The luxury housing market in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood has held its own as high-end sales across New York City slowed from the boom of late-2021 to spring 2022.
Alex Witkoff, co-chief executive officer of the Witkoff Group, isn’t surprised by West Chelsea’s resilience amid a lagging market.
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“West Chelsea has turned into one of the big cultural capitals in Manhattan,” he said. “You have a density of major art galleries that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the city and two amazing parks, which are the High Line and Hudson River Park.”
New developments in West Chelsea in particular have experienced increased buyer interest over the past five months, a typically slower period for home buying and a sign of the neighborhood’s underlying strength, according to market insights group UrbanDigs.
Witkoff is overseeing the development of One High Line in West Chelsea, which features 236 residences and a 120-key Faena New York hotel. The Bjarke Ingels-designed development features two twisting towers that encompass a full city block between Tenth and Eleventh avenues and is touted as one of the city’s “top-selling residential buildings.” Sales launched last June and there have been $292 million in sales transactions since May 1, including a $52 million penthouse that is under contract.
New developments like One High Line are coming along at the right time for the luxury buyer unswayed by soaring interest rates.
“In August, the neighborhood median asking price was $4 million, 14.4% higher than a year ago,” said StreetEasy economist Kenny Lee. “Sellers maintain the upper hand in West Chelsea, with a typical for-sale listing receiving 97.8% of its original asking price in August 2023—higher than the median of 95.7% for Manhattan. There isn’t a lot of room for negotiation for buyers.”
Mansion Global spoke with Witkoff to hear more about what’s keeping West Chelsea’s luxury market booming during an overall slowdown and how One High Line is drawing buyers in.
Mansion Global: What are your thoughts on West Chelsea’s current market?
Alex Witkoff: [it] is doing exceptionally well right now. It has been and continues to be a bright spot. In 2023, West Chelsea claimed 50% more new development buyers than Midtown, despite Midtown having 200% more new development inventory. From 2015 to 2019, West Chelsea accounted for 5% of the new development inventory; now it accounts for 14% between 2020-23.
MG: What are some of the biggest trends you have seen in the luxury market over the last year?
AW: Buyers continue to want more space and at the same time also want to live somewhere that is centrally located and close to their favorite restaurants, art galleries and cultural attractions.
We’ve also noticed demand from buyers seeking homes in developments that match their neighborhood’s personality. Whether those who already live in West Chelsea or are looking to move, our buyers have an appreciation for the arts, nature, and aspects of this project that are inspired by its surroundings.
Another noticeable trend is that our most discerning clientele prioritizes truly exclusive, convenient experiences that have been curated with their preferences in mind. They have come to expect five-star, resort-style hospitality.
MG: Who is the typical buyer in West Chelsea today?
AW: We’re seeing a lot of New Yorkers who are looking to upgrade their home; buyers who have children and a family but don’t necessarily want to live on the Upper East Side and like being close to Downtown. We’re also seeing buyers who currently live in West Chelsea and love it and realize now is the time to purchase with closings now underway.
West Chelsea has officially arrived as a destination for high-end residential living and the buyers we’re seeing at One High Line know this and are familiar with the neighborhood. They want to live at One High Line and in a neighborhood with a point of view that is conveniently located and has everything they need. West Chelsea is home to some of NYCs most interesting culinary and cultural attractions and a world class art scene and buyers want to take advantage of all of that.
MG: West Chelsea is largely known for its vibrant art galleries and parks. How does One High Line fit in?
AW: The neighborhood is almost like a Pritzker Prize-winning area at this point. There are residential buildings by Jean Nouvel, Thomas Heathwerick, Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano. We had the luxury of working with the best in architecture with Bjarke Ingels for One High Line.
The project occupies a full city block between the High Line and the Hudson River in one of downtown Manhattan’s best locations. The High Line is just downstairs, and Hudson River Park is across the street. The project was carefully designed to take advantage of the unique site and contribute to the lived experience in West Chelsea.
MG: How do you see West Chelsea transforming over the next several years?
AW: West Chelsea is already one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in New York, with likely the highest density of art galleries in the U.S., including David Zwirner, Gagosian, David Kordansky, as well as the Whitney Museum. The area will continue to grow as a preferred neighborhood to live in, attracting buyers who are drawn to culture, Michelin-star dining, world-class shopping on Gansevoort Street and its two great parks.
MG: What are prospective buyers at One High Line most impressed by?
AW: Buyers are attracted to our dynamic architecture, stunning views of the Hudson River and city skyline; and the high-touch level of service offered by Faena. The highly amenitized lifestyle we’re able to offer residents, in addition to the project being the future home of Faena Hotel New York, where residents will get access to Faena’s exclusive members club and a 17,000-square-foot spa, has also resonated with buyers and been a draw.
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MG: Who are some architects or developers that you draw inspiration from?
AW: Bjarke Ingels has always been an architect I have long admired with his bold vision and his innate ability to shape buildings to capture sweeping vistas of cities. Another architect I have long admired is Robert A.M. Stern, who designs buildings from the inside out, creating phenomenal residential layouts coupled with timeless finishes that people gravitate to.
MG: How do you define luxury?
AW: Luxury is a term that is constantly evolving and it’s critical for any business to keep growing with their clientele. Generically, luxury has always been linked to the highest quality product, but we are seeing buyers value projects that maximize their time, which is a finite resource. Services including personal trainers, in-residence spa treatments, in-residence dining, sommelier service, and concierge services to allow residents to enhance their wellbeing and lifestyle.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.