April 10, 2017

Notable New York Architect Advises Following the Hip Bars, Restaurants to Find the Next Hot Luxury Spot

Architect Morris Adjmi is returning to his roots by designing The Standard, an $80 million high-end condominium and retail space in the South Market District in New Orleans.

Mr. Adjmi is the founder of the New York City-based firm Morris Adjmi Architects (previous work includes retail, hotel and residential spaces, like The High Line Building in New York, Il Palazzo in Japan and AP230 in Washington, D.C.), but as a New Orleans native, he says he’s always been inspired by his hometown. Through the new building he’s able to leave a lasting impression on a city that shaped him, he says.

“We’re bringing a luxury level to New Orleans that doesn’t exist,” he told Mansion Global. The building has 89 apartments, ranging from one-to-three bedrooms.

“Apartments with finishes like these would sell for two or three times more in New York,” Mr. Adjmi said. Condominiums will start at $575,000 for a one-bedroom.

“We have these very large windows, a full amenity package, including a terrace level with pool and gardens that are going to surpass anything you see there. In New Orleans, having outdoor space—cabanas and a roof deck specifically—is a tremendous amenity.”

We caught up with Mr. Adjmi to discuss how he looks for the next hot neighborhood, his best advice and much more.

Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.

Morris Adjmi: Mine has to have outdoor space. If it’s a property in the city—a townhouse with a garden, or in a condo building, something with a green space that’s either private or a public amenity.

MORE: Farm-to-Condo Movement Stakes Its Claim to Brooklyn Rooftop

MG: What does luxury mean to you?

MA: It’s less about expense, and more about quality. Quality is usually connected to design, and not how much you spend on things like appliances and fixtures.

MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?

MA: We’re based in New York, and up until four years ago, I’d say we were focused on New York, but I see lots of new properties popping up, and people looking for luxury in other cities. The Warehouse District in New Orleans is getting attention. We’re also working in Miami, Washington, Philly, Tampa and Chicago.

Prior to 2008, in New York, luxury was uptown, and there’s been a massive shift of people moving downtown and to Brooklyn, and that’s a trend we’re seeing in other places, too. Some formerly neglected neighborhoods are seeing luxury properties. Take for example, the Bowery in Manhattan. Luxury is not all about opulence and expense, it’s become more connected to where people want to be—where they want to shop and hang out at night.

I’d say follow the cool restaurants, bars, galleries, and then you’ll see luxury follow.

MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?

MA: The biggest surprise for me is that there almost appeared to be no limit to the size or price of luxury units. They seemed to be getting bigger and bigger and more expensive.

But value is coming back into the picture. Units are being sized in relation to costs, and developers are much more interested in layout and how space is allocated.

MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?

MA: I have a house in New York, and a small farmhouse in Litchfield County, Connecticut, and a home in New Orleans. We spend more time in the kitchen than in any other part of the house. That’s the place where everything happens.

MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?

MA: It’s a combination of modern and historic. All three houses are from the mid-1800s, so overlaying modern furniture in those environments creates a rich living space.

MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?

MA: Family. We have some art, too. But that’s just sort of disposable, right?

MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?

MA: People collect art, some people collect vintage cars, both have seen tremendous increases in value over the last 10 years. To be specific, I think refurbished vintage stoves will become more popular.

In terms of shared amenity spaces, in smaller buildings, you’re seeing tight amenity packages—maybe a gym and lounge space. Pools are becoming more important, though. Sometimes you’re even seeing two— and indoor and outdoor.

MG:What’s your best piece of real estate advice?

MA: Buy something. I encourage people in my office to look at buying a townhouse or a duplex and renting out a portion of it. Eventually you will wake up and you’ll own your house outright. People should always stretch themselves at the beginning and will be happy one day.

MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?

MA: The political climate is one where people are very uncertain, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the stock market or the luxury market. Every day, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it isn’t happening.

MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?

MA: I’ve brought people to neighborhoods that are early in the development cycle, and a lot of people aren’t risk tolerant. Think SoHo in the 1990s, or the Meatpacking District in early 2000s or Williamsburg then, too. It’s about balancing risk and rewards. You need to see early signs of things tipping in terms of change—things like boutiques, coffee shops, galleries.

You also have to take a leap of faith. Have courage to trust your overall feeling.

Some neighborhoods also just have really good buildings stock, like Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, with all its townhouses. You have to kind of know when to get in.

MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?

MA: I’ve always told people that it’s difficult to describe what you like and want, but the minute you see it you know it—that’s most important. It’s a visceral reaction. You need to trust your instinct. There are no rules. There are certainly advantages of new development—but sometimes there are risks, and there can be sponsor issues. On the other hand, if it’s a prime resale property, it has to have its tires kicked. But it all comes back to what feels right.

MG: What area currently has the best resale value?

MA: In New York, most neighborhoods downtown are safe— the West Village, Tribeca. Demand always outpaces supply. Chelsea is a great neighborhood, but there’s a lot of development going on there. In New Orleans, I’d say the Garden District or the downtown in the Warehouse District.

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