Clock Tower to Plaza: Watch Us Get Russians (And Donatella!)

The Plaza and 15 Central Park West better watch out, because a new ultra-luxe condo is coming to town and its developers are already claiming they will have the edge with an emergent, but increasingly lucrative, segment of the residential market: the Russians.

Earlier this week, Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments announced that it had contracted Versace to spearhead the interior redesign of the Clock Tower Building and convert the former MetLife headquarters at 5 Madison Avenue into a 55-unit condo.

Versace, of course, ranks high on the list of residential amenities, but we couldn’t help but feel a brief pang of déjà vu. Didn’t another Israeli real estate developer, Elad Properties, commission Versace to design some units in the Plaza a few years ago? The answer is yes, but the CEO of AFI USA, Rotem Rosen, assured us that the Clock Tower will be far from the Plaza Redux.

Mr. Rosen told us yesterday about the company’s plan to give the Plaza a run for its money by becoming “the highest-end residential building in New York.”

“This is totally different [than the Plaza],” he said. “There are only 55 units [the Plaza has 181]. … Our clientele is different, too. The clientele will be top celebrities. I cannot tell you the names we have already gotten calls from to get a unit, but you can imagine how many celebrities will want to live in this building.”

“To give you an idea we connected with Versace through Guy Oseary.” Mr. Oseary is a talent manager whose clients include Madonna and Alex Rodriguez.

Mr. Rosen would not reveal the names of the interested condo hunters since the developers are not in the position of taking reservations for units yet, but he said Donatella and her daughter will be living at the Clock Tower. Meanwhile, as one of the biggest real estate developers in Russia, AFI is anticipating a “huge amount of excitement from Russians.”

“We have so many people in Russia who ask us, ‘Where should we move in New York City?’ So we will have a big upper edge with them,” Mr. Rosen said. “And they love the Versace brand.”

That may explain why the Plaza has been so popular among expatriate Russian oligarchs, but Mr. Rosen clarified that only 10 apartment units there were designed by Versace—“when I say designed, I mean with Versace furniture,” he said.

“The concept here is totally different,” Mr. Rosen explained of the Clock Tower. “The Plaza was just a few that were done with a Versace touch. The whole interior design of (the Clock Tower) is Versace, from the lobby to the spa to the restaurant designed specifically by Donatella herself. Everything inside will be 100 percent Versace design,” he said. (Versace designed 32 Plaza units, Reuters reported.)

The “restaurant club” will be the first in the world bearing the designation "Designed by Donatella Versace," and the apartments will be done by the Versace Company. The entire building interior has been “demolished,” Mr. Rosen said, save for the Met Life boardroom, which will retain its original design.

Versace declined to comment on the design concept for the Clock Tower—they are known for sleek, monochromatic, black-and-white interiors like their units in the Plaza—since it was not yet finalized.

Late afternoon Wednesday, Mr. Rosen told us that “a delegation of 12 people from Italy were sitting in the Clock Tower right now working full-time on the design.”

“We expect to start soon. This process of sale of 55 units will not take more than six to eight months maximum,” he said. "There will be huge competition over the building, because it’s the most up-and-coming in the city.”

Clock Tower to Plaza: Watch Us Get Russians (And Donatella!)