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New York's hottest new residence

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NEW YORK - One57, a 306-metre tower under construction in Midtown Manhattan, will soon hold the title of New York's tallest building with residences. But without fanfare from its ultraprivate future residents, it is cementing a new title: the global billionaires' club.

The buyers of the nine full-floor apartments near the top that have sold so far — among them two duplexes under contract for more than $90 million each — are all billionaires, Gary Barnett, the president of the Extell Development Co., the building's developer, said this week. The other seven apartments ranged in price from $45 million to $50 million.

The billionaires' club includes several Americans, at least two buyers from China, a Canadian, a Nigerian and a Briton, according to Barnett and brokers who have sold apartments in the building, at 157 West 57th Street.

Barnett said that at least a few buyers were "significant Forbes billionaires."

Since late last year, the "trophy" end of New York's real estate market has been recording eye-popping sales that seem to have little basis in reality. The signed contract for the nearly 11,000-square-foot duplex on the 89th and 90th floors of One57 that sold for about $95 million topped the record sale in March of a penthouse at 15 Central Park West to a Russian billionaire's daughter for $88 million. In June, Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino magnate, paid $70 million for a duplex penthouse apartment above the Ritz-Carlton.

Individual sales aside, it is the sheer concentration of wealth in One57, a $1.5 billion development, that is raising the eyebrows of some longtime market watchers.

"The scale of wealth in this building is just unheard of," said Jonathan J. Miller, 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."

Since sales began in the building in November, Extell has signed contracts for more than $1 billion worth of apartments, about $300 million just this summer, Barnett said. Fewer than 40 of the 92 apartments remain unsold, among them four full-floor units. But Barnett said two potential buyers from China were "circling" one of them.

The cost of entry into the club now exceeds $50 million for the remaining full-floor apartments, Barnett said.

Last week, after Extell provided a reporter with an exclusive look at the 360-degree views that the owners of the full-floor apartments will experience when they are able to move in late next year, it was not hard to understand the appeal of One57.

The construction elevator took six minutes to ascend to an apartment on the 85th floor. (It will take 30 seconds for the residents' three elevators to reach the top, Extell officials said.)

The 580 square-metre apartment was bought by an American who already owned "some of the best real estate in the world," including two "very significant" places in New York, said Nikki Field, the Sotheby's International Realty broker who represented the buyer.

For now, the apartment is just bare walls and concrete. Orange netting hangs in place of what will be floor-to-ceiling windows.

The building seems almost centred along the south end of Central Park. From the apartment's main living room, the park seems to roll out like a giant green carpet. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Bronx. To the east, planes can be seen taking off from La Guardia and Kennedy Airports. The Atlantic Ocean pokes out over the horizon. To the northwest, the gentle bend in the Hudson River is visible. Closer in, you can see the grassy terrace of the $88 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West.

To the south, a resident standing in what will be a bathroom with his-and-hers showers and toilets will look out on the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center complex and the Statue of Liberty, not to mention the electronic billboards in Times Square.

New York Times

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