Over more than three decades, Bruce Eichner, founder of The Continuum Company, has built urban mixed-use properties in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. In New York, those include City Spire, One Broadway Place and The Manhattan Club, and his latest, 45 E. 22nd St., also known as Madison Square Park Tower. In Miami, Mr. Eichner built the Continuum, a two-tower gated condo development on South Beach, and in Las Vegas, the Cosmopolitan resort and casino on the Strip.
Mr. Eichner, 72, will be relocating to Madison Square Park Tower once his apartment is finished, he said. The 65-story, 82-apartment building, which was designed by Kohn Peterson Fox, rises 777 feet into the sky.
We talked to Mr. Eichner about the importance of going against the grain when it comes to real estate, why he’s predicting a dearth of luxury apartments in New York City, and much more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Bruce Eichner: It probably starts, because I’m a New Yorker, with views. Next, it would be about the neighborhood. And third, because we live in an urban environment, space.
The apartment that I live in in the Village is at the top of the building and has views of the Statue of Liberty.
It’s in one of the two neighborhoods in New York I’d live in—which are the West Village and the Flatiron.
I grew up in a small space in Sunnyside, Queens, and I appreciate all my space.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
BE: You always think it’s the end of the world until the next deal comes along.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
BE: I do all the shopping for everyone cause I like fashion. So if you want to break the bank, call me up and I’ll pick out things for you. I guarantee I have an unusual eye.
Luxury, for real estate, in general, probably starts with finishes. It’s hard for me to imagine luxury without spectacular views, or say, a 10-foot clear ceiling.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
BE: Flatiron has always been a desirable destination for shopping and dining. It’s the only neighborhood in New York that has both ABC Carpet, Paragon and Eataly. You can find anything on the planet.
Recently it’s become more popular for luxury buyers because of Madison Square Park. A building like ours with adjacency to the park will start having value like Central Park.
Tribeca and SoHo have no views, amenities or parking. I personally wouldn’t pay $10 million for a building with no amenities, no doorman and no views, like you see in some of the downtown neighborhoods.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
BE: The amount of higher-priced inventory that’s come to the market in the last 24-36 months. The number of apartments that are $20 million and up in odd neighborhoods and in odd buildings, just because they’re at the top of the building, that surprises me. It’s what I call the “penthouse phenomenon.”
A lot of less sophisticated developers got into the business and thought they’d make a ton of money and brought products to market that don’t have those coveted elements we talked about. I think that stuff will languish for a while.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
BE: New York is always going to be a world leader when it comes to real estate value.
We don’t do what they do in Hong Kong, we don’t have landfills. Supply is always going to be limited, and New York is adding people. We’ve added about 600,000 or 700,000 people in the last 10 years.
It’s clearly the capital of the United States in terms of international demand.
People are becoming leery of St. Bart’s and those islands, because of the hurricanes.
Look what’s happened in London and Paris, people are worried about terrorist attacks.
Much of those with flight capital own apartments in New York.
In New York, you don’t have a phenomenal number of Middle Eastern buyers like you see in London and Paris. They do buy here, but their investments are more in office buildings and larger structures. That’s the single biggest difference between New York and Europe.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
BE: My media room. I sit there with my papers and my books and the TV on (with no sound), and I make lists.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
BE: My apartment is a collection of junk. I’m a veteran collector of junk. But the junk is pretty amazing. Inside, there’s arms and armor, Art Deco pieces, contemporary art, African art, photography—particularly from Peter Beard—Italian glass from the 1940s. My dining room table is an engine from a Concorde. I put glass top on it.
The theme of my home is, “I like it.” I’ve never had any consultant. Every piece in that cockamamie apartment has a story to it.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
BE: The most valuable amenity is to have enough space. If you have children, clothing, books, anything, you need more space.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
BE: Be a contrarian, buy what people say you shouldn’t. Trust your gut. I bought my apartment in 2010 when I saw things starting to move.
I bought my house in East Hampton in 1976 when you could buy anything for cheap. I bought a Stanford White house on three acres that was a wreck. You have to trust that if it’s good dirt or has good bones, even if everything seems bleak, New York in particular is not going away. Things turn.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
BE: It’s back to this issue of absorption of high-end property. The consequence of Dodd-Frank is that very few banks are getting into construction lending. There’s a perception that the luxury market is oversaturated, so no one has put a shovel in the ground in the last 12 months to do any type of luxury property.
Not in 2018, or not in 2019, but 25 months or so from now, you will see a dearth of luxury property.
The upcoming [temporary] shutdown of the L train will have a good impact on Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.
That then creates Sunset Park and Crown Heights. Start getting infill—cool bars, and restaurants. I myself am going to be building a mixed rental building in Crown Heights.
MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?
BE: I like the Flatiron District. I think it’s got the most upside. You can have views and a hopping neighborhood, too. I would say Flatiron is the new midtown—it’s right in the middle between the middle of the city and downtown.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
BE: I would always go into new development, because no one’s lived there before, and generally speaking the newer properties tend to have the newest bells and whistles.
For example, Madison Square Park Tower has a four-pipe heating and cooling system, and that’s the first time I’ve ever done that in a building. That means one room in an apartment can be warm while the other is cold.
Madison Square Park’s parking is also going to be automated. You push a button and the plate delivers your car. That’s something that’s really unique.
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