With a staggering $10.1 billion in sales for the first quarter of this year — a 21 percent increase over 2014 — NYC’s residential real estate business is a global empire to be reckoned with.
As are the visionaries leading its way.
As diverse as they are dazzling, Alexa’s New Real Estate Royalty prove that talent and imagination remain the industry’s most important assets.
NORMAN FOSTER, 80
Chairman and founder, Foster + Partners
Over the course of his five-decade (and counting) career, Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect and British knight Foster — who turned 80 on June 1 — has created signature contemporary designs that have come to define the cityscapes of metropolises around the globe and redefined the identities of significant cultural institutions like the British Museum and the Smithsonian.
For New York alone, he’s dreamed up West 57th Street’s triangular-framed Hearst Tower and the Bowery’s nine-story, glass-fronted Sperone Westwater Gallery.Now he’s making his NYC residential debut with a trio of towers: Zeckendorf’s 42-story 50 United Nations Plaza arrives first, its three columns of bay windows overlooking the UN; it’s to be followed by SR Capital and GTIS Partners’ 551 West 21st Street, whose corner balconies provide sweeping city views; and finally, the slender, 61-story One Hundred East Fifty Third Street, developed by Aby Rosen’s RFR.
PARIS FORINO, 37
Founder, Paris Forino Interior Design
Envision elegant, old-world design touches, like black-and-white-striped marble flooring, stone moldings and herringbone-patterned wood, but executed with the clean, modern finishes coveted by today’s buyers.Such careful juxtaposition of old and new has thrust Paris Forino into the spotlight as one of New York’s most sought-after interior designers.
“To come home to a serene, beautifully conceived and ordered home is important,” she tells Alexa. “It affects our mood, our psyche — it affects our lives.”
She founded her eponymous firm in 2012, and has several major NYC commissions under her belt, including the glitzy interiors of 50 Clinton, 204 Forsyth and The Williamsberry.
She’s also making waves on new shores, handling the interiors at the Corner House building in Stockholm — it sold out in two weeks.
VLADISLAV DORONIN, 52
Founder and chairman, Capital Group
Real estate developer Doronin — worth about $1 billion and dubbed the “Donald Trump of Russia” — founded Moscow-based Capital Group in 1991.Since then, its portfolio has ballooned to include more than 70 luxury residential and commercial projects worldwide.
Doronin is also the majority owner of the holding company for the ultra-luxe Aman Resorts.
While fellow Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is famous for plucking up luxury real estate for himself and his family to occupy, Doronin is focused on residential developments for others.
He’s snapping up East Coast properties with unstoppable gusto, teaming with developer Ugo Colombo to build the Brickell Flatiron, a chic, curvy, 65-story skyscraper in Miami.
In NYC, Doronin partnered with Michael Shvo to buy floors 4 though 24 (roughly 290,000 square feet) of the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue — likely destined to become luxury condos.
MATTHEW BANNISTER, 48
Founding partner, DBOX
What began as a way to avoid having a boss has grown into a soup-to-nuts creative and branding agency for visionary developers in New York, Miami and London.The Princeton School of Architecture graduate launched his renderings firm in 1996 as a way to visualize future developments using emerging technology, starting with a “highly abstract theatrical” project for his professor, Elizabeth Diller (of Diller Scofidio + Renfro fame).
Since then, DBOX has created the Emmy-winning film presentation of an imagined One World Trade Center; devised a stunning homage to New York for 432 Park Avenue; and green-screened preconstruction video fly-throughs of the New York by Gehry building.
Next up: projects with heavyweights like Ian Schrager, Foster + Partners, and Robert A.M. Stern. “We understand a crafted, strategic visual is the most powerful marketing tool,” Bannister tells Alexa. “You are guaranteed this at DBOX.”
SAIF SUMAIDA, 46, and AMIT KHURANA, 37
Founding partners, Sumaida + Khurana
For New York-based developers Sumaida and Khurana, a rising building should serve a far greater purpose than mere shelter.Their 3-year-old company focuses on delivering dazzling additions to the city skyline — specifically, inaugural NYC projects from leading world architects.
One of them, Japan’s Pritzker Prize-winner Tadao Ando’s 152 Elizabeth Street condominium — adorned with glass, concrete and burnished-metal touches — launched sales this month with prices from $5.75 million.
The pair is also working with Portugal’s Álvaro Siza, another Pritzker recipient, and development firm LENY to bring 611 West 56th Street, a 35-story residential tower, to Midtown by 2018.
“The essence of New York is based in cultural diversity and collaboration,” Khurana tells Alexa. “There is something quite special about bringing master architects known for the purity and refinement of their design.”
SOO K. CHAN, 53
Founding principal and design director, SCDA Architects
The rare high-profile architect who’s also a developer — as well as landscape, interior and product designer — the Singapore-born, Yale-educated Chan works around the world, building a resort in Bali, creating an installation for the Venice Biennale, teaching at Syracuse and designing a luxury residential tower in Kuala Lumpur.
He’s won awards from the likes of the Royal Institute of British Architects and had his work published in such illustrious outlets as Architectural Record and the Architectural Review.Now, as he tells Alexa, he’s “bringing a contemporary Asian sensibility to design in New York,” making his US debut with West 29th Street’s Soori High Line, where 16 of the 31 units have private pools. “
It will be my vision fully realized,” Chan says of this building, which he’s both designing and co-developing. He’s also got 29th Street’s 12-unit 515 Highline under way, too, as well as a 38-story residence tower at 118 East 59th Street.
ANNABELLE SELLDORF, 54
Principal, Selldorf Architects
Celebrated for the impeccable precision of her designs, Selldorf has become the go-to architect for bijou, in-the-know cultural institutions, from the UES’s Neue Galerie, carved out of an early-20th century Fifth Avenue mansion, to Hauser & Wirth’s gallery in Chelsea’s former Roxy nightclub.
She’s also designed the exteriors and interiors of prominent luxe residential buildings, including Noho’s soon-to-finish 10 Bond Street, which contains just 11 loftlike units.
Upcoming projects include 42 Crosby Street and 548 West 22nd Street, where she will add a 19-story tower to the existing four-floor structure.
These buildings “make a real contribution to the urban fabric,” Selldorf tells Alexa. “They shape the streetscape and neighborhood and are as much for the people who experience them from the outside as the residents on the inside.”
VERONICA MAINETTI, 36
President, Sorgente Group of America
Veronica Mainetti stands out not only for being a successful female developer in a male-dominated industry but also for pushing the boundaries of green-friendly luxury real estate development.
Her 60 White Street condominium conversion in Tribeca, where prices now start at $4.58 million, incorporates a high-insulation envelope to deter hot and cold air; local-sourced wood and marble; and — as testament to her dedication — the elimination of volatile organic compounds, which are extremely common chemicals in building materials.
“In luxury building, sustainability and energy efficiency should be the norm because they’re very achievable,” the Italy-born Mainetti tells Alexa. “The more people literally buy into this philosophy, the more inexpensive it is going to become to practice it.”
Her company Sorgente, which has an emphasis on historical preservation projects, also developed 34 Greene Street in NYC and owns the fully occupied Fine Arts and Clock Tower commercial buildings in LA. She hopes to bring a 60 White-style eco building to California in the near future.
ROBERT REFFKIN, 35
Founder and CEO, Compass
Curious that a former White House Fellow and private-equities man would turn to real estate sales for his second (and still very early) chapter, but so it went for Reffkin, who, along with co-founder Ori Allon, understood that big data can help sellers and buyers settle on the right price.
Compass’ algorithms allow its 400 agents to figure out what month they should list a particular property, what might happen if they list a price 20 percent too high, and why 6 percent is a reasonable commission.
Since officially launching in 2014 — and hiring a secret weapon, broker Leonard Steinberg — Compass has gone from $0 to nearly $1 billion in listings.
Big names who chose Reffkin’s team over more seasoned brokerage firms include the $750 million 100 East 53rd Street; 152 Elizabeth, designed by Tadao Ando; and a coveted listing at 740 Park Avenue. “If you believe that 99 percent of buyers are coming from co-brokers or an aggregator, then the role of the brokerage firm is to provide the best platform for agents to run their business,” says Reffkin.
JAMIE DRAKE, 58
Founder, Drake Design Associates
The interior designer who famously decorated Madonna’s LA home and completed a restoration of Gracie Mansion for Mayor Bloomberg in 2002 (“The research and study necessary for that kind of job?
Completely new and different for me, but I loved it,” he tells Alexa) is known for his take on exuberant interiors, with whimsical flourishes and a luxurious sense of textural layering.
With nearly 40 years in business, his firm is now handling several residential projects, including a full floor of apartments at Herzog and de Meuron’s modernist Tribeca building 56 Leonard and homes at the 90-story behemoth One57.
BJARKE INGELS, 40
Founder, Bjarke Ingels Group
Still something of a wunderkind even as his firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), approaches its 10th anniversary, the Danish Ingels is famous for bold, unapologetic designs that almost strain credulity, including his multistory living complex Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen and the spiraling Denmark Pavilion that debuted at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai.
Now the architect, who moved to New York in 2012, is putting his stamp on Gotham via a residential building on West 57th Street known as W57, which resembles a giant pyramid with a cutout courtyard in the center.Ingels has also replaced Norman Foster as designer of the second tower at the World Trade Center site — Two World Trade Center — with a plan for a seven-tiered building.
In other high-profile news, Ingels is also working as co-designer of the new Google headquarters in California.
ROBERT A. M. STERN, 76
Founder and senior partner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects
The architectural firm that bears his name altered the fabric of New York real estate back in 2000, when Stern turned his eye from individual houses to larger, multifamily commissions.
The architect designed the Chatham, at 181 E. 65th St. (where he also resides), for the Related Companies; its limestone-and-brick Georgian facade added zeroes to the price of living on the UES, and made his addresses shorthand for inhabitants with grand yet unpretentious style.
While 15 Central Park West remains his most iconic project to date, the dean of the Yale School of Architecture (yes, he also makes time to run an Ivy League school) has more tricks up his sleeve: Watch for the openings of future icons 520 Park Avenue, 20 East End Avenue and the Four Seasons Private Residences Downtown, at 30 Park Place, in the next two years.
MICHAEL SHVO, 42
President and CEO, SHVO
Perhaps as famous for his bold personality as his real-estate acumen, Israel-born Shvo launched his firm SHVO in 2004, developing properties that include Bryant Park Tower, the ultra-luxe Amangiri resort in Utah and the Armani Casa-outfitted 20 Pine residences in the Financial District.After retiring from real estate to pursue his passion for art in 2008, Shvo returned in 2013 by purchasing the Getty Oil gas station in West Chelsea for $23.5 million.
A master showman (and marketer), Shvo then filled the space with sculptural Lalanne sheep, turning it into a public-art installation (an eight-unit project from architect Peter Marino is planned for the site).
The tastemaking Shvo now has $3.5 billion worth under development, including the recently acquired Crown building (with Russian developer Vladislav Doronin), the skyscraper at 125 Greenwich St., the residential tower at 100 Varick by starchitect Renzo Piano, and a private island (of course) resort in the Bahamas.
ZIEL FELDMAN, 56
Founder and chairman of HFZ Capital Group
Few New Yorkers had heard of HFZ until the money man and his partners started buying up distressed assets — like One Madison— during the market downturn.Now the former Property Markets Group partner is firmly in the black (to the tune of $7.5 billion in transactions) and investing in some serious real estate risks.
The secret sauce? Diversification.
“HFZ’s strategy of creating different types of product at varying price points in often unexpected or emerging locations, along with its collaboration with noted architects, has helped put the company in its enviable position,” says founder and Chairman Ziel Feldman.
HFZ recently began aggressively investing in historic conversions, like 11 Beach Street, as well as ground-up construction projects (see 505 West 19th Street) that might seem like pie-in-the-sky dreams to others. Their 76 11th Avenue condo project, for example, is currently a parking lot on the High Line that’s a no-go zone of leftovers from the night before.
HFZ paid a whopping $870 million for the two-city-block space, over which Bjarke Ingels’ two towers will rise — along with West Chelsea prices. Word is the two- to three-bedroom condominiums will trade for nearly $4,000 a square foot.
ABY ROSEN, 55
Co-founder and principal, RFR Holding
An owner of the midcentury-modern Midtown icons Lever House and the Seagram Building — where he’s planning changes for its restaurant, the Four Seasons — the German-born Rosen also throws his weight around as a collector of contemporary art, chair of the New York State Council on the Arts and a trustee of the New Museum.
His ownership stake in NYC’s Gramercy Park and Paramount hotels, as well as Miami’s W South Beach, makes him a player in the world of hospitality, too.
His residential-real estate prowess, meanwhile, extends across 2,200 units in 50 metropolitan-area properties, including One Jackson Square, the Herzog & de Meuron-designed 40 Bond Street and the forthcoming One Hundred East Fifty Third Street, an ultra-luxe spot masterminded by Norman Foster, where sales start soon.
JONATHAN MILLER, 54
President and CEO, Miller Samuel Inc.
Miller’s 29-year-old firm is the leading real estate-appraisal consultancy in New York — if not America. Tasked with determining how much real estate is actually worth, his team can literally raise (or lower) the price bar on developments and even districts.When not evaluating costly homes and condos, he develops highly detailed “state-of-the-market” reports covering South Florida, Los Angeles, Aspen and NYC for Douglas Elliman. And his prescient 2012 declaration that “luxury real estate is the new global currency” was repeated as gospel by real estate insiders across the globe.
While he certainly sits on a powerful perch, Miller views himself as a steward of transparency and accountability in an industry often fraught with half-truths and broker babble. “Our industry is full of a tremendous amount of hyperbole, which is not often to the benefit of the consumer,” he tells Alexa. “It’s important to provide a neutral benchmark so that people can make effective decisions.”
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH, 48
Russia’s 12th richest man — whom Forbes estimates is worth $9.3 billion — Abramovich began his colonization of London’s exclusive Lowndes Square a decade ago, buying up nine flats at a cost of about $230 million.Now, the Moscow-based Abramovich has set his sights on Manhattan, with a similarly ambitious luxury real estate blueprint. In January, news broke that he bought three adjacent townhouses on East 75th Street with plans to turn them into a single megamansion — for a total price tag somewhere between $55 million and $70 million.
(He may have started a trend: Earlier this month, three adjacent townhouses on East 62ndStreet were also listed together by an unknown owner for $120 million, with similar plans to combine them into a single, 30,000-square-foot megahome.)
Don’t expect Abramovich, who first built his fortune in the early 1990s via a series of oil export deals, to slow down his Gotham expansion. “If I had to think where I could live if not Moscow,” he once told the Guardian, “London would be my first choice, and second would be New York.”
THOMAS JUUL-HANSEN, 45
The Harvard-educated Dane, who immigrated to the US in 1988, is certainly living the American Dream.After a stint at Richard Meier & Partners, he broke off on his own in 2003, and quickly diversified his portfolio into restaurants, private houses, retail, and large-scale residential buildings. Handling the entire interiors package at One57 certainly put his firm on the radar; its subtle design gives off a discreet vibe of tranquility, simplicity and high customization.
Juul-Hansen has never worked with a press attaché; word of mouth is how developers find out about the wunderkind behind 505 West 19th on the High Line and 210 West 77th Street uptown — you might not know it’s a Thomas Juul-Hansen design, but you’ll know.
“Our design intention is always to make spaces that are clean and simple and serene, but warm and rich at the same time,” he tells Alexa. “This is amplified by using natural materials, which also helps the longevity of our work.”
ANDRE KIKOSKI, 48
Founder, Andre Kikoski Architect
An alum of architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed (formerly I.M. Pei & Partners), Kikoski made his name in the early aughts with Suba, one of the first restaurants to make the Lower East Side a dining destination, thanks to his ingenious cantilevered dining platform surrounded by a moat of water.
Since then, Kikoski’s innovative designs (often at a grand scale with expert applications of negative space) have been seen at the Wright at the Guggenheim Museum (which won a James Beard Award for outstanding restaurant design), various Saks Fifth Avenue department stores nationwide and the warehouse exterior of Wyckoff Exchange in Bushwick.
Now, the architect is at work on several hush-hush downtown projects, including a condo building in Nolita, the interiors of a luxury building in Hudson Yards and a warehouse conversion in Tribeca.