by Beckie Strum | Mansion Global
More units boasting exclusive and direct-access lifts are doing away with the awkward, crowded or otherwise uncomfortable ride
The race for ever-better amenities—from voice-controlled kitchen gadgets to in-home theaters and on-call concierge services—has doubled down on a daily inconvenience for apartment dwellers: The awkward elevator ride.
Luxury building developers and architects, eager to appease celebrities or industry titans who might balk at sharing a closet-sized space with strangers for 50 floors—or just two—are bringing their elevator game to the next level. Whether it’s a car lift that hoists a resident (in her Porsche) directly to the penthouse or non-stop technology that bypasses other units, buildings are giving the ultra wealthy more ways to ride in privacy.
“Coming home to your apartment needs to be something that’s celebrated,” said developer David Wine, the managing partner of Oliver’s Realty Group. “Bringing the elevator to feel like an extension of your front door is really important to the luxury living experience.”
That’s why Brooklyn’s Quay Tower, which Oliver’s Realty Group is co-developing with RAL Companies, is offering private, direct-entry elevator service to all of its East River-facing units, roughly 55 of the building’s 126 apartments, Mr. Wine said. Units in the building are selling from $1.7 million up to a combo unit in contract for $20 million, a record-breaking price for Brooklyn.
Faster, stronger and more efficient elevator systems are a critical prerequisite to the ongoing boom in sky-high luxury residential towers from New York to Dubai. In only a few years, top elevator speeds in Manhattan’s tallest condominiums have doubled from around 16 feet per second at supertall 432 Park Avenue to nearly around 33 feet per second at the 1,550-foot-tall Central Park Tower, according to data from the Chicago-based Center for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. (For context, the elevators that lug hoards of tourists up to the top of the Empire State Building each day top out at around 16 feet per second.)
Such innovations allow residents at the 60-story Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, to bypass human interaction altogether. Condo owners drive directly into an elevator that delivers them to their condo-side garage in a matter of seconds—no small talk necessary.
A similar car lift system is on track at a lavish 30-story apartment tower in Dubai’s new Aykon City mega development, which plans to deliver the luxury riverfront units by 2021.
Meanwhile, there’s no need to hold the lift for neighbors at 56 Leonard Street, otherwise known as the Jenga tower, in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. A destination-dispatch system, more common in bustling office buildings, must assign passengers to one of seven elevators before they get in, giving residents efficient and more private service, said a spokeswoman for the building.
Affluent apartment owners have long tried to control the inevitable nuisance of shared elevators. One of New York City’s most exclusive buildings, 15 Central Park West, reportedly relegates tenants carrying things like bulky suitcases, bicycles and skateboards all to a specified elevator, according a tenant lease The Real Deal saw in 2013.
Though the desire for a quick and quiet ride is not new, there are far more options today than a decade ago for those whom privacy is a priority. In New York City, the number of homes for sale that mentioned private elevator access nearly doubled from 608 in all of 2010 to 1,050 in 2018, according to data provided by listing site StreetEasy.
“It’s the space that you wind up waiting in, and if you’re not a very forward individual you could feel very uncomfortable,” said architect John Cetra, whose firm CetraRuddy has designed a number of luxury condo projects in Manhattan, including One Madison and Walker Tower. “As architects, we think a lot about it.”
Designers have traditionally helped mitigate the discomfort with soft lighting, warm finishes and even placing air vents to shephard cool and warm air by the elevator bank, Mr. Cetra said. But some of the most exclusive buildings go a step further.
Residents at celebrity-magnet 443 Greenwich St.—a converted factory in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood where the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lawrence and Rebel Wilson own homes—ride peacefully in elevators that open directly into all of the 53 units and are programmed to travel nonstop.
Most residents there share an elevator with only five other condos—a far cry from the old rule of thumb to install one elevator for every 100 units, said Mr. Cetra, whose firm designed the building’s condo conversion. The high elevator-to-unit ratio is part of what makes 443 Greenwich so attractive to the papparazzi prone.
“Part of the appeal was this exclusive use of an elevator or very limited use,” he said. “If you’re very security conscious, you could drive into the garage and take an elevator straight to your condo without anybody seeing you or having to use the sidewalk.”