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Defining luxury on Fifth Avenue.

Defining luxury on Fifth Avenue

Excellence, says Jack C. Heller of Heller Equities Incorporated, has never been out of vogue. And, with the sales office officially opened at 1049 Fifth Avenue, a new condominium residence with record breaking price tags, that axiom better be true for the 34-year-old developer.

Heller shows no signs of doubt, however, that he will sell the 45 units at this new "pre-war" building, a gut renovation of the old Adams Hotel and the first new residential building on Fifth Avenue in 50 years. The brokers that have seen his model apartment, he said, share that confidence.

Heller Equities and partner Investcorp International, Inc. spent between $1.5 and $2 million on each unit, and the apartments, overlooking Central Park, will sell for an average of $1,000 per square foot.

The building, originally built in 1928, combines, Heller said, the best design elements and disciplines found in its pre-war neighbors with technology that may not be seen for another five or 10 years.

"It's the best of the old with better plumbing," Heller joked upon completing a tour of the lavishly decorated model.

The sprawling units, 3,000 square feet on average, have the feel of 1928, including: libraries with raised paneled walls in each unit, butler's pantries and oven warmers, cherry wood raised panel cabinetry in the bathroom, coffered ceilings in the public areas, rosewood herringbone patterned floors accented with ebony borders, and white marble and polished gray granite kitchen floors with hand inlaid seeds of white Carrera marble. The main lobby has a hand-crafted "scagliola" floral design in the marble floor.

There are no more than three apartments per floor, floors 14 through 19 have two, and the last four have one per floor. The penthouse is 15 and one-half rooms. A separate floor in the building was designated for smaller service apartments that the unit owners would purchase.

The apartments also have features that will satisfy the modern luxury hound such as: air conditioning in the kitchen and bathrooms, three times the electrical amperage of an average apartment, 12 phone lines, and separate climate control for every room. So, Heller said, one can make the living room cool when it is filled with dinner guests while heating the back bedroom where the children are sleeping.

In the renovation, designed by Costas Kondylis Architects, concrete was added to make 12 to 18 inches floor-to-floor between apartments, surpassing that usually found in great old buildings, and extra layers were added to the walls. (While showing off the model apartment, Heller was quick to note that the building was quiet considering it was filled with noisy workers.)

"We've taken something that started at a level that was great and we exceeded it," said Heller.

Much like a Mercedes Benz that is quality inside and out, he said, "To be truly luxury, you must be a masterpiece in engineering."

For lack of a better word, Heller said, 1049 Fifth Avenue is luxury, but, it is the true definition of luxury. True luxury, he said, is substance over form and takes pro-active steps in making your life better.

Heller said they are offering buyers an apartment they could not get anywhere on Fifth Avenue. If you were to buy a unit in one of the older surrounding buildings, he said, it may take three to five years to renovate. At 1049, he said, they also offer an advantage to people who can afford a home on Fifth but don't want to undergo the rigorous approval process of some other boards on the avenue.

But, Heller is confident he has more than a first-class address on his side. If the building was picked up and transplanted anywhere else in the city, he said, it would still be the best building.

If excellence is of great importance to you, he said, "You can't get it anywhere else."

Tradition of High End

Heller Equities, according to its leader, has a tradition of striving for the highest end in whatever market they are in. Through their collective backgrounds, he said, they understand the top of the market -- what they want, what they need, and how the products are used. Though, he admits, 1049 Fifth Avenue is the highest end they have targeted to date.

"We envision what the life would be like," he said. "Then we create the home that can accommodate the life."

Heller himself comes from a wealthy family. He was raised on Long Island and his grandparents and other relatives had New York City homes similar to 1049.

The Deal

After congratulating him on acquiring the Adams Hotel, Heller said, most people say "We looked at that."

Heller and Investcorp snagged the property for $38 million in a court-ordered foreclosure auction. Heller actually eyed the ailing property two years earlier, and started envisioning his new pre-war residence on Fifth Avenue, but he had to wait until the previous owner Gerald Guterman gave up resisting his creditors.

He and his partners got the opportunity, Heller said, because few had the tenacity to stick with the proceedings for two years, and few could understand the intricacies of the bankruptcy court. He said they used their local expertise to cut through the problems and bring the deal to fruition.

"The fact of the matter is no one could figure out how to make the deal work," he said.

Entrepreneurial Partner

Heller Equities is typically, according to its leader, the local developer for large international and domestic institutional partners. At 1049, Heller Equities is the managing general partner of Adamsvest Associates, the joint venture created for the project. Their partner Investcorp is a private investment bank, with offices in New York, Bahrain, London, and Switzerland, that last year bought Saks Fifth Avenue for $1.6 billion. The company, whose leaders are Arab as are many of its investors, also owns Tiffany Gucci, Carvel Ice Cream, and other manufacturing and retail companies, and high-end residential.

Heller's partnerships, he said, are where "big business and the entrepreneurial aspect meet." They offer their partners, he said, local know-how, construction expertise, and speed.

"We are the creative, entrepreneurial end of the business," he said.

Many of the Heller professionals come from big business, however, so they understand the reporting and analyzing corporations require.

This studied approach, said Heller, is demonstrated in the Heller Equities Condominium Report: Manhattan. Constructed by Professor Susan Wachter of the Wharton Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania, the report, Heller said, is the first "true" econometric model of only condominium sales since 1987.

Step into Heller Equities lower Broadway headquarters, however, and you are reminded that this is the creative end of the ventures. There are no walls in the loft office -- no offices and no cubicles. There are a few desks, but two "sitting areas," with comfortable couches and coffee tables, serve as the center of business activity as well as the conference rooms. There is no internal infrastructure at Heller -- no titles and no promotions to compete for. No one, said Heller, is too junior to give input in to the business.

"Good ideas and good thoughts are meritorious among themselves," he said.

In addition to other completed projects, Heller Equities is building two rental buildings on the Upper East Side. "New York is going to return to its historic rental base," said Heller.

Heller formerly headed the real estate division of The Foreston Group, his family's group of companies. Under his six-year leadership, the division built more than 1,100 residential units, and was ranked among the nation's top 100 housing developers. The portfolio of developments, located, throughout the metropolitan area and as far south as Virginia, is valued at more than $300 million.

On visiting the model apartment with Heller, it was obvious the developers spared no detail in achieving their meaning of luxury. Heller strolled through the three-bedroom unit, four-bath unit, designed by Cullman and Kravis, Inc. as if it was his own custom-designed home. He described with pride what each piece was made of, how the floors and walls were finely finished, and showed off many of the hidden features. The 11th floor apartment, with a breathtaking view of Central Park and the reservoir, is furnished by Tiffany & Company and Saks Fifth Avenue. (The unit would cost $2.7 and furnished $3.5, excluding the art on the walls.) Equipped with its anticipated inhabitants in mind, the unit contains Chippendale chairs, a baby grand piano, among other touches of fine taste. There is hand-painted mural wall paper in the hallway, and custom -- loomed hotel-like carpeting that is found throughout the building in the public areas.

"This was the last opportunity to be able to build a residential building absolutely barring none," he said. "There's absolutely nothing we couldn't do . . . to create the best residential building in New York."

PHOTO : Library in the model apartment at 1049 Fifth Avenue.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Heller Equities Inc.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 6, 1991
Previous Article:Wavecrest completes sales.
Next Article:'Buffer zone': sword or shield or both.

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