The developer that planned a mosque near Ground Zero now proposes a five-star condo tower instead

Sharif El-Gamal of Soho Properties is looking to cash in while lower Manhattan’s real estate market stays hot.

September 29, 2015 |
The developer that planned a mosque near Ground Zero now proposes a five-star condo tower instead

Rendering courtesy Soho Properties

Five years ago, developer Sharif El-Gamal found himself the target of public and political opprobrium when his company, Soho Properties, proposed building Park51, a 15-story Islamic Center and mosque two blocks from the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history.

On that same lot—45 Park Place in lower Manhattan, for which El-Gamal paid only $4.85 million in 2009—Soho now proposes to build a 70-story, 667-foot-tall glass condominium tower. According to Bloomberg Business, the skyscraper would offer at least 15 full-floor units of 3,200 to 3,700 sf each, with an average price tag of $3,000 per square foot.  The total number of units being proposed was not disclosed.

If the building and pricing are approved, this project is expected to break ground by the end of this year, start selling units early next year, and be completed in 2017. Michael Abboud of the architectural firm SOMA designed the building. The Italian designer Piero Lissoni will design the interiors. Ismael Leyva Architects reportedly is converting SOMA’s exterior design concepts into floor layouts and detailed construction plans.

The proposal calls for 12-foot-tall windows and unobstructed views to the north that begin at close to 300 feet. There will be a 50-foot swimming pool in the basement, concierge service, and a high-ceilinged private lounge.

Bloomberg also reports that Soho still plans to build a three-story Islamic museum and prayer space that would be connected to the tower via a public plaza.

Soho Properties first disclosed preliminary plans for its tower in August 2014, but was still feeling the sting of negative press surrounding the Islamic Center controversy. Those preliminary plans, though, called for a 39-story, 48-unit condo building, considerably shorter than the tower Soho wants to build now.

Soho is attempting to strike while the luxury condo boom is still hot. Home prices in downtown have risen by 28% since 2012. StreetEasy.com, which tracks sales and pricing activity in New York, estimates that homes in the downtown area are on the market for an average of 56 days before they’re sold, or about half the time it took in 2012.

About 5,500 units are being planned or are under construction in the downtown area south of Chambers Street, which suggests that Soho’s proposed tower would run the risk of jumping into a very crowded field.

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