The exterior of Aurora.
Once upon a time, rooftop pools, climbing walls, pet-washing stations, and golf simulation rooms were amenities that would genuinely help sell a high-end condo. But as the luxury market expanded after the financial crisis, developers bent over backwards to up the ante, hawking screening rooms, wine cellars, bocce courts, and concierges until so many buildings had them that they seemed like one big blur of luxury add-ons.
In the hope that buyers have not become completely immune to fancy treats, a new development in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., is offering something so over the top that it’s actually in the sky. With every purchase of a condo at the 61-unit Aurora, owners get a one-year membership to JetSmarter. The company lets users charter private jets in 170 countries.
“It’s very competitive here, so why not do something really cool?” says Tim Lobanov, managing director of Verzasca Group, the Aurora’s south Florida-based real estate development company. Normally the membership is $9,000 a year, so this enticement is a bit more dazzling than a free toaster—or a yoga studio. At Aurora, two- and three-bedroom units start in the low $800,000s and go up to about $1.5 million. Sizes range from 1,500 to 2,100 square feet.
JetSmarter offers free shuttles to members to and from Los Angeles, New York, and various Florida and Texas cities, and sometimes members can also score free last-minute seats for their nonmember friends and family.
Unfortunately, the Aurora does not come with its own landing strip. You still have to get yourself to the airport, though JetSmarter can get you there in a helicopter.
The Aurora isn’t the only development offering easy access to private planes. In New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood, the developers of 111 Murray Street have teamed with Blue Star Jets, offering residents access to a personal flight director by way of their 25-Hour Sky Card program for last-minute flying. Residents can even choose the food and movies they want to see while in the air.
“Our audience of buyers really is global,” says Emily Sertic, Douglas Elliman’s director of sales for 111 Murray Street. “We have clients fly in for the day from foreign countries to meet with us.” And while the building won't be completed until the first quarter of 2018, buyers can fly up 800 feet to what will someday be the top of the building. You can’t stand on your balcony yet, but you can huddle in the air around where it will be.
The Aurora, like 111 Murray, also comes with standard high-end amenities, including a yoga garden, playroom, fitness center, and concierge. Just about every big development these days offers rooftop decks and lap pools: 1110 Park Avenue, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, offers residents a keyed closet for wine storage; 400 Park Avenue South has a spin studio and a steam room; 255 Hudson offers residents an outdoor shower; 251 1st Street, a condo development in Park Slope, Brooklyn, offers valet parking for strollers.
Even with such enticements, it’s a tall order to hawk high-end condos these days, and not just in Florida. Last year, we reported that luxury real estate prices in Manhattan were on a downward slide. (No reason to cry, though—the median price was still $3.59 million.) Similar trends have been reported internationally and in other American cities that bit off more luxury condos than they could chew.
But better amenities might not do much to correct the downturn, says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. “The market’s slow, so there’s this assumption that we’re going to see a battle of amenities,” he says. “I think that the focus on amenities is going to shift to items that are much more pragmatic.”
Luxury buildings have been overbuilt, he says, and developers may actually lessen amenities in the future to rein in costs. The Blue Star Jets subscription at 111 Murray makes sense for its clientele, but the real draw there (one that won’t change when a membership expires) is the coveted Tribeca location.
Aurora’s territory is a bit trickier: It’s not beachfront. There’s one long artery on that peninsula, just north of Miami Beach, called Collins Avenue. On the coveted east side is the Atlantic. Aurora sits on the other end of it, separated from the water by six lanes of traffic.
“Most buildings on the water are really expensive,” says Lobanov. “They can run $1,200 to $1,500 a foot, and they’re huge high rises.” He says the west side, the lost child of Collins Avenue, has rarely been developed in the past decade. And with the promise of flashy jet travel, who is worried about a few steps across hot asphalt?