Sharif El-Gamal, is chairman & CEO of Soho Properties, an investment and development firm headquartered in Manhattan. Founded in 2003, the firm owns and develops residential, hospitality, office, retail and mixed-use building projects.
The company is currently working on 45 Park Place in Tribeca, a luxury condominium tower, and 560 Seventh Avenue in Times Square, a mixed-use development that will feature three stories (over 25,000 square feet) of new retail space, a hotel and a permanent home for the Garment Center Synagogue.
— Mansion Global (@MansionGlobal) December 10, 2017
Mr. El-Gamal, 44, is a founding board member of Islamic foundation Park51, a board member of Stella Adler Studio of Acting and serves on the Corporate Leadership Council for Search for Common Ground.
We spoke to Mr. El-Sharif about his amazing piece of Muslim history, his favorite work and home amenity, and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Sharif El Gamal: Professionally, it would be a mixed-use plan that would have retail, residential, office space and a hotel. Something similar to the Time Warner Center—from a developer’s perspective that’s the best.
My personal dream property is something very secluded and very much a part of the surroundings. Elegant, simple, minimalist.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
SE: Every building I came across in SoHo from 2003 to 2007. And every building I saw in 2009 that I should have bought.
From a residential standpoint, I’ve always bought what I wanted, though, and I’ve been very blessed. I’m about to build a new place in Sands Point, on Long Island, and am excited for that.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
SE: First, not having to share your building with too many neighbors. Nowadays moving into a “luxury” tower feels more like a hotel. But luxury is about walking from your elevator into your apartment with a show-stopping view of NYC.
Not all luxury buildings are created equal.
At 45 Park Place, nothing was missed. We painstakingly paid attention to the details—from columns to powder rooms. We’ve curated a bespoke one-of-a-kind product. Attention to detail is what matters.
We’re building a Park Avenue co-op in the heart of the new downtown.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
SE: I really believe it’s downtown [Manhattan]. I think the best place is to be in the new downtown, it’s the new frontier—with The Oculus, Brookfield Place.
South Street Seaport will see the next wave of luxury development.
We’re at the heart of the city within the city.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
SE: The media is complaining about the softness of the luxury market. But buyers are here, and are going into the market. But there are so many new choices. These buyers look everywhere—downtown, in the Meatpacking District. They’re choosier, savvier, and paying more attention to details.
If a developer, value engineers and skimps on details, they know. They’re looking for appliances, final fixtures in the kitchen. Luxury is a four-pipe cooling and heating system. Most of our competitors value engineer those. But these are end qualities buyers will feel when they’re living in those environments.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
SE: They’re everywhere. New York is on top of that list, but London and Paris are equal. There are a lot of amazing houses in East Hampton, Sagaponack, St. Tropez and St. Barths that inspire developers. L.A. is seeing some outrageous houses, too.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
SE: My favorite part is my bedroom—it’s very large and comfortable. It’s a place where I’m able to escape, where I meditate and I pray.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
SE: My home was designed by I.M. Pei, so it’s a perfect example of modern architecture. It’s one of the only freestanding homes that he built and designed and it’s inspired me.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
SE: Besides my wife and my children, I have a very large piece of the covering of the Kaaba—the first house of worship ever built. It’s priceless. I do have a Picasso, but the covering of the Kaaba, the Kiswah, I would say is the most prized thing.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
SE: I’m a huge fan of steam rooms and saunas. I have one in my office also. It’s a great way to refresh.
MG: Best piece of real estate advice?
SE: It’s all about timing. As the U.S. dollar gains strength, we’ll see the impact of that on real estate market. There’s a lot of new wealth being created around the world. These investors are looking to invest in U.S. dollars, and this impacts New York. My advice is to get into the game, not to wait.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
SE: Trump administration, interest rates, the rise of the Chinese middle class, and the political shakeup in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
SE: New development, especially in New York. There’s something incredibly appealing about being the first person to occupy a new space. If you have confidence in the developer, you know it was designed with highest standards.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
SE: Downtown New York. There’s limited product, and people tend to occupy their homes for longer.
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