07 August 2008


15 Central Park West is the highest-priced new apartment building in the history of New York City. At roughly $2 billion in sales, the most lucrative residential building in the world isn't a sleek, one-of-a-kind glass tower. It's architect Robert A. M. Stern's 15 Central Park West.

The building is set at the southwest corner of Central Park and was built on the most expensive site per square foot in Manhattan. Stern designed the building in two parts: a 19 story front section on Central Park West that mimics buildings from the 1920's almost exactly, complete with terraced setbacks; behind it rises a tower decorated with motifs from the architecture of that decade. In between the two sections, Stern put a formal entry drive and a low, glass-enclosed rotunda with a copper dome to serve as a grand lobby and tie the two buildings together. There are 201 units in total, each with one to eight bedrooms.

The apartments were sold out before construction completed this year. They started selling at roughly $2,500.00 a square foot, which was already at the top of the New York market, and prices kept raising as construction went on, until the last apartments were sold for $4,000.00 a square foot. The penthouse went for about $45,000,000.00, making it, at the time, the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York. The smaller apartments on the lower floors went for seven figures, but to add a third bedroom it would push the price into the eight figures. Several apartments sold for more than $20,000,000.00 and the average price was around $9.5 million.

The building's facade is covered in more than 85,000 pieces of limestone at a cost of about two million dollars. However, from a distance, the limestone really does not look much different than concrete. While there have been complaints that the exterior of 15 Central Park West is a bit cold, the lobby is a bit warmer and inviting. It is very grand, paneled in English oak, with elaborately carved pilasters, fireplace mantels and columns of brown Sarancolin marble. It has a kind of 1930's elegance about it, but is definitely not Art Deco. Off the lobby are a library and a private dining room, with wine cellars in the basement, not to mention a 75-foot-long swimming pool. There is also a special waiting room for chauffeurs, and a private screening room. Under no circumstances will a Starbuck's take up any space here. This building supports the fantasy of living in the 20's or 30's with prices that completely defy the current real estate downturn of 2008.