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Storms, neglect, commercial and industrial encroachment or social decline can take a heavy toll on even the most charming communities. Yet many long-suffering neighbourhoods have shed their problem pasts to become newly minted seats of residential splendour.
The forces driving such transformations are many but include scarcity of available land, ease of access, the expansion of upscale commercial venues and amenities, and advances in technology that allow planners to execute increasingly ambitious feats of engineering.
Those seeking to embellish their real estate portfolios should take a closer look at the following dynamic markets. These six alluring luxury neighbourhoods are blossoming on once-barren soil, bringing vibrant new life to their formerly undistinguished locations.
1. Kona Coast
The Big Island of Hawaii’s dramatic, lava-lined coast has become the hot spot for outsized luxury compounds. The primary appeal is its near-perfect weather. Compared to all other Hawaiian islands, Kona has the most stable weather conditions, with an average of just 56cm of rain per year and 355 days of sun.
Kohanaiki is the principal catalyst of Kona’s exploding real estate market. The 182-hectare private club community may be the last private residential community along Kona’s 97km of coastline. “There’s only so much land, and the Hawaiian government has made it pretty clear that they’re not going to allow additional private residential communities," says Kohanaiki general manager George Punoose.
Kohanaiki will be limited to around 400 homes ranging in size from 195 to 650sqm. This inventory includes homes designed and constructed by the developers as well as vacant parcels where owners can implement their own designs. Approximately 85 of these properties have already been purchased. “Initially, if you were buying a second-row lot in 2013 when we first opened, you could acquire it for just over US$2 million (S$2.7 million)," says Punoose. “Today you’re looking at just under US$6 million (S$7.88 million."
2. West Palm Beach
Palm Beach and West Palm Beach may be connected by three bridges, but historically the two neighbourhoods have remained worlds apart. “West Palm Beach was desolate with many empty lots — even into the 1990s," says real estate agent Chris Leavitt.
This bias, however, has been lifted thanks to Palm Beach’s limited acreage, the vastly improved transportation in West Palm Beach, and a spate of high-end retailers and developers who are migrating across the bridge. The largest new West Palm development is The Bristol, a just-completed 25-storey waterfront condominium project containing 69 units priced between US$5 million (S$6.57 million) and US$40 million (S$52.55 million), more than 70 per cent of which were sold prior to completion.
Owners of these spacious dwellings, which average 380sqm, have access to an on-site beauty suite, air-conditioned garages, a club lounge and a catering kitchen. But Leavitt believes the unobstructed views of the Intracoastal Waterway, Atlantic Ocean and Palm Beach Island are the best features of all. “You can’t build past eight stories on Palm Beach Island," he says. “In West Palm, you not only get the views, but you also get these amazing high ceilings. It’s like a beacon in the sky."
Even the less-lofty existing single-family homes are feeling the upward momentum, he notes. “While not quite yet at Palm Beach levels, prices have started rising dramatically in the past few years." Investment hunters, take note.
With a slew of luxury residential projects under construction, London’s West End is becoming a residential real estate juggernaut with prices poised to compete with the city’s fashionable neighbourhoods. No development epitomises this shift more than Centre Point, located on the border of Covent Garden and Soho.
Built in 1966 as a stylish office building, the 34-storey tower has undergone a massive makeover to become the tallest residential tower in the West End. And while the 82-condominium complex will include no shortage of appealing comforts and conveniences — a residents’ club featuring a 30m pool, luxury concierge service, sauna, gym facilities and Boffi kitchens by designers at Conran & Partners — one facet sets it apart from neighbouring blocks: sweeping city views.
“In a city where the average building is five stories high, this is an incredible place to live, and no future development will get anything near to this," says Mike Hussey, chief executive of Centre Point developer Almacantar. The project’s largest home is the two-floor, 670sqm duplex penthouse, featuring 360-degree city views and an asking price of US$70 million (S$92 million).
Hussey notes that 50 per cent of the units had already been sold even while Centre Point was still under construction.
4. New York
No superlatives have been spared in describing Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side. Located on 11 hectares of some of New York’s first rail yards, this prime piece of urban land — the largest private real estate development in the history of the US — is being transformed into an upscale city within a city.
When completed, Hudson Yards will include approximately 4,000 residences, office towers, a public school, a collection of restaurants curated by Thomas Keller, and more than 100 shops, among them New York’s first Neiman Marcus. Developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, the mega-project will also incorporate open spaces as well as art-installation and performance venues. “This was once a no-man’s land that just wasn’t on the radar," says Lisa Simonsen of Douglas Elliman. “And now you have prices that are over US$3,000 (S$3,940) a square foot. That’s a huge number for a new area."
Slated to open in 2018, Hudson Yards’ condos start at about US$3.8 million (S$5 million) for a two-bedroom and top out at US$32 million (S$42 million) for a duplex penthouse with panoramic views. Prices per square foot are competing with those in long-established luxury neighbourhoods such as Fifth Avenue, and many believe this could become one of the city’s most valuable centres. “This is the very beginning," says Sherry Tobak, senior vice president of Related Sales. “Hudson Yards is an opportunity for buyers to get in on the first residential building before prices go up."
5. Los Angeles
The 2.6km stretch of Sunset Boulevard running through West Hollywood was once the hub of activity for the entertainment elite, serving as the home and playground of such stars as Marilyn Monroe. Over time, this glamour faded as legendary dining and music venues frequented by celebrities gave way to seedy strip clubs.
In the last five years, however, the street has established itself as one of the fastest-evolving areas in Los Angeles for high-rise luxury-home developments. “Los Angeles has completely transformed as a city overall, and with that is its approach to high-rise living," says real estate agent James Harris of the Agency. "
Harris has played a pivotal part in the area’s transformation. Along with partner David Parnes, he sold the famed Hustler store on the Strip for US$18.5 million (S$24.31 million) in 2015 and helped recruit the Arts Club — an ultra-exclusive London-based membership outfit — to build its first US outpost on the site.
Harris sees this venture as a force to itself bolster real estate, noting: “The Arts Club is going to drive up prices on residential and high-rise development."
The Club will share the neighbourhood with Soho House, which, since its 2010 debut, has contributed significantly to not just reviving the area but also attracting Michelin-starred restaurants.
6. Los Cabos
Los Cabos, located on the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, is experiencing an explosion of ultra-luxury-home construction. Many of the new projects are hotel-based residences that offer owners not only valuable property but also round-the-clock resort services.
Among the newest offerings is a collection of 30 private residences from Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort. Homes will boast authentic Mexican design, private infinity pools, 24-hour butler service and rooftop putting greens. Penthouses are priced at US$7 million (S$9.2 million) and include views of the Sea of Cortez.
Next year sees other resort brands introducing residential projects. Four Seasons will unveil its Resort and Residences Los Cabos at Costa Palmas. The enclave will comprise 145 residences and a Robert Trent Jones Jr–designed 18-hole golf course. Homes will range from US$1.5 million (S$1.97 million) to US$20 million (S$26 million). Ritz-Carlton will offer 27 four- and five-bedroom homes adjacent to its new Reserve hotel; there, prices start at US$4.1 million (S$5.39 million). And the Montage hotel group is developing Residences Los Cabos, also expected to open in 2018. Whole-ownership residences will start at US$2.7 million (S$3.55 million).