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Starchitect Buildings Going Nowhere

(picture of Grand Ave., Downtown LA, improved with a Frank Gehry designed building)

Say hello to the starchitect designed condo tower. Most likely it's amazing to look at and live in, but completely overpriced and substantially under-occupied. The development trend of late has been to hire one of those architects known by last name only - Libeskind, Meier, Stern, Calatrava, and Gehry - to build luxury condos for luxurious people in Manhattan, Miami, Denver and yes, even Los Angeles. The developments have met with mixed results - mostly bad, with units sitting on the market for months on end as potential buyers balk at the inflated prices or piss-poor neighborhoods in which they're located.

Real-estate-market analyst Lewis Goodkin, of Goodkin Consulting in Miami, says these developers seem to think it's still 2004 and that the allure of the architects' names will attract wealthy buyers. "The market has adjusted since then, but they haven't," he says. Some developers of the star-architect buildings have reacted to the slump by stepping up their marketing -- hiring pop stars to host sales events, handing out freebies such as iPods to potential buyers and even offering free memberships in a vintage-car club. Astor Place [in New York City] turned over an empty apartment to Esquire magazine last November for 20 days. The unit, listed at $12.5 million, got a lavish, full-page photo spread in the monthly. It's still on the market.

New starchitect developments from Frank Gehry and Robert A.M. Stern are currently planned for Los Angeles, but have yet to be built. Based on the insatiable apetites of Angelenos for luxury condos there's no telling what prices those units will fetch.
· The Architect May Be A-List, But the Condos Aren't Selling [RealEstateJournal.com]