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Assisted living: Trendy lifestyle for all ages
MONDAY was pet portraits in a velvety lounge at 88 & 90 Lexington Ave, a condominium development on 26th Street. Thursday was mixology in the chef's kitchen at 121 E 22nd St, the OMA-designed, prism-edged tower built by Toll Brothers.
Down at 56 Leonard, otherwise known as the Jenga building in Tribeca, there were classes in bouquet making by Uprooted, the mobile florist; a mommy-and-me tea party; and a tacos-and-tequila fiesta for Cinco de Mayo. Colour therapy, involving an installation of light and sound, designed to treat stress, is scheduled for June.
In shiny new developments all over Manhattan, the fulsome amenity spaces - lounges and screening rooms and chef's kitchens - are being "activated," as developers and artists like to say, with talks and classes, tastings, parties and panels, as if home is now an extension of the 92nd Street Y.
While the buildings of the last few booms adopted the embellishments and services of luxury hotels, this wave has been imprinted by the community-building behaviours of idealistic millennials - bees, horticulture, self-care! - and the tastes of the podcast class. Piquing the interests of the new condo cohort isn't easy, and producing enticing events in hundreds of city buildings is no mere side hustle.
Companies that provide simple concierge service and amenity maintenance, like pool cleaning, have added event "curation" to their duties. In New York City, one of the biggest is LIVunltd, an amenity-servicing company overseeing more than 100 buildings. Its creative officer is Michael Fazio, a dapper 55-year-old who once worked for a Hollywood agent and whose duties for her included walking Jason Patric's pet pig.
It was Mr Fazio who invited Noah Wilson-Rich, a behavioural ecologist, chief scientific officer at Best Bees (a company that installs and manages beehives across the country) and veteran of the TED X circuit, to give a talk on urban beekeeping for the would-be residents of Waterline Square, a condominium complex near Lincoln Center expected to open later this year. Also on the roster: a panel on the science of scent; a talk on decoding dreams by a sleep doctor; an evening with an aura photographer; and a class in dancing while blindfolded.
"We think brain fitness is on trend, and it's something we're going to push out in the fall," said Mr Fazio, the co-author of Concierge Confidential: The Secrets of Serving Champagne Bitches and Caviar Queens, a 2011 memoir (with tips) of his years taking care of uppity guests at the InterContinental hotel.
On a recent afternoon, Mr Fazio and his colleague Rachel Woodbridge, 29, a Parsons School of Design graduate who once worked at the fashion website Net-a-Porter and helped found a concierge startup, were on a conference call with Game U, a company that teaches children how to build video games.
They were planning an event at 56 Leonard and hashing out the details: Would the kids be able to code in one session? Would it be enough of an experience? What would it cost? (About US$100 per child, which Mr Fazio thought could fit the building's budget without charging extra. The cost of most events is built into a property's running costs, he said, which are paid for in maintenance fees or by the developer.)
Mr Fazio, Ms Woodbridge and their small staff are now producing 90 to 120 events each month for more than 100 buildings. Research can be arduous; the other night they struggled through an immersive theatre show called The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking. Ideas may come from serendipitous street sightings or scouring Instagram. They court new businesses, and are courted back. Du's Donuts and Coffee, the chef Wylie Dufresne's exotic doughnut emporium in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, sent samples for LIV to test, after which LIV organised a few doughnut pop-ups in its buildings.
In return for their time and products, the businesses or individuals LIV approaches get exposure to a captive audience of time-starved affluent people who may not otherwise partake of their wares and expertise.
"We've probably exhausted hundreds of relationships," Mr Fazio said. "But it's part of the life these people have bought into. It becomes part of a building's story. Everyone has the same Bosch appliances, the same views, the same marble slab open kitchens. But you can say, 'Move over Soho House and Core Club.' You don't have to belong to those, it's in your building." So it's just another asset. Unless you win the affordable-housing lottery, you'll need US$6 million for three bedrooms and water views at Waterline Square: three glass towers with 263 condo units on 5 acres, more than half of them park, on the edge of the West Side Highway, stretching from 59th Street to 61st Street.
The exterior architecture is standard high luxury fare, by Richard Meier, Kohn Pedersen Fox and Rafael Viñoly. (Each firm got its own building; the Viñoly one looks sort of like an iceberg.) Underneath will be a private underground mall called the Waterline Club, 100,000 square feet rendered into swoopy fabulousness by the Rockwell Group and outfitted like a college campus with a soccer field; a skate park; multiple gyms, pools and fitness studios; a tennis court; a gardening centre; a recording studio; an art studio; a two-lane bowling alley; a dog run; and a 4,600-square-foot children's playroom that looks like the Gryffindor common room by way of Disney.
Five years ago in Manhattan, according to the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, there were 54 developments that were considered "luxury"; at the time, that meant units selling, on average, for US$2,200 per square foot and up. Now there are 90, and the benchmark for "luxury" is US$2,400 per square foot. (In 2012, there were just 31 such properties.)
Many of these buildings, rising in all sorts of commercial or less populated areas - "transitional neighbourhoods," as James Lansill, a managing director at Corcoran Sunshine, called them - may lack organic opportunities for socialisation. Enter LIV and its competitors, which include a company called Luxury Attache and also in-house lifestyle managers.
"The most precious commodity people have is time, and they value the efficiency of having robust resources in their vertical community," Mr Lansill said. NYTIMES