Ms. Stribling: The lobby you’re entering now has the original mosaic floors of the Plaza that were created in 1907—we just celebrated our 100th anniversary. They’ve really been polished and brought back to their splendor. … We echo some of the mosaic work in the bathrooms and the kitchens of the residences. This is the complete private entry lobby for the residences. It shows you the original check-in concierge desk for the hotel, and it will be dedicated to the residences now.
Location: Can you describe the marketing of the Plaza? What were some of the biggest assets used to market it? I imagine it wasn’t difficult.
Marketing, quite frankly, is always difficult. … In the case of the Plaza Hotel, the Plaza itself was its own iconic image. But what we had to do was tell the public that they were not buying the old Plaza, the former Plaza, the faded splendor of a grande dame.
They were going to be buying into a new place, a rejuvenated Plaza that would maintain the absolute allure of this legend—and, yet, would be a fresh, up-to-date entity with a lot of vitality, with a buzz. … And that was not the case for the last 10 years; that was not the case for the last 20.
It had become, quite frankly, dowdy. It had become run-down. And it had become faded.
Stribling & Associates has affiliations in Europe and you live part-time in France.
Correct! I’m lucky enough to have a home in the south of France and an apartment in Paris.
Given the strength of the British pound and the euro and even the Canadian dollar at this point, how reliant is the luxury market in New York on foreign buyers?
The top of the luxury market does not seem to be relying on the foreign buyers at all. When I say ‘at all,’ most of our luxury, luxury top-end real estate is in the co-op sector; and the foreigners are not really buying the beautiful Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue co-ops. That said, there certainly are a lot of foreigners who are investing in condominiums, whether for investment purposes or for their own dwellings. I would say that probably one-third of the condominium sales within the past 18 months has been made by foreign nationals.
Why aren’t foreigners buying co-ops?
Well, first of all, in many instances, you have to show that you’re not using this as a pied-à-terre, that you have enough assets in the United States. Most foreigners do not want to give their financial statements in full; it’s a requirement of co-op boards.
So, the credit crisis and all the problems in the mortgage markets—that’s not affecting the luxury market that much?
We have actually seen continuing bidding wars. We seem insulated from a lot of the credit crunch across the United States; and I think, quite frankly, that the very rigors to gain access into a co-op building and the rigorous requirements of our [condo] developers here—where you’ve got to put down 10 percent and another 10 percent after a certain period of time and, in some instances, a full 25 percent—you cannot, of course, sign those contracts until they’ve closed.
The Plaza, speaking of foreign buyers, has a lot of Russian and Russian-American buyers …
So the media tells me! But not according to my sales contracts.
How many are there—Russian buyers, specifically?
I think we have several Russian families in the building but no more than that.
How many is several?
I think ‘several’ usually refers to three.
And what are some other blocs, so to speak, of foreign buyers?
Well, first of all, I think you’d be interested to know, 63 percent of our purchasers are United States citizens; and that leaves just 37 percent that have been purchased by foreigners. The majority of our United States buyers have come from New York City, and California is the second. So I’m pleased to say that New Yorkers have given an outstanding vote of confidence to the Plaza.
Have people started moving in?
We have, to my knowledge, several families who are living here; very few. We have already closed 50 percent of our deals and many of the decorators are at work.
As The Observer and other media have reported, there’s been at least two purchases in the Plaza by single buyers of at least $50 million, which would make them the most expensive apartment buys in New York City history. I understand that Stribling is known for its discretion, especially on marketing high-end developments like this, but The New York Times reported that one of those buyers is the developer Harry Macklowe. Is that true?
Well, you’ve very rightly said that Stribling is known for its discretion. I’ve made a career of it, and I like to protect all my buyers.