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Downtown Is Catching Up to Uptown's Luxe Real Estate

By Amy Zimmer | March 29, 2012 7:36am
A 1,762-square-foot property at 85 West Broadway is listed for $4.35 million by Stribling.
A 1,762-square-foot property at 85 West Broadway is listed for $4.35 million by Stribling.
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Stribling Private Brokerage

MANHATTAN — In the world of luxury real estate, Uptown has long reigned with its sprawling co-ops, stately townhouses and lavish condos.

But Downtown is catching up, according to the luxury residential report for April 2012 recently released by Stribling Private Brokerage. It notes that Downtown properties cracked the top 10 most expensive sales for co-ops, townhouses and condos.

"Suffice it to say that Downtown continues to trend toward, and in many cases exceed, parity with Uptown," the report said. "This is especially true as developers create increasingly expensive condominiums with full services and finishes that exceed those Uptown."

It's all about the quality of the product for trophy properties, said Stribling's Kirk Henckels, who prepared the report looking at properties costing $5 million and above.

One of those "quality" products was the $25 million swanky triplex loft at 141 Prince St. —with its own walk-in water tower— that once belonged to News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch bought the SoHo digs for $6.5 million in 1999 shortly after marrying Wendi Deng, according to reports.

But the couple didn't stay Downtown for long. They decamped for a quieter enclave on the Upper East Side in 2005, buying a triplex at the ritzy 834 Fifth Ave. from the estate of Laurance Rockefeller for $44 million. The purchase was a record for a New York City apartment at the time.

Murdoch sold his palatial Prince Street apartment for $24.675 million — a neighborhood record at the time — to fashion designer Elie Tahari and his wife.

Last year, when that couple separated, they sold it for $27.5 million to Gateway computers co-founder Ted Waitt. He bought it for his girlfriend, who broke up with him shortly after closing, according to the Observer.

In April, an unknown buyer paid $25 million for the apartment making it the fourth most expensive co-op sale last year, the Stribling report found.

The  report also noted that the sixth most expensive townhouse was Downtown, at 20 East 10th St., which sold for nearly $20 million. The 10th priciest condo was a triplex penthouse for $17.8 million at 419-421 Broome St., the building where actor Heath Ledger died in 2008.

"In terms of Downtown, you don't have an 834 Fifth Ave. or a 965 Fifth Ave., but they are getting to where they have something like 15 Central Park West," Henckels said, listing some of the city's most coveted Uptown addresses.

"Downtown is coming up as one would expect as this market is getting stronger," Henkels said. "Certainly, in the last six years, more and more you see a geographic spread of buyers. I think it speaks to the fact that buyers are quality oriented and will pay for it."

Even Brooklyn is getting into the mix, Henkels noted, pointing to the recent $12.5 million sale of Truman Capote's old mansion at 70 Willow St., which set a borough record. Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser is moving into that Brooklyn Heights home, the Observer reported.

Downtown appeals most to the "affluent young," "adventurous empty nesters from Uptown" and foreigners looking to be in the "pulse of New York," the Stribling report found.

Some foreign buyers, however, will not pay for premium Downtown properties — yet.

"You're not seeing Russians purchasing Downtown at this point," Henkels said. They're still focused on the "prestige" addresses on Fifth Avenue and near Central Park — "unless they're young and hip."