prospective renters and buyers now expect at the minimum a gym and landscaped rooftop space, he said.
On the burgeoning Far West Side, the MiMA building has its own Equinox for residents only, while nearby, Moinian’s luxury rental SKY has four full floors of amenities, including a basketball court.
But just because a building has the amenities, doesn’t mean people are using them.
“People get excited but don’t really use them,” said Lalchandani. “Pet spas are very popular now, but I just don’t see people using them. It does get people excited to buy, but I don’t think it’s really about using them, it’s more about name-dropping, like ‘my building can do all these services.”
It’s more important to have the right amenities than to just have amenities, he said, recalling a building in the young professional enclave of Williamsburg that featured a whiskey tasting room.
“That was smart,” he said of the amenity. “Developers have to really listen to what a customer wants. An Imax theater? I don’t think people care. Whisky tasting? People care. It’s important that developers understand what consumers want and deliver that to them.”