Full-Floor Residences Only: Upper East Side’s the Charles Sets Luxury Development Trend
NEW YORK—Gracious four-bedroom, four-bathroom residences with opulent living areas, floor-to-ceiling windows, exquisite finishes and hardware, and panoramic city views are among the hallmarks of elegance at The Charles—a new condominium on the Upper East Side.
But the defining feature of 32-story building is its composition: it is entirely full floor and multi-floor residences, something unheard of before The Charles.
“A lot of other developers are now designing full-floor buildings, and we would like to think that we were the industry leaders in that,” said Development Manager Philip Mendlow of Bluerock Real Estate.
Full floor penthouses are common, and developers of luxury towers often build a number of full floor apartments higher up in residential towers, but a building where every apartment is at least a full floor was not seen before The Charles.
Financial Crisis Hits, New Plan Adopted
The 2008 financial crisis was a turning point that actually enabled the developers to adopt their entirely full-floor design.
“We tried to size all of our rooms and all of the transitional areas, the circulation areas, so that they felt extremely spacious, and that was one of the principles that we followed in the design,” Mendlow said.
The initial sales program, which they released a week after the Lehman Brothers’ collapse, had 45 units scheduled for the building, with roughly a dozen full-floor residences at the top.
When the market stopped moving in early 2009, they returned deposits to their nine buyers, and put the project on the shelf.
“Many of those contracts were people buying both apartments on one floor with an idea of combining them. So that sort of gave us a clue that there was a market for large apartments,” Mendlow said.
After a tremendous amount of market research, Bluerock “resuscitated” the property—to use Mendlow’s words—in 2011.
“It’s been a labor of love, and I always finish everything I start, so I’m not unhappy about it,” Mendlow said.
David Collins’ Final Residential Project
The Charles was the first, and sadly the last, residential development that London-based interior designer David Collins worked on before his sudden death from skin cancer in July 2013.
“So this was his legacy,” said Jason Karadus, a Town Residential broker representing The Charles. “He wanted his first [residential tower] building to be in Manhattan—he loved Manhattan.”
Collins was a close friend of Madonna, whom he met in London almost two decades ago. His company, David Collins Studio, focuses on interior design for luxury hotels, restaurants, and bars, mainly in Europe.
The London Hotel in Midtown Manhattan was Collins only other large-scale project in the United States. It was the finishes in the high-end suites there, including those in the approximately $2000-a-night penthouse, that drew the attention of The Charles’ developers.
“Ramin and I flew to London, having been intrigued by his portfolio … and also by the finishes and the character of the London Hotel,” Mendlow said, “We had a lovely meeting and decided that he would bring a certain quirky European sensibility to the building.”
The finishes, and selection of hardware, including the nickel trim on the doors, are all David Collins’. Collins chose Lefroy Brooks for the fixtures throughout the Charles, and everything is custom. The kitchens are custom, as are the marble bathrooms.
Designed with Family in Mind
R. Ramin Kamfar, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Bluerock Real Estate, invited Mendlow to join his company in 2007, and find a site they could develop in Manhattan. Mendlow was one of the first investors in Bluerock Real Estate when Kamfar started the company in 2002.
In March of 2007, when Kamfar’s first child, his son, was being born, they were signing on to develop The Charles’ site. “My wife was in the hospital and she was so upset with me because I was on the phone getting this deal done,” Kamfar said.
Kamfar’s family has grown. He and his wife Stephanie now also have a 10-month-old daughter. In the near future, their family of four will move into their new “townhouse in the sky,” high up in The Charles.
He wanted to build something that families could live in, with privacy.
“New townhouses are wonderful, but they have no views. They’re a little dark, and you have to go up and down stairs. When you’ve got kids…” Kamfar said.
“Now the ultimate luxury is staying in the city and raising your family here,” he said.
“For the last four decades, what developers have built … have been smaller apartments for younger adults. We have a tremendous supply of 1-bedrooms, 2-bedrooms, and studios,” Kamfar said. “In New York what has been happening wasn’t very family-friendly, before Giuliani it wasn’t safe, and it wasn’t family friendly.”
“The ultimate luxury in New York is space, and not just the square feet of space. It’s the volume. It’s the ceilings. And it’s the light,” Kamfar said.
Overseeing the Details
Each residence has custom designed eat-in-kitchens, with Miele and Subzero appliances. Five-inch white oak wood flooring is throughout every residence, with marble flooring in the exquisite bathrooms.
Ceiling heights throughout the building range from 9 to 12.5 feet. All the floors above the seventh have floor-to-ceiling windows—even in the bathrooms.
“One of the added values that we bring to any product is paying a lot of attention to the nature and the sourcing of the materials used in the product,” said Mendlow, who personally oversaw every aspect of the development.
He traveled to Turkey to buy the stone used for the spa-like bathrooms in The Charles. “I wanted to make the selection match what I had in mind at the time. We had seen samples, but you can’t really buy $2 million dollars worth of stone from samples. You have to go and look at the actual blocks it’s being cut from.”
He traveled to Italy at the same time to source stone for the lobby floor.
“It requires constant vigilance to be sure that the construction matches your vision—not just what’s on paper, but also what you have in your mind when you are engaged in the design process,” Mendlow said.
But it’s the mechanical design of The Charles that really elevates it above other new developments, according to Mendlow.
Instead of installing vertical heat pumps, the developers engineered a four-pipe fancoil system that is virtually silent, and has a lower impact on the visual character of the apartment.
“In a full floor like this where you have direct sun on the west side in the afternoon, with shade on the east side, sometimes you need the air-conditioning to be here, and heating in the other side of the apartment,” Mendlow said.
“So we’ve spent a lot of time, and a substantial amount of extra money to ensuring that type of comfort will be provided to our purchasers.”
“Not satisfied with that, however, we also installed radiant heating in the living room and master bedroom flooring. The master bath has radiant heating in the flooring as well.”
Bluerock hired an acoustical engineer, which resulted in three types of glass being used throughout, depending on the exposure of each of the building’s three major facades.
The units to the seventh floor are located in the building’s limestone base, whereas the higher units are almost entirely floor-to-ceiling windows.
“We were also most concerned about the transmission of noise between the floors,” Mendlow said.
The developers put substantial padding under the floor, and “a quarter inch rubber pad that virtually eliminates any transmission of noise,” Mendlow said.
Penthouse Duplex Broke Sales Record
The 11,747 square foot 12 bedroom duplex penthouse sold for $37.94 million, breaking the previous sales record for the area.
The buyer of the foot duplex penthouse, which was originally 4700 square feet, also snapped up the two floors directly below for just over $10 million a piece, according to Street Easy.
“The combination resulted in an four-floor, 11,747 square foot home with 1,344 square feet of exterior space, ceiling heights ranging from 11 feet and higher, epic views of the city and interiors by David Collins Studio. This is referred to as PH1,” said Ginger Brokaw, a Town Real Estate broker.
A second duplex, referred to as PH2, on the 27th and 28th floors is eight bedrooms and 7,198 square feet. It sold for $20.695 million, according to Street Easy.
The Charles’ was designed by Ismael Leyva Architects. Building amenities include a concierge, resident’s lounge, fitness center, and a children’s playroom. Asking prices for the remaining four units start at just over $6.58 million.