By Holly Dutton
The days of lavish parties atop luxury condo skyscrapers are on their way back, and it may signal that the market is going nowhere but up.
In 2006, when the housing bubble was at its peak, it wasn’t unusual to attend a party for a condo building that featured high-profile entertainers like Brit hunk Seal or Grammy winner John Legend and catered by the likes of Nobu.
At a soiree last week at Related’s 225 Rector Street, Sofia Song, director of research for StreetEasy, recalled attending over-the-top parties back in the boom days.
“I remember standing next to Pam Liebman as she danced to Seal [singing live],” said Song. “There was a period of time when there were no parties. But it’s starting to come back again.”
Douglas Elliman broker Lawrence Rich has noticed the change, too, and said he’s cautiously optimistic about what it means for the future of the market..
“It’s scary to feel this, because it wasn’t that long ago that things were very different,” said Rich, fresh from what he called a “lavish” party the night before at the new loft condo conversion by Stillman Development, The Schumacher, in Noho.
He attributed the resurgence in fancy parties to new developments that have sprung up after the lull of construction during the recession.
“All the new construction has happened, and when all the new buildings open they need to have lavish parties to get everyone to see them,” he said. “If there are incredible buildings, there have to be incredible parties.”
A recent party at 75 Wall hosted by the Hakimian Organization featured a mini-boutique offering items from Carson Street Clothiers, hors d’oeuvres by new FiDi eatery Felice 15 Gold Street, and cocktails from Monkey Shoulder whiskey, Reyka Vodka and Six Point Brewery.
At least one entrepreneur has taken the idea to new heights by leasing out extra space within condo buildings to use for high-profile events.
Skylight NYC is an event management firm that specializes in taking buildings with large, raw, unused spaces, and transforming them into event spaces for everything from Kanye West concerts to Fashion Week runway shows to wedding receptions.
“It serves a lot of use for developers,” said Skylight founder Jennifer Blumin. “Financially, in terms of staying out of the red and keeping an empty space alive, and it serves as a marketing service.”
Blumin, who founded the company in 2004, works with developers such as CJUF II Hanson, LLC at condo building One Hanson Place in trendy Forte Greene in Brooklyn, which was formerly the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building.
“They were trying to sell condos and it was a great way to market the sexiness of the location and get the word out that it was a premiere building,” said Blumin.
The former bank building still retains its basement vault, which is used for The Brooklyn Flea Market, an event that takes place every Saturday from April throughout November, and features work by hundreds of local artists, antiques, vintage clothing and fresh local food.
Blumin’s company has arranged film shoots for the likes of Boardwalk Empire and the HBO hit Bored to Death at One Hanson and even a performance by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Skylight Group, which is New York’s largest event venue management firm specializing in re-conceiving spaces and converting them for high-end event use, launched its newest venue called Skylight Modern within a luxury apartment building, High Line 537 earlier this year.
It was the site of a glitzy “pre-openingˮ during February’s Fashion Week that attracted sought-after designers from Chanel and CFDA winner Joseph Altuzarra, to indie darling rag & bone and American behemoth Kenneth Cole.
Blumin said the event turned the Fashion Week spotlight on Chelsea’s Gallery District and brought to life her unique venture, launched in collaboration with global investment company RCG Longview, and real estate developer, Tavros Capital.
And she added that Skylight Modern has distinguished itself as the first “real” event space located within a luxury apartment building “in other words, this is no common room for children’s birthdays,ˮ she said.
“When we walked into the 15,000 s/f space that is now Skylight Modern, we knew that we had a very special opportunity to create something unique, but we needed an anchor tenant to bring the space to life,” said Nicholas Silvers of Tavros Capital.
“With the help of our good friend and partner, Michael Boxer from RCG Longview, we were introduced to Jennifer and Skylight Group. We believe that the prestige of the Skylight brand, the red carpets, fashion shows and celebrity-driven events Skylight hosts are actually an asset to a building that is looking to attract young professionals to a hip neighborhood.”
Boxer agreed that having Skylight Group in the building is a win-win for everyone.
“Jennifer has created a platform that caters to high-end, culturally relevant companies in the fashion, technology and media fields which is wholly consistent with the neighborhood essence and the DNA of its residents,” said Boxer.
Since its opening, Skylight Modern has attracted the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Yoko Ono, who have come to the space for events.
Blumin said the space “will continue to invigorate a stretch of Chelsea formerly known for its proliferation of night clubs. The block has evolved and our high-profile attendees now party in a more mature setting.”
Possible noise concerns from having a venue space in a residential property is a non-issue, said Blumin.
“Most of our stuff is over before dinner time. Eleven is the latest is usually tends to go,” she said. “We also put sound protection in place. Our events are very respectable, it’s not a nightclub.”
Skylight has six locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the once abandoned McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, and the former Monihayn Station post office across from Penn Station.
“Because they’re raw venues, a lot has to happen,” said Blumin of the high level of production involved. “From a real estate perspective, it gains a lot of exposure for the building.”
The Whitney Museum of Art held a star-studded party last month at the Skylight Moynihan, where a future rail station is being constructed.
“It’s helping get the name in the popular vernacular and gaining momentum for the project,” said Blumin.