Pier Guerci, the former president of the U.S. division of Loro Piana, wasn’t ready to give up his Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment.
He’d bought a warren of nine maid’s rooms on top of a prewar building in 2000, gutted the original layout, and spent eight years building a duplex overlooking Central Park.
The finished apartment, for which he had to extend the building’s elevator and buy the building’s air rights, has three bedrooms and three and a half baths spread across 3,790 square feet. Just as important, it has an additional 2,760 square feet of landscaped terrace featuring mature trees, bushes, and flowers.
“It’s kind of an oasis,” Guerci says in a phone interview. “Like being in the country, except you’re in New York. It’s a very unique place.” The apartment, he notes, has three outdoor showers.
But when he left his job at Loro Piana and “took a sabbatical for a couple of years from [his] working career” to travel around the world, Guerci didn’t wish to leave his apartment vacant for several years or sell it. In August, he decided to rent it out through broker Leighton Candler at Corcoran Group.
The price? An even $100,000 a month, or $1.2 million a year.
“It’s not a replaceable property,” he says. “There’s a lot of different penthouses in the city, but to have something in this location,” he says, “is unique. It’s not like your 60th floor, helicopter-views kind of place. It’s a different kind of feeling completely.”
A Willing Tenant
For all that, though, the apartment hasn’t found a tenant willing to spend more than a million dollars on annual rent since it was listed. There’s been interest, Guerci says, but prospective renters wanted to do short-term leases and couldn’t agree to the year-long minimum that the building prefers.
Its vacancy is not, he emphasizes, a consequence of its price.
“If you look at some of the high-end rentals at the top hotels, they’re substantially higher and not even comparable,” Guerci says. “But also, this house has a daily housekeeper, it has fresh flowers every week and a gardener that takes care of the roof.”
There’s also the decor. Misa Poggi, an Italian architect who has also designed the interiors of Loro Piana stores around the world, worked with Guerci on the house’s interior. The home was duly written up in New York magazine, the New York Times Style Magazine, and elsewhere. Writers seem to be particularly taken with the dark blue cashmere paneling that Guerci had installed on his closet doors.
“And then the outdoor space is rather spectacular,” he says. “You can have a dinner for 30 outside on the terrace.”
A Crowded Field
That might not be enough in what is an increasingly crowded field at the very top of New York’s rental market, says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. “There’s more luxury competition now than there was a few years ago,” he says. “You have a condo market skewed to the high end and a rental market skewed to the high end, so you have more offerings.”
While the number of high-end rentals has ballooned, the number of renters who can afford those rentals has stayed relatively stable, Miller says. “It’s just, how many renters are out there at that level?” he asks. “It’s certainly very thin, but they’re out there.”
A cursory look at the city’s available stock shows some bloat at the top: Corcoran— whose most expensive rental is a $500,000-a-month ($6 million annually), six bedroom apartment in the Pierre Hotel, offers three other apartments in the same hotel that range from $75,000 to $125,000 a month. Elsewhere, Corcoran has a seven-floor, single family townhouse on offer for a mere $70,000 a month.
The realtor Douglas Elliman has apartments in a similar range. At the Plaza Residences, a wealthy renter could lease a three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath apartment with Central Park views for $85,000 a month; a four bedroom apartment in the Baccarat Hotel in Midtown for $75,000 a month; or—for the budget-conscious billionaire—an entire townhouse in the West Village for just $60,000 a month, which would total $720,000 a year.
“I’m not commenting if $100,000 is the right number,” Miller says regarding the rental’s price. “But you’re in a market that’s not forgiving about inaccurate pricing.”
Guerci, though, is undaunted. “If it does, it does; if it doesn’t, it’s OK,” he says. “I think, for the right person, it’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy New York in a really nice way.”