75 Wall

Meet the Hakimian Organization’s 75 Wall-Residences Atop Andaz. This case study examines the lessons learned from the office-to-condo conversion in Manhattan's FiDi.

75807 RoofloungeWe received many compliments on the venue for our September cocktail reception celebrating the 2013 MHN Excellence Award recipients. The million-dollar views and wrap-around terrace on the top floor of 75 Wall Street, a 42-story tower in New York’s Financial District (FiDi), helped create a mood that was quintessential Manhattan. So kudos not only to the 2013 award winners, but also to our event sponsor The Hakimian Organization for their noteworthy conversion of the former office building to a dual-purpose property: the Andaz Wall Street hotel and, on the upper 24 floors, 75 Wall—Residences Atop Andaz, a full-service luxury condominium with hotel amenities.

A third-generation real estate family, The Hakimian Organization has a 40-year history of developing, building and managing luxury residential, office and hotel projects in New York. The full-service firm prides itself on remaining involved in every project from concept to completion. Other recent developments include 636 Eleventh Avenue, a 1910 warehouse-to-luxury office conversion and Flatiron 18, a 20-story residential building designed by architect Richard Cook. Developed in partnership with Peykar Brothers Realty and Gorjian Properties, the luxe 75 Wall Street condos were opened in 2009 with the Andaz Wall Street hotel making its debut in early 2010.

75 Wall resident rooftopDouglas Elliman Development Marketing is the exclusive sales and marketing firm for 75 Wall—Residences Atop Andaz. Designed by award-winning Rockwell Group, the property at 75 Wall Street was named a Best Mixed-Use Development in the prestigious Americas’ Property Awards. It artfully pairs a collection of 346 luxury residences with the Hyatt-managed Andaz Wall Street hotel to offer the best in modern city living. The array of amenities and luxury services includes a fully equipped cardio space and yoga studio (where The Hakimian Organization recently introduced a free weekly yoga class for residents), a club room, billiards and multi-media lounge, as well as the spectacular rooftop lounge and terrace where we held our Excellence Awards celebration.

Condo residents can also indulge in the hotel’s many luxury services, which include room service, catering and in-residence spa treatments. The hotel, named on the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler Gold List, is also home to Bar Seven Five, a full-service event venue, and a biergarten in the property’s neighboring plaza.

Our September awards celebration included a property tour of the condo portion of the building where unit prices range from $790,000 for a studio to $8.85 million for the four-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex penthouse. Buyers enjoy 421-G tax abatement and exquisite finishes, such as wood lacquer cabinetry by Italian Design Studio and wide-planked cerused oak flooring, Caesarstone countertops, upscale appliances by Sub-Zero, Liebherr, Bosch, Miele, Electrolux, and Sharp, loft-style ceilings rising more than 10 feet and six-foot windows yielding spectacular views.75Wall O-line

According to Rex Hakimian, executive director, acquisition & finance,The Hakimian Organization, “Anytime you’re converting existing buildings there are always challenges because you have to deal with the existing structure,” says Hakimian. And here the existing structure was an office building. He adds, “If it had been just a straight condo all the way down, it would have been easier, but the hotel was a building within a building. It was a completely separate development. Between the garage, the retail, the hotel, the residential—and all the amenities—there was just a lot happening at the same time. And I think we did a great job with it. It was difficult, but I’m really proud of the team and how they came through.”

75 Wall Street is actually one of the few buildings downtown that’s open on all four sides. It has views all around, and it’s freestanding which facilitated the conversion from office building. “You can really do a lot with the layouts, and this adds a level of flexibility that you may not have with another property that is not freestanding,” explains Hakimian. “So that was one of the most attractive parts of this property and one of the reasons we purchased it.”

This was the Hakimian Organizations’s first asset in the Wall Street area. The developer’s philosophy is to develop properties in emerging locations. “We’ve done it almost every time before,” says Hakimian. “Clearly the Financial District—especially at the time [of purchase]—was an emerging location and even continues to be in some senses today. We recognized the Financial District could sustain a good amount of growth. That was attractive to us. This part of downtown is actually east of the [stock] exchange. We really liked that there’s a little less congestion, but it’s still so close to what’s happening in the heart of the Financial District.”

Is it easier to sell condos when potential buyers can stay in a luxury hotel right on the premises? Yes. In fact that’s a huge amenity. “We’ve had a lot of international buyers come in and stay at the hotel. They toured not only our property but others in the Financial District,” says Hakimian. “A lot of them ended up purchasing in our building. And then the reverse is also true for the residents. Surprisingly a lot of the residents do take advantage of room service and other hotel amenities available—more than we thought.”

Another selling point that captivates Andaz Hotel guests as well as 75 Wall condo residents is the property’s interior design. It was a key business decision to bring in an internationally recognized interior design firm. “But we wouldn’t have just slapped a name on the property,” adds Hakimian. “We wanted quality, so we did a lot of research, and Rockwell Group was the firm we thought could add not only name recognition, but also a high-quality product. They played a big role in that.”

The former office building had great bones and an enviable location. But the team is just as proud of the quality of their finished product. “We stressed quality throughout the development process—and also the [important] relationship between the design and the amenities and the services and how they work together and relate together,” says Hakimian.

“It was challenging, but at the end of the day [this attention to design] really provides a product that’s unique not only for downtown but for Manhattan. It has helped us stand out against the competition. We love to go to that building. All of our properties are great products, but this one was so complicated that it’s extra special.”

Rockwell Group was brought in during the early planning stages. “David Rockwell is brilliant, and he’s also surrounded himself with some very, very talented people. It’s a great group to work with,” adds Hakimian. An important functional consideration was how to deal with lobbies for the two entities sharing different floors on one tower. The solution was to have the two lobbies adjacent and sharing a glass wall. The developer wanted to bring the excitement of the hotel to the residential lobby yet maintain the privacy of the residential component and also eliminate any noise that might come over.

“We decided to go with glass between the two lobbies,” says Hakimian. “There’s an attractive separation between the two, but you can feel the excitement come through. This has been a really great design feature for the property and a cool talking point for everybody including brokers and press. It’s fun.”

Like other developers, The Hakimian Organization has discovered that design enables properties to stand out from the competition. “You need that especially now, so we allocated a significant amount of time to the design of this property. Not only the cosmetic design—that was a huge part of it—but also the layouts, the ceiling heights, the natural light in the rooms. These are all things that helped us stand out against the competition. Design is all encompassing. It’s not only the color of your stone—it’s how you feel when you walk into the room,” explains Hakimian.

This FiDi property needed to feel open and have as much daylighting as possible. Units needed to feel like home. “We stressed that throughout the design process,” says Hakimian. “The Financial District is busy, and in some areas it’s tight streets. When you [arrive home] and come in from that, you don’t want to go into a small-feeling apartment. So, even in our smallest studio units, you don’t feel like you’re in a cramped apartment. It has a very good open and airy feel to it. Our largest unit is an outstanding duplex penthouse. In addition to the views, it’s got a private outdoor space. It’s pretty spectacular. It has four bedrooms.”

What’s next for The Hakimian Organization? There are still some moving parts to be sorted out, but the developer expects to be starting work on a significant property in the heart of Times Square this year. It will be a ground-up construction that will first require demolition of an existing property. They also have a 40-acre site in Dix Hills, N.Y. where they’re planning 30 single-family homes. “This is kind of new for us, so it’s exciting,” says Hakimian. “These are two projects that are on our plate today, and there’s a lot more in our pipeline we’re working on.”

Right now The Hakimian Organization has no plans to sell the Andaz Wall hotel. “Our intent is to hold onto the hotel for an extended period of time because we believe in what’s happening downtown—all that’s going on down there, and all that’s going to happen. It’s only going to get better and better,” adds Hakimian. “We definitely believe very much in the upside of the Financial District.”

According to Susan de França, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, “Sales at 75 Wall are setting the pace for the market in FiDi. With demand high and inventory low across the city, domestic and international buyers are seeking the value found in Lower Manhattan, and we’re seeing a lot of movement as a result.” The area has become a magnet for creative, media and tech industries, a fact underscored by the opening of WeWork at 222 Broadway, the anticipated opening of One World Trade Center and the soon-to-be reinvented South Street Seaport, including a 4,000-seat amphitheater.

The Hakimian Organization reported 12 transactions at 75 Wall totaling $17,726,000 in October 2013 alone. “This has been one of our strongest months to date,” says Ben Hakimian, founder and president of The Hakimian Organization. “The recent traffic in our sales gallery indicates steadfast momentum, especially for the months ahead.”

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