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Luxe homes sprout in the sky

The hoi polloi may be struggling to make the mortgage, but wealthy homeowners are spending $40 million on luxury digs 50 stories up.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 8, 2012 10:58AM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Image: Wealthy woman (© moodboard/Corbis)The World Trade Center attacks in 2001 diminished the appeal of living in super-high buildings for a while, at least for some. But memories are short, and the appeal of luxury is long. Now, 11 years later, homes in brand-new, outlandishly expensive, ever-higher residential towers are the big thing for the ultra-wealthy.


The hoi polloi may be struggling to make the mortgage, but luxury towers are being built -- and residences in them snatched up -- in New York, Miami, Toronto, Dallas and Chicago, for prices from $4 million to $20 million and up per unit.


"Now, building tall is taking off again," says The Wall Street Journal, offering this brief, recent history of the market:

"Demand for living on the highest floors returned within six months of the (Sept. 11) attacks, says Jonathan Miller, the president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, and during the building boom that followed, dozens of new high-rise condominiums rose in cities around the country. The subsequent downturn and credit crisis resulted in many empty buildings and halted construction. Prices have more recently stabilized, particularly on the high end, and an influx of foreign buyers has absorbed empty inventory in many cities."

High above Central Park

A deluxe Manhattan high-rise, 432 Park Avenue, will be the tallest residential building in the city, at 1,397 feet, when it is completed in 2015 or 2016.


In the meantime, orders are pouring in for homes at One57, a luxury 1,004-foot tower in Manhattan that will hold the "tallest residential tower" title for a time after it is completed next year. Only 40 of the 92 living spaces reportedly remain at 157 W. 57th St. in midtown, at the southern edge of Central Park.


So far, $1 billion worth of homes have been sold. Four of them occupy entire floors. The remaining homes are listed at more than $50 million each. The building has become a mecca for billionaires. Writes The New York Times:

"'The scale of wealth in this building is just unheard of,' said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a property appraiser. 'Despite all the problems economically, you are seeing these people invest in real estate unlike in any period that has ever happened.'"

Britain's Daily Mail offers photos of the homes' interiors. Residents can also use a library with a billiards table and a 24-foot-long aquarium, a screening and performance room, an indoor swimming pool, steam rooms and a "discrete" additional 58th Street entry.


Some of these condos rival mansions -- from 4,600 square feet to more than 15,000 square feet, with prices starting at $5.9 million. 


There are, however, a few drawbacks to living at 1,000 or more feet off the ground, says the Journal.

"Outdoor terraces are generally impossible above 40 or 50 stories, because of the wind. Though most of the new buildings have walls of mostly glass to capture the views, the windows only partially open at the highest floors."

The Economist, though, lists improvements that make these new skyscrapers more livable than in the past: "Building technology has improved: Lifts are more reliable; plumbing is good; noise insulation better; steel and glass are prettier alternatives to slab concrete." 

Luxe living elsewhere

Slightly taller than One57 is London's 72-story residential building the Shard, near London Bridge. At 1,017 feet, the Shard is "already the most visible building in the capital," The Economist says. Scheduled for completion next spring, it will be the tallest residential building in Europe.


The Journal lists other high-high-rises and includes an interactive tour of New York by Gehry (originally Beekman Tower) at 8 Spruce St. in New York's Financial District.


The Gehry opened in 2011. For the moment, this tower of rental apartments reigns -- at 76 stories and 870 feet -- as the city's highest residential tower. A four-story brick elementary school forms the base of the building. Recently a penthouse on the 76th floor was listed for rent for $60,000 a month.


Among the amenities: onsite health and wellness, spa and beauty treatments, baby-sitting and pet care, premium tickets to in-demand events and backstage access, and "lifesourcing," a promising-sounding service.


Other new or planned stratospheric dwellings include:

  • The 649-foot Mansions at Acqualina on a barrier island north of Miami.
  • Trump Toronto, at 908 feet, a tower of luxury hotel rooms and residences in Toronto. The majority of buyers are not Canadian, the Journal says.
  • The 560-foot, soon-to-be-completed Museum Tower in Dallas. It won't be the city's tallest building, but, with 115 luxury residences, it will be one of the plushest.

The 57-story Porsche Design Tower, another Sunny Isles, Fla., sky-rise, is on the drawing board. As planned, owners will drive into "sky-lifts" that will carry car and driver to apartments. In an unusual twist, the cars will be parked in glass showrooms visible from inside the homes. says that "each of the 132 suites has a balcony swimming pool, and prices are expected to be up to $9 million per unit."


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