big apple BOUNTY

November 23, 2012

Aston Martin Magazine

New York City’s roster of new boutique and designer hotels are the talk of the town, reports Farhad Heydari, injecting new life into the Manhattan scene. Could we be experiencing a throwback to the Roaring Twenties, when the culture of the whole city revolved around its hotels? For now it seems, the skyscraper’s the limit.

Like Venice, Amsterdam or Hong Kong, Manhattan has a problem. A big one. It’s called real estate – and the lack of it has elicited some of the highest property prices in the world, forcing residents into the outer boroughs (or further) and companies to set up bases at suburban office parks in Connecticut and elsewhere. And yet, this heaving metropolis, practically bursting at the seams – or river’s edge, to be more precise – has somehow managed to shoehorn more than 40 new hotels onto its crammed and chaotic streets over the course of the last year.

It’s quite remarkable, but hardly a surprise. With occupancy rates at an envy-inducing 85 per cent, competition for rooms (especially among au fait corporate buyers) has always been cut-throat, which is why the latest clutch of hotels are welcome addition to the cityscape. But because physical space is at a premium, many hoteliers have been forced into setting up shop in the fringes of well-trodden areas like SoHo as well in the heart of familiar (but hardly luxe) locales like the Theatre District.

Not that guests will be complaining. Their collective entrée has forced some long-established brands to up their game, others to embark on wholesale renovation projects and others to rethink their strategies altogether. In the words of New York University’s Bjorn Hanson, America’s biggest city is now the ‘world capital of unusual boutique hotels’ and any way you look at it, that’s a good thing for both visitors and residents alike.


The brainchild of Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos, this towering obelisk in the hart of midtown boasts 166 chic rooms with leather-studded headboards, buttery furnishings, Frette linens and amenities by Angelo Caroli. And, starting this summer, an American-style brasserie courtesy of Laurent Tourondel, a noted local restaurateur famous for his faultless burgers.

By Marc Santora

Room service on demand froma a celebrity chef. A maid to make the bed with fresh linens every day and leave a chocolate on your pillow at night. An 11,000 square-foot spa an elevator ride away. All yours with the purchase of a luxury condo.

Nearly a dozen projects in and around New York City that offer perks like these have recently opened or are nearing completion.

For buyers, the concept of a home with all the comforts of a hotel may seem like paradise. But hotel services don’t come cheap: the developers of  condo-hotels plan to charge as much as 20 percent more per square foot than high-end competitors and don’t have hotel parteners.

And along with room service can come hotel-like bills, not to mention higher monthly maintenance fees. Financing can also be more difficult to secure; banks are leery of lending money for what could appear to be strictly investment property.

That is an open question, and one that hinges as much on the hotel business as the broader real estate market. Hotel occupancy has been steadily increasing in recent months, with 89 percent occupancy in August and average room state of $227, according to NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization.

But that is far from the more than $300 a night commanded by hotels before the economy flatered. There is also more competition now. In 2010, 21 hotels have opened, or will, across the city; that adds more than 6,700 rooms.

Of these projects, at least 10 include condominiums.

It is too early to draw any conclusions about their viability. Some have sold below initial expectations, while others have increased their prices since coming on the market. Prices for units in condo-hotels range from $300,000 to more than $18 million – $680 per square foot to nearly $4,000 – with yet more properties in the pipeline. The various projects are aimed at a wide range of consumers, from Manhattanites who are downsizing in cost but not comfort, to the foreigners for whom New York is a good buy right now.

But in their scale and abition, which real estate experts say is unlikely to be matched in coming years now that financing is so hard to shake loose, the condo-hotels are already having an impact. Brokers and developers say some strictly condominium projects are stepping up amenities partly in response to the condo-hotel phenomenon.

Solly Assa, the owner of Assa Properties, which developed the Cassa Hotel and Residences in Midtown, said that although the maily foreing buyers at this property were willing to pay $950,000 to $18 million for the condos, they were looking to save money on carrying costs. So the Cassa will offer many of hotel amenities “à la carte” instead of including them in the common charge. The lower monthly fees, starting about $1,200, are one reason the apartments have sold quickly, allowing him to raise prices three times already, he said.

Of the 57 residences for sale, 40 are in the process of closing, he said.

“We understand that it is a new era,” Mr. Assa said.

Creating a Lifestyle

November 13, 2012

Assa Properties’ new offfering – Cassa Hotel and Residences – feautres unique architecture that stands out in Manhattan. By Alan Dorich

Assa Properties – Cassa Hotel and Residences
Location: New York City. Scope: New building with 57 residences and 165 guest rooms.

For Solly Assa, real estate has never been a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Instead, he has a long-term commitment to the industry. “Real estate is not a short-term business,” he declares. “You don’t [succeed] by buying [a property] today and selling it tomorrow, like in the stock market.”

Assa is the owner of Assa Properties, a developer of residential, retail and commercial properties. The firm made a recent addition to its portfolio with Cassa Hotel and Residences in New York City. The building, designed by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos and CetraRuddy, features 57 residences and 165 guest rooms. It spans 170,000 square feet and stands 48 stories.

Assa himself created the conceot for Cassa, which takes it s name from “casa”, meaning “house” in Spanish. “It is a hotel and it is a residence,” he says. “We’re creating this lifestyle right in the middle of Manhattan.”

Unique Style

“We tried to capture the best possible product,” Assa says with pride. For instance, past the building’s reception area, visitors can find a catwalk suspended over a restaurant that will lead them to a vertical garden, which provides a natural feel to the development.

Cassa’s hotel rooms are furnished with leather seating, ottomans and black leather studded headboards. The walls feature the work of abstract impressionist photographer Irene Mamiye.

Its baths incorporate Duravit fixtures and feature Italian bath products from Angelo Caroli. In addition, the residential units get scenic views of such landmarks as the Chrysler Building and the Statue of Liberty.

Additionally, Cassa has three fully furnished penthouse units with such features as Brizo faucets, which are known for their from and quality of performance, Assa Properties says. “A sensory light experience is at its finest with the Lutron Lighting Control System, augmenting illumination at varying degrees,” the company says.

“An entire floor with additional loft space, the penthouse includes stunning skyline views of Manhattan – overlooking Times Square, unobstructed looking east to the Chrysler building, and the sightlines reach as far south to the Statue of Liberty,” Assa says.

Assa says he is proud of his team on the Cassa project. “The whole team did a great job in terms of managing the architects and the engineers,” he says.

Assa’s Forte

Based in New York City, Assa Properties has developed and invested in residential, retail and commercial properties for more than a decade. Solly and Isaac Assa founded the company in 2000 and since then, the company has acquired more than 3 million square feet of assets in the United States  and Mexico.

Assa Properties began by acquiring buildings in New York City, including 743 Fifth Avenue and 6 Times Square. “We’re opportunistic owners,” Solly Assa says.

A property such as Cassa falls within Assa’s comfort zone of maximizing properties to produce the best possible product. “Our forte is to find the best possible location, and then position the asset in order to capture the market.”

Wide Open

The Northeast market is improving, Assa reports. The company survived difficult times en 2007, 2008 and 2009, and, thankfully, the last year has been less challenging, he says.

“Thank God those days are behind us,” he says. “More people are gaining the confidence to buy again.” As a result, he sees a strong future for Assa Properties. “We’re a growing company,” he declares, adding that the company plans to expand thorugh joint ventures. “We’re open to new opportunities all the time.”

New beds in New York

November 9, 2012

Manhattan has seen a big boom in hotel openings. Jenny Southan takes a look and finds out what’s to come.

Next time you visit New York you’ll have many more options for resting your head. Like London, which is experiencing its own surge of property launches and revamps (see, the Big Apple has seen a flurry of new hotel openings.

Last year close to 40 properties opened their doors, increasing the city’s room count by almost 6,650. And with overall occupancy standing at about 85 per cent despite this growth in capacity, there is a sense of optimism in the air.


A member of Worldhotels, Cassa debuted in August, although its subterranean bar/restaurant is not due to open until the summer. The property has 57 extended-stay units on floors 27 to 48, as well as 165 guestrooms on levels two to 26.

It’s a mid-range offering in a good Midtown location, with facilities including walk-in rainshowers, large flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, Dean and Deluca snacks, and minibars (note that beds in the standard rooms are small doubles). There are three meeting rooms and a 24-hour fitness centre.

70 West 54th Street; tel +1 212 3028 700;

Rooms from US$256