After a ritzy New York penthouse goes into contract for a sum 64% lower than it sold for in 2014 during a government orchestrated fire sale, the building’s board go crackers
A 5,955 square foot penthouse in New York’s 328-foot tall Walker Tower that sold for £41.2 million in 2014 went “into contract” recently for just £14.78 million much to the chagrin of the building’s other residents. The story of this massive 64% ‘discount’ echoes that of another penthouse we featured in April – that went on the market for a sum 48% lower than in 2012.
Built in 1929 by Ralph Walker (1889 – 1973), a man described as “the architect of the century” by The New York Times and “the only other honest architect in America” by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Walker Tower was intended to be “as modern as the telephone activity it houses.” It originally was used by the New York Telephone Company and subsequently partly converted to provide 47 condominiums in 2013 by JDS Development Group.
With units ranging in size from 1,100 to 6,500 square feet in size, Penthouse One is one of the largest. It includes 5 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms and aside from a kitchen that reportedly cost £200,000 to install, there are 3 wood-burning fireplaces and a 500 square foot private terrace.
Of the penthouse, during a 7:58 minute tour he conducted in April 2019, self-declared “YouTuber and adventure filmmaker” Erik Conover remarked:
“Penthouse One is widely considered to the most exclusive penthouse downtown in all of Manhattan… This [is] a one of a kind luxury apartment… You feel like the king of the kingdom here… I have no words for this place, it’s hands down my favourite apartment I’ve toured.”
Speaking to Conover, realtor Shaun Osher, CEO of Core NYC, predictably went into overdrive with gushing praise of the unit:
“The sky is the limit here… One of the great things about this apartment is that you separate public space from private space… The back of the house is not too shabby either… All of the views are protected forever… When guests come, their jaws will hit the floor.”
Now, according to Mansion Global, a “battle is brewing” over Penthouse One – which is being sold on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of being seized as part of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal – as other residents have sought to stop the sale and “buy the condo [themselves] for the same sum, then relist it for more.”
Speaking on their behalf, David Berkey, an attorney for the condo board, remarked:
“The contract price can only be described as steeply distressed and unrealistic and one which could adversely affect the market value of other homes at Walker Tower. The board is acting in the best interests of all Walker Tower owners by exercising its right of first refusal to ensure that its value is recognised.”
A resident of the building, Vickey Barron, added:
“We’re all scratching our heads saying, ‘How did this happen?’ What we’re talking about is almost 70% discount. It’s almost like a sample sale. Walker Tower is not a sample sale.”
Bizarrely Ms Barron, herself a realtor with the Compass Group, sold the apartment back in 2014 when she worked for Douglas Elliman Real Estate. At the time, she gushed to The New York Times: “I feel like I blinked and I sold it… This was a man [the buyer] who knew what he wanted and had the money to pay for it.” He plainly passed due diligence back then – somewhat, with hindsight, one might argue most surprisingly.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building – which has a lobby concierge, landscaped common roof deck, yoga room, sauna and a ‘library lounge’ with a bar for the use of residents – Penthouse Two is currently listed to rent by Knight Frank. They seek £69,000 per month for the 6,700 square foot space.
Ironically, whilst Ralph Walker shot himself with a silver bullet he had forged himself in 1973, whomever next overpays for Penthouse One at Walker Tower might well be taking a bullet in terms of misfortune for their wallet.
The Names & Numbers – Penthouse One, Walker Tower, 212 West 18th Street, Chelsea, New York, NY 10011, United States of America
June 2020 – Penthouse One goes “into contract” for just £14.78 million ($18.25 million, €16.33 million or درهم67.02 million), a discount of 64% on its sale price in 2014.
April 2019 – Penthouse One marketed at a price of £28.3 million ($35 million, €31.3 million or درهم128.5 million) by Shaun Osher of Core NYC.
2013 – Units in the residential conversion are listed for sale, with the highest priced penthouse priced at £47.8 million ($59 million, €52.8 million or درهم216.7 million). According to Wallpaper in November 2013, Penthouse One sold “after less than a month on the market.” It comanded a sum of £41.2 million ($50.9 million, €45.5 million or درهم186.9 million) on an asking price of £44.5 million ($55 million, €49.2 million or درهم292 million).
2016 – Of the building, realtor Vickey Barron, who purchased a unit there herself ultimately, remarked: “You don’t need to give its address. You just say ‘Walker Tower’ like ‘the Plaza’ and people know what you’re referring to.”
2013 – Construction completed with the residential units given their own entrance at 212 West 18th Street separate from the commercial space, entered at 17th Street.
2011 – Construction commences on the scheme.
2009 – Part sold for conversion to 53 residential units, the number is later reduced to 47 in total. The buyer was Michael Stern, managing partner of JDS Development Group whilst Verizon, the sellers, kept the lowest eight floors.
In January 2016, of his buy, Stern told Multi Family Executive: “I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see it, back in 2009, when a broker called… But I went up to the roof and was astonished by the unobstructed views. It was the tallest building in Chelsea, since it had been built before zoning limited heights… [It was the] most complex residential conversion I’ve undertaken, and ever may.”
1929 – Constructed to the designs of Ralph Walker as a telecommunications centre and offices. The building is described as “of concrete-encased steel frame” and reflecting “the importance of its era’s telephone technology.” It featured chevron-patterned brickwork and what was termed a “wedding cake setback.”