Imagine the biggest multi-unit building you’ve ever seen. Now, think bigger. In fact, imagine Sky, the largest residential rental building in the country, with 1,175 units. Now imagine you had to rent out all of those apartments — every single one.
That was the extraordinary task for which Natasha Vardi, senior vice president of The Moinian Group, found herself seeking a real estate superstar. It was the task Jordan Sachs, CEO and co-founder of Bold New York, found himself pitching for before Sky’s 2016 opening.
And 100 percent leased is where these two find themselves, as Sky reaches capacity and they prepare to team up on Oskar, yet another Midtown West residential project.
What does it take to build and fill not just one, but two soon-to-be NYC landmarks? I talked with Vardi and Sachs to find out.
What makes Sky so special?
You might think that creating an extraordinary space like Sky and filling it to capacity was all about totally new residential concepts. In fact, however, Vardi said that the emphasis was taking the details to a whole new level.
“With Sky, what sets the residences apart is that from the onset we laboriously studied the floor plan to make sure that we were using every square foot. Because we were a ground-up building, we were able to focus on that in a way that conversion project can’t,” she said.
In addition, there is an emphasis on taking amenities to a level never before imagined.
“We want the tenants to be able to have a haven from the outside world,” Vardi said. “Once they walk into the doors, I want them to be able to forget everything else. We want there to be a community within the building. That’s the thinking behind the daily breakfast and other amenities in the building.”
Vardi said that during the planning process, she once said that she wanted to create a space so well-designed and so comprehensive in its amenities that a resident could conceivably feel that “they never need to leave.”
A resident recently used that very phrase in expressing her feelings about the building. “Then I knew we had accomplished what we set out to do,” Vardi said.
How do you fill the largest rental building in the country?
Bold’s Jordan Sachs said that ability to get Sky leased in record time at record prices comes down to the synchronicity between The Moinian Group and the leasing team at Bold.
“Real estate is often thought of as a vendor relationship, but we did a very good job early on of removing that barrier and folding ourselves into one — one team but separate organizations,” Sachs said. “That gave us a competitive advantage. We had common goals and a different level of transparency than is normal in that relationship.”
Both Sachs and Vardi said that the choice of Bold to lease Sky was an unexpected one.
“We are certainly a boutique firm, and getting that shot was a big deal,” Sachs said. “We had operationally the same capacity as some of the bigger firms, but different motivation — we had to outperform competitors because we were in an underdog position. We’ve proven ourselves — and proven to ourselves — that we could do it.”
Vardi concurred, saying Bold “came in, and it really just worked. I wanted people who could come in and connect with what we wanted to do and hustle. I wanted to get away from firms that were interested in doing what they had always done. New blood, new ideas and the energy they brought to the table was important. I am hands-on, and I made that clear from the beginning. We understood each other and were able to put something magical together.”
What’s next for this NYC dream team?
The team’s next project is leasing Oskar, its boutique (only 118 units) building. Sachs gives the credit for the success of Sky and the buzz around Oskar to the developers.
“The Moinian Group looks at every single detail — the smell in the lobby, wallpaper transitions — and that’s the kind of thing that makes them stand apart and pushes the needle and offers value to the consumer. Level of service, detail, concierge, response time — we’ve learned from them how to execute, and we’ve been able to offer that to our other developer clients as well,” he said.
“Right now it’s about who can create better product,” he continued. “The beauty of the transparency we’ve gained from technology means that renters are really smart in understanding the quality of materials, amenities, appliances. As a builder, you can build better and get greater prices and absorption. If you build it, they will come.”
What can agents and brokers learn from these high-flying pros?
- Even huge buildings can be designed to feel intimate. Vardi said, “With Sky, even though it is so huge, the layout keeps it from being overwhelming. Even the layout of the elevators, the gracious lobby space, tucked-away mailboxes with design elements and art — these keep the building from feeling so big. And with so many amenities to choose from — nail salon, basketball courts, multiple pools — it keeps everyone from going to the same places.”
- Re-think the role of rentals in your business plan. Low inventory in many markets means that rentals are on the rise. Sachs said, “To transition into the renter world, you may have to take a step back in terms of ego and remember there’s money to be made everywhere. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Shift the mindset — you’re not going to make the same fee, but you’re building relationships. When the market shifts, you’ll go back, and you’ll have a relationship — and a buyer.”
- Pitching to a developer? Be willing to adjust to its style. Vardi said, “You need to gel well with the way that the developer works. We pre-lease a large portion of the building before anyone can step foot inside. Some Realtors don’t like that, but Bold understood our rationale. Brokers have to have the developer’s best interest at heart, not just their own.”
- Most of all, be real. “When you are pitching to a developer there should be no games and tactics,” said Vardi. “You have to be real and authentic. You can’t just want to put that project on your roster — you have to want to do the work.”