When Peter and I went to Dubai to speak to international developers at Cityscape in 2007, I had the pleasure of touring the Baccarat residences. I was impressed with the level of detail and how its designers had successfully integrated the brand’s products throughout this property thereby reinforcing the brand dynamic.
Branded real estate today leverages well-respected luxury brands and turns properties into destinations. Some industry insiders see “Retail Branded” properties as the next big thing, and project that they could become the norm as demand for high standards of design, amenities and service increase among consumers in the luxury market. These global endorsements of high-end brands for a certain echelon of hospitality and residential real estate have been licensed by several familiar brands including: Virgin, Versace, Bulgari, Baccarat and Armani.
Globally as real estate development costs are ever increasing in prime markets, research is showing that developers can ensure success and improve their profitability by strategically aligning with these high end brands, offering fully-serviced designer luxury hotels and residences that are appealing to ultra high net worth consumers. The trend began as a way to add more of a mark on a property.
While creating upscale branded properties has been going on for generations with names like Biarritz, San Remo, and Dakota, there has been an evolution of luxury branded properties over the last decade. It began as residential developments chose to link to trusted high end hotel brands like The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and St. Regis. More recently, as a billionaire class of UHNW has emerged developers continue to seek ways to elevate the perception of their product to attract this audience.
Developers with properties in A+ locations, with outstanding views need not pursue licensing agreements with luxury retail brands. Yet, properties in B locations are apparently able to achieve similar success and price points when the property is associated with a respected luxury retail brand. In fact, such properties can become the anchor to new upscale neighborhoods.
Developers also continue to bring in top architects and designers to add to the cache of new developments with celebrity architects like Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Herzog & de Meuron, Robert Stern and Philippe Starck, Cesar Pelli, Enrique Norton (who became luxury brands in their own right).
Branded properties around the world are being valued around at 30% to 300% more valuable than other competitive real estate when they are attached to one of these high-end name brands. What analysts and reporters are saying, the reason these branded properties are so successful is the sense of innovation, high end services, impeccable design and the “trust” associated with buying into a designer brand meaning you’ll have a higher quality and sexier product. What consumers also feel is that they are buying into a community, going beyond the bells and whistles, decor and eccentric public areas, buyers feel as those they are part of other like minded contemporaries when buying into a certain style or aesthetic, that they are in a ‘club’.
People purchasing these premium properties, are walking into the buying experience with the same level of expectations they would have walking into a designer shop on 5th Avenue. The expect a higher level of service, a very distinct style and user experience. This translates to how they are shopping for these residences attached to their beloved designer brands.
So how did this pan out for the 20 Pine/Armani Casa and the Mercedes House, two designer properties here in NYC?
The 20 Pine/Armani Casa condominiums was one of the few instances we found where this was not as successful a pairing as it was in other countries as it came to the market as the real estate bubble of 2007 burst. However, today six years later, the property holds a greater appeal than many downtown properties and has been on solid footing with increasing property values. It continues to out perform the lower Manhattan market as a whole.
More recently, The Mercedes House a new rental on the far west side appeals to young professionals who want great amenities and are aspiring to a higher quality of life. This property, developed by of Two Trees Management Company, was able to leverage the Mercedes car dealership at its base. The property is commanding higher prices and greater interest than other neighboring new buildings by venerable apartment developer Archstone.
Does the concept of excess and blatant affiliation work favorably for high profile buyers today – after all of the Wall Street’s bad publicity? A year ago, I would have said no, but the period of remaining low profile and more humble seems to be over. Glamour is back and it looks like trends are moving back towards interest in these high level brands again with the introduction of the Baccarrat residences here in New York off 5th Avenue. Based on global performance, it is pretty clear that this trend will continue to move forward and we’ll be seeing a lot more of these kinds of pairings in the NYC, the US and around the world in real estate development industry in the near future.
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