Monday, March 31, 2014

The Albany: Starchitects help sell luxury in the Bahamas

The Albany resort community hopes design cachet will help sell luxury pool condos.

By Mimi Whitefield

From a distance, the hexagonal balconies of a new eight-story condominium building slated to rise in the Bahamas resemble a honeycomb, but look closer and you’ll see that each contains a swimming pool with a transparent wall.
At night the water in the 34 pools will glow an azure blue, serving as a beacon to ships at sea, in the cutting-edge building designed by Swedish firm BIG — Bjarke Ingels Group in collaboration with HKS and Michael Diggiss & Associates.
Groundbreaking for the aptly named Honeycomb building, which will overlook the marina at the luxury community of Albany on the south coast of New Providence Island, is set for the third quarter, said Christopher Anand, managing partner at Albany. It’s expected to be completed in 2016.
“We are trying to be the best of the best,” said Anand. “It’s a building that I think will be heralded as genius in years to come.”
Because water is so heavy, putting a pool on each balcony was a challenge. BIG’s solution was to rest the deepest v-shaped section of each pool on the outer wall of the apartment below it.
“A honeycomb facade functionally supports the pools, making them sink into the terrace floor and provides spectacular sight lines while maintaining privacy for each residence,” said Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG.
Honeycomb seems to be borrowing a page from South Florida real estate development where hiring starchitects helps buildings command premium prices and provides instant cachet for potential buyers.
Sales at the Honeycomb, where apartments range from 3,000 to 8,000 square feet, began in mid-January and the building is already 30 percent sold, Anand said.
Honeycomb, which is being developed and marketed by a partnership that includes Tavistock Group, New Valley and Douglas Elliman Real Estate, joins three other buildings under construction in Albany’s Marina Residences section. Big-name architects also have worked on these projects, which are all sold out.
“We’ve tried to make Albany a place that celebrates architecture,” Arnand said.
BIG has been active in the South Florida market as well. The firm has designed the Grove at Grand Bay, which will replace the demolished Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, the Marina Lofts in Fort Lauderdale and has competed to redevelop the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Prices for Albany dwellings range from about $1,000 per square foot to more than $2,500, Anand said. “We are not trying to compete on price.”
Last summer, Condo Vultures, a real Miami estate consultancy, pegged preconstruction condominium prices in South Florida at $250 per square foot to $2,650 per square foot. The median presale price was $725 per square foot.
“There is an element of competition between the Bahamas and Florida for non-Floridian buyers,” Anand said. While Miami might win for its shopping resources, he said the Bahamas “has the better boating experience with its 700 islands.”

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