Paying the highest price for the seemingly
truly ephemeral: air
By Christine Haughney and Michael Corkery
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
November 30, 2005
New Yorkers may be known for lavish spending habits that include dinner
tabs the size of mortgage payments and handbags as pricey as annual 401(k)
contributions, but one local developer is breaking records by paying the
highest price for the seemingly truly ephemeral: air.
Manhattan developer Arthur Zeckendorf is offering more than $400 a square
foot to buy the "air rights" above a Park Avenue Methodist Church and the
neighboring Grolier Club, a private club for book lovers. If the deals go
through, he plans to use the air rights to build a nearby luxury condominium
To prevent profit-seeking developers from building block after block of
sun-stealing skyscrapers, city officials created air rights, which limit the
size of buildings. But developers may purchase their neighbors' air rights,
which give them the right to make their own buildings bigger. While Mr.
Zeckendorf is offering far more than many developers have offered for these
deals, he may be able to justify these prices because he can charge more for
luxury condominiums on higher floors with more sunlight.
The Grolier Club approved the terms of the deal and is working through the
details. On Dec. 4th, the church will vote whether to sell the 70,000 square
feet of air rights for more than $30 million. Church members seem to be
leaning toward taking the deal so that they can use the money to care for
the 75-year-old church and offer soup-kitchen services.
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