Take a look inside the new Raffles hotel in London

History seeps from the walls of the Old War Office in Whitehall, London, Winston Churchill’s former workplace.

Once the beating heart of Britain’s military empire, the headquarters from which some of the most consequential decisions in modern U.K. history were made, the building is now forging a new future as one of the capital’s leading luxury hotels: Raffles London.

A painstaking eight-year renovation has seen the Grade II* listed Edwardian Baroque building — located on the site of the Palace of Whitehall and a stone’s throw from Downing Street — shake state secrets for mystique of another kind, as the first European location of the iconic Singaporean brand.

It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles.

Fiona Harris

Communications director, Raffles London

“It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles,” Fiona Harris, Raffles London’s communications director, told CNBC Travel.

The hotel’s opening last month marks a full circle moment for the Raffles brand, whose name and original location pay homage to Sir Stamford Raffles, the British diplomat who founded modern Singapore.

The building’s new owner, the Hinduja Group, which purchased a 250-year lease from the Ministry of Defense in 2016, started as a trading company in colonial India in 1914 and is now a global conglomerate.

CNBC Travel took a tour of the £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) redevelopment — here’s a look at its 100-year transition from control center of the British empire to luxury stable for international visitors to the U.K.

An emblem of British history

Originally built for the British Army between 1899 and 1906, the vast OWO building served as an embodiment of imperial influence at its height.

At the time, more than 2,500 British army men and women worked within the building’s 1,100 rooms and two-and-a-half miles of corridors.

The Grade II listed Old War Office was built for the British Army in 1906 and is based on the site of the original Palace of Whitehall, home to several former British monarchs, including Henry VIII.

Raffles London

That grandeur remains today under an extensive renovation by EPR Architects, through which much of the building’s original features have been restored.

Inside the grand lobby, an Italian marble imperial staircase and double-tier chandelier do justice to a building that served as the birthplace of the British Secret Service and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

A new Italian chandelier, whose design is said to symbolize international trade, was delicately installed by a company that typically handles nuclear equipment.

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Above it, the first floor features the balcony from which Churchill would address his staff, giving way to the former offices of various political and military heavyweights, including David Lloyd George and Lord Kitchener.

“This building would have been full of state secrets,” Harris said.

The Old War Office was occupied by various political and military leaders, including wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. A replica of his desk and a bust is displayed in the Churchill Suite.

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Churchill’s own office — dubbed by Harris as “the room where all the big decisions were made,” including the move to join World War II and the decision behind the D-Day landings — is no less grand in its new life as a suite, with a replica desk and bust of the former prime minister.

Pivot to the future

The Churchill suite is just one of the rooms reimaged in tribute to the building’s history by the late Thierry Despont, whose architectural accolades include the restoration of New York’s Statue of Liberty and the interior redesign of Manhattan’s residential skyscraper 220 Central Park South.

All in, the hotel houses 120 suites and rooms, including five heritage suites in the former offices of political and military leaders, and eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London is home to 120 rooms and suites, including eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London

Meanwhile, deep underground, a three-floor excavation expands the building’s area by more than a third to 800,000 square feet, making way for a ballroom, a 65-foot swimming pool, and a Guerlain spa.

The addition of nine new restaurants run by multi-Michelin star chefs, including three by Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco, aim to burnish the hotel’s credentials as a culinary epicenter for the city, while three new bars seek to showcase the building’s unique history and location.

A 65-foot subterranean swimming pool at the heart of Raffles London’s four-story spa, which includes nine Guerlain treatment rooms and a gym.

Raffles London

Guests at the Guards Bar and Lounge, for example, can enjoy a prime position from which to watch the famous changing of the guard ceremony while sipping a London Sling ($29), a gin and cherry cocktail inspired by its Singapore namesake.

Those seeking more discretion can opt for the subterranean spy bar, located in an old interrogation room, from where they can pay homage to the various spies whose secrets were held within its walls.

Saison, run by Argentine Michelin star chef Mauro Colagreco, is one of nine restaurants and three bars at Raffles London. It is housed in the former library where James Bond author Ian Fleming used to write.

Raffles London

And for non-paying guests, there is an opportunity to visit and tour the building on one of 11 annual open days — a part of the Ministry of Defense’s lease agreement.

“We’re flipping it on its head,” Harris said of the building that once required security clearance for admittance. “It doesn’t matter if you’re super rich or you just want to come for coffee with a friend. It’s open to everyone,” she said.

London’s new luxury wave

A stay at Raffles London is not without a significant price tag. A night in one of the hotel’s classic rooms costs around £1,100 ($1,340), while a stay in one of its five most exclusive suites will set guests back between £18,000 and £25,000 per night.

Those who prefer to stay forever can also do so, budgeting upward of £8 million for one of 85 Raffles branded OWO residences. At the time of writing, around half of those units have already sold — to buyers from the U.S., China and the Middle East — though a five-bedroom penthouse priced at £100 million remains there for the taking.

A roll top bath takes center stage in the opulent bathroom of the Granville Suite, named after British spy Christine Granville.

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The hefty sums come as Britain’s economy and much of its population remain under financial pressure amid high inflation. And yet Raffles is not alone in betting big on London’s luxury market.

In September, another £1 billion hotel, The Peninsula, opened on the corner of Hyde Park, and in the coming months, a Mandarin Oriental, a Rosewood and a new sister hotel to Claridge’s, The Emory, are all set to launch in exclusive pockets of the capital.

An art installation of suspended, fragmented poppies pays homage to the Royal British Legion, a charity for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces.

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OWO’s owner, Hinduja Group Chairman Gopichand Hinduja — who, incidentally, purchased the property in 2016 ahead of a Brexit-based downturn — said the investment showcased Britain’s long-term appeal as a luxury travel market.

“We don’t go on short-term,” Hinduja told CNBC in July. “The U.K. is an important country, and everyone loves to come to London whether it is for holiday or it is for business.”

“We have converted that place into peace and solace,” Hinduja added of The OWO building. “It is a unique, singular property. It is a place of destination.”

The Granville Suite is one of five heritage suites at Raffles London, each occupying rooms which previously served as offices for some of Britain’s leading politicians and military leaders.

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Meet the ‘queen of caviar’ who supplies Britain’s royal family with the world’s most expensive food

Laura King, founder of King’s Fine Food, was awarded an MBE for charitable and voluntary services in 2020 for her work for people with brain tumors.

King’s Fine Food

Laura King has run a caviar business for almost 20 years — even supplying Britain’s royal family with the coveted foodstuff.

But when she started in the food industry, she wasn’t a fan of caviar, which is the name for sturgeons’ roe, or eggs. “I didn’t even like caviar,” she told CNBC by video call.

Now, she’s known as the “caviar queen,” and her firm King’s Fine Food imports hundreds of kilos of caviar into the U.K. every two to three weeks.

The company sells the delicacy to Michelin-starred chefs, upscale stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, and airlines including Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

British Airways was the company’s first customer, with King’s supplying its first-class cabins with caviar. King remembers feeling anxious when she took the airline’s director of food to a racing event during her early days in business.

“I remember thinking … ‘God, I hope he doesn’t want anything expensive to eat,'” she said, recalling her concern about the company’s tight hospitality budget.

Oscietra caviar is the most popular product sold by King’s Fine Food.

King’s Fine Food

Before starting her firm in 2004, King attempted to buy caviar supplier W.G. White, where she was sales director, but was unsuccessful. “But I thought my surname is quite strong, [so I decided to] just go out on my own,” she said.

King got a loan of £170,000 ($206,500), adding the sum to her family’s mortgage to set up an office as well as packing facilities and refrigerators — caviar must be kept at between minus 2 degrees Celsius and minus 4 degrees Celsius. And of course, the stock is expensive, starting at around £300 a kilo, King said.

“It was tough … You can’t pay yourself,” King said of the early days. “I had a husband who was working … so there was money coming in,” she said of her now late husband, John King, a chef who spent time in the kitchens of top London restaurants such as The Dorchester and Le Caprice.

Now, King oversees a team of 10, including her daughter Holly — the company’s sales director — and turns over £2.5 million to £3 million a year. About 80% of those sales are caviar, with the remainder including black and white truffles, Italian Amedei chocolates and luxury food hampers.

How to eat caviar

Caviar can be served on a blini with a little crème fraîche, according to Laura King, and, as seen here, with smoked salmon.

King’s Fine Food

One way of serving the delicacy is an absolute no-no: mixing it with chopped eggs, chives and lemon juice will “take away the taste of very poor-quality caviar,” King told CNBC.

And she’s not a fan of some less traditional ways to serve caviar. “Conran always used to serve it … on Melba toast. Now for me Melba toast is too crunchy, you know, it would ruin the caviar,” she said, referring to the late British restaurateur and designer Terence Conran.

Why is caviar so expensive?

Caviar should be served using mother-of-pearl or horn spoons rather than those made with silver or other metals, because they can tarnish its taste, according to King’s Fine Foods.

King’s Fine Foods

“There’s a mystique about it, and in some ways it’s quite romantic,” King told CNBC.

King’s most popular product is oscietra caviar, which sells for between £33.40 for 20g and £1,669 for 1 kilo. It takes about eight years for an oscietra sturgeon to produce eggs, which have a “nutty, mellow taste,” according to the company’s website.

“Sevruga, oscietra, beluga [are] historically from Iran and Russia, those were the three caviars that everyone recognized … so I think [oscietra] sits in the middle, it’s very well received, and it’s an amazing taste,” King told CNBC.

King’s sources much of its caviar from Belgium and China, and, since new environmental protection rules were introduced in 2006, all of it is from farmed sturgeon, rather than wild.

Tips for startups

King has two suggestions for startups: Know your product and do the math. “Where are you going to buy [your product] from and where are you going to sell it, and … who will give you credit?” she said.

You’ve got to convince your suppliers that you’ll be able to pay for stock, King added. “You’ve got no record, so why is someone going to deal with you?” Her firm now has exclusive deals with farm suppliers.

Expect to be involved in the details and work hard. Nearly two decades after starting her business, King still packs the product, makes deliveries and takes empty pallets to a recycling center herself, she said.

And keep cash on hand, she added. “I’ve kept the money in the business. We have a lot of reserves, so if something happened tomorrow, I can keep going … for about three years,” King said.

King’s has also spent time building its reputation, and has had to deal with two bouts of negative publicity.

Laura King (left), founder of King’s Fine Food, with her daughter Holly King, the company’s sales director.

King’s Fine Food

The company unwittingly bought a batch of caviar labeled as sevruga, when it was in fact an inferior breed, attracting headlines focusing on the fact that it was a supplier to Fortnum and Mason, grocer to the late Queen Elizabeth II. King’s now runs a DNA testing program to avoid such mishaps.

The company ran into a similar issue in 2021, when King’s sold a mislabeled batch of caviar to London restaurant Scott’s. But that was a printing error, and King sued the newspaper that reported it, which clarified that “the mislabelling was simply a printing error and not a deliberate attempt to pass off an inferior product as a superior one.”

“We have to protect our name,” King told CNBC. King’s plans to have daughter Holly take over in the next two to three years, with King spending more time on the family’s charity, the John King Brain Tumour Foundation, which she set up after her husband died from a brain tumor.

“Caviar is the most expensive food in the world, so it’s quite nice if you can give something back [to a cause] … you’re really passionate about,” King said.

“We’re two women in business, probably the only two women in the caviar business almost in the world. We’ve worked hard and we try and do a good job,” she said.

Royal supplier

King’s Fine Food gained its royal warrant in 2021, meaning it can use the Royal Arms, a coat of arms recognizing that it is a supplier to the royal household, on its products and website.

King is hoping to keep the mark now that King Charles III has succeeded Queen Elizabeth II and she expects the royal household to review warrant holders early next year.

“We have the royal warrant for the queen. We supply the king, so I’m hoping, touch wood, we’ll keep it,” she said.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that King’s oscietra caviar sells for between £33.40 for 20g and £1,669 for 1 kilo.

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The first tour inside Manhattan’s newest private club, with $100,000 membership fees

A battle between elite membership clubs is about to reach a whole new level, as Core Club’s new 60,000-square-foot megaclub prepares to open in Manhattan next month.

The new Core space, spread over four floors above Midtown, is the latest in a wave of elite membership clubs that have opened in major cities since the pandemic. From Casa Cipriani and Zero Bond in New York, to the Aster and Heimat in Los Angeles and ZZ’s Club in Miami, the clubs have redefined the old-world membership clubs and created safe spaces for today’s privacy-minded, highly mobile wealthy.

More than a dozen new clubs have opened or announced plans to open in Manhattan since 2020. Some, like Aman, are offshoots of hotel brands. Others, like ZZ’s and Casa Cipriani, leverage the cult-like fan base of their restaurants. Many are geographic expansions of existing hotspots, like LA’s famed San Vicente Bungalows opening in New York.

A rendering of a bar area at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

The club boom has created an arms race of amenities, with clubs vying to outdo each other with dining spaces, celebrity chefs, wellness spas, gyms, bars, pools, nightclubs, plush hotel suites and high-tech board rooms. ZZ’s Club, owned by Major Food Group and scheduled to open in Hudson Yards this fall, will boast multiple restaurants and a “culinary concierge” — a team of chefs able to whip up any dish that it’s members request.

“No one’s ever done this before,” said Jeff Zalaznick, managing partner for Major Food Group. “We’ve got so much talent in this kitchen. If you want your mother’s meatloaf in two days, we can make it. You want fried chicken, we can make it and probably make a great version.”

The price for access is soaring: the Aman Club in Manhattan, part of Aman New York’s new 83-suite hotel, charges $200,000 for membership along with $15,000 a year in annual dues. Core’s memberships range from $15,000 for an individual membership to $100,000 for a family membership, along with annual dues of $15,000 to $18,000 a year.

With more clubs scheduled to open in the fourth quarter and beginning of next year, some members worry that New York and other big cities are becoming over-saturated with club offerings, especially if the economy plunges into recession.

Club owners and managers say they see no slowdown in demand, as the wealthy seek communities and private spaces where they can work, play, stay and network in a secure and exclusive space.

Industry watchers say the U.S. may be moving toward the London model of social clubs, where storied institutions like Annabel’s, 5 Hertford Street and White’s play a central role in the social and professional lives of the upper crust. Soho House, founded in London in 1995 by restauranteur Nick Jones, has expanded to become the global goliath of the private club world, with dozens of locations around the world and a publicly traded stock.

Casa Cipriani private membership club in New York.

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Core Club’s founder and CEO, Jennie Enterprise, said that after the pandemic, the wealthy value privacy and a sense of community more than ever.

“I think the proliferation of private clubs is a reflection of an exceptional business model,” she said. “The annuity subscription-based business model in any industry is attractive. The activity in the space certainly reflects a desire for curated communities and experiences. And probably with a dynamic of social media, and a lack of privacy, I think that discretion and private communities are probably something that is more aligned with the culture of the moment.”

A rendering of a terrace at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

Club owners say members often join multiple clubs, since each has its own focus and atmosphere. Zero Bond, founded by nightclub impresario Scott Sartiano, has more of a nightclub vibe and has hosted Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson and Gigi Hadid. Aman has the hushed (some say eerily quiet) feel of a zen resort, while Casa Cipriani features the flashy, people-watching theater of Cipriani’s storied New York eateries.

Zalaznick said his affluent clientele is “spending more than ever” at ZZ’s Club in Miami and the company’s high-end restaurants, which bodes well for the forthcoming ZZ’s Club New York.

“The things that bring people back are great food, great service, great experiences, great connections and the staff’s ability to cater to people’s needs or desires,” he said. “That’s our focus, and that’s what will give us longevity in the club space.”

Core gave CNBC an exclusive first tour of its new club at 711 Fifth Avenue, scheduled to open in mid-October. The group opened its first space in 2005 at a nearby location on 55th street and became the most successful of the new breed of modern, business-oriented membership clubs. In need of more space and a fresh look, Core leased four floors on the top of the former Coca-Cola building and spent two years and tens of millions of dollars building the ideal layout.

Spanning the 15th through 18th floors, Core has over 6,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space with views of Central Park and the glass towers of Midtown.

The 15th floor houses 11 luxury hotel suites, which are between 500 and 750 square feet apiece. Priced at around $1,500 per night, the rooms will be available for guests or their family members. The same floor also houses a spa with treatment rooms and a salon.

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

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The 16th floor is home to the gym, juice bar and the Dangene Institute, which features the latest in anti-aging skincare technology.

On the 17th floor, members will find a speakeasy-style lounge, which includes a stylish bar, blue velvet couches and a glass wine and champagne vault, called the wine library. Another set of glass doors leads to the culinary lab, a U-shaped table where celebrity chefs from around the world will serve up special dishes for members.

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

The 18th floor houses the more formal dining area, which will serve mostly Mediterranean fare during the day and a more seasonal, varied menu at night. Core’s culinary program is headed by Chef Michele Brogioni, the celebrated former executive chef at Giorgio Armani. The club’s bread and pastries (including what is arguably New York’s best lemon cake) is overseen by head pastry chef Mauro Pompili.

The 18th floor also houses state-of-the art conference and board rooms, a screening room and a flexible events space and gallery that can be used for exhibits, parties and big gatherings.

Along with the Manhattan club, Core has new locations in Milan and San Francisco and has plans for several others in the coming years, Enterprise said.

A rendering of a dining area at the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

Courtesy: Core Club

Yet Core’s main draw, she said, isn’t the spaces or the amenities, but the community and well-spring of ideas. Core produces between 150 and 200 cultural events a year, from performances, exhibits and talks, to tastings, interviews and showcases.

“We’re ideas-led, not amenities-led,” Enterprise said. “Clearly we have beautiful, world-class amenities. But what defines us is the quality of our ideas. We curate a community of relentlessly curious and unlike-minded people from across the spectrum. So people can intersect with other people from media sports, fashion, finance, science, technology, design and beyond. Our commitment to cultural programming reflects a desire for our members to endlessly cultivate themselves.”

While Core never discloses the names of any of its members, some cited in past media reports include Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, fashion designer Tory Burch, Vornado CEO Steven Roth and Estee Lauder Executive Chairman William Lauder.

Since the new location is nearly twice the size as its prior outpost and can accommodate more members, Core is accepting and starting to review new applications.

“We are getting a lot of applications,” Enterprise said. “There is no single requirement. We look for interesting, curious people who will add to the community.”

A rendering of the Core Club, a private membership club in Midtown Manhattan.

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Where to stay in India? Here are 8 former palaces that are now hotels

The Maharajas of India’s past built magnificent palaces as a symbol of their power.

But in 1971, India abolished “privy purses,” or governmental payments made to these rulers. Several of them transformed their vast estates into heritage hotels, or leased them to renowned hotel chains which carefully restored them to their former glory.

From the eastern state of Odisha to Rajasthan in the north, here are eight regal retreats where travelers can live like kings and queens.

1. Jehan Numa Palace — Bhopal

Visitors can step back in time at Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal, which has a neoclassical style and a 19th-century exterior.

Jehan Numa Palace.

Source: Jehan Numa Palace

This pristine white building was built by General Obaidullah Khan, son of the last ruling Begum of Bhopal, and transformed into a 100-room hotel by his grandsons in the 1980s. The hotel contains salvaged original artifacts and Raj-era photos as well as modern luxuries, such as a palm-lined pool and Chakra spa services.

Its palatial charm lingers among the racehorses that gallop around the track encircling the hotel. Travelers can dine on Italian and Mediterranean cuisine here, but Indophiles opt for the hotel’s legendary Bhopali fare prepared from secret palace recipes in a restaurant named Under the Mango Tree. 

2. Haveli Dharampura — Delhi

Once a nobleman’s home, the 19th-century Haveli Dharampura was meticulously restored over six years under the leadership of the prominent political figure Vijay Goel.

Haveli Dharampura.

Source: Heritage Dharampura

It’s now a 14-room boutique hotel, which received an honorable mention in 2017’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The atmospheric Mughal-era hotel has red sandstone-arched colonnades, a marble courtyard, Arabesque tile-work and intricate stone and wood details that echo the opulence of yesteryears. 

The in-house Lakhori restaurant prepares historic Mughal recipes, while the breezy rooftop provides a delightful setting for drink-in-hand lounging while listening to the muezzin’s call from the nearby Jama Masjid — a soul-stirring reminder that you are in the heart of Old Delhi.

The hotel has guided heritage walks, kite-flying and high tea on the roof terrace, and kathak performances on Saturday and Sunday, where guests can enjoy an evening of Indian classical dance.

3. Taj Lake Palace — Udaipur

Accessible by boat, this stark white edifice in the heart of Lake Pichola (as seen in the 1983 James Bond flick “Octopussy”) was originally a summer pleasure palace for Mewar royalty in the 1740s.

It was transformed into a heritage hotel in the 1960s and is now impeccably managed by the Taj Group.

Taj Lake Palace

Source: Taj Lake Palace

Straight out of a fairy tale, the Taj Lake Palace boasts domed pavilions, ornamental turrets, crystal chandeliers, and 83 antique-filled rooms and suites, some which overlook a gleaming courtyard that hosts nightly folk dances.

It has four dining options serving globe-trotting menus, a spa boat and butler service.

4. Taj Falaknuma Palace — Hyderabad

Perched nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, this hilltop hotel has 60 rooms and suites, which increase in lavishness as you move up its room classes.

Taj Falaknuma Palace.

Source: Taj Falaknuma Palace

By the time you reach the Nizam Suite — graced with fine tapestry, a private pool and personal butler — it’s easy to envision the lifestyle of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who lived in the palace in the 19th century.

The rooms aren’t the only lure. The 130-year-old edifice is known for its state banquets of yore-style food, grand gardens, billiard room with monogrammed cues and ivory balls, and a library modeled on the one at Windsor Castle. Staterooms are decked out with Venetian chandeliers, royal portraits and heirlooms from the Nizams’ era.

5. Taj Usha Kiran Palace — Gwalior

This palace dating to the 1800s was, in its past life, a guesthouse and later royal residence of the ruling family of the state of Gwalior.

Taj Usha Kiran Palace.

Source: Taj Usha Kiran Palace

Today, it’s a lavish Taj hotel that balances old-world vibes with contemporary style. Its interiors contain ancient stone carvings, filigree work and rich tapestries. For a regal experience, travelers can take a heritage tour through the sprawling estate and stay in one of the Royal Suites, which are kitted out with four-poster beds, Venetian mirrors and mother-of-pearl mosaics.

The hotel also offers plenty of facilities to help guests unwind, including a spa, outdoor pool, and an Art Deco-style bar.

6. Rambagh Palace — Jaipur

Set in 47 acres of gardens that are home to peacocks, this former hunting lodge and royal abode of the Maharaja of Jaipur, dates back to 1835. It is now a heritage hotel managed by the Taj Group.

Rambagh Palace.

Source: Rambagh Palace

Exquisite antique furnishings, silk drapes, domed wooden ceilings and four-poster beds give the 78 rooms and suites a regal feel.

Many other features make Rambagh Palace an unforgettable retreat: heritage walks around the premises conducted by the palace butler, golf putting green, original palace dining room with chandeliers and gilded mirror, a Polo bar festooned with trophies and memorabilia of the Jaipur polo team, and a spa with Indian healing services.

The palace has hosted the likes of King Charles, Louis Mountbatten and Jacqueline Kennedy.

7. The Belgadia Palace — Mayurbhanj

Nestled in the charming town of Baripada, The Belgadia Palace has been with the descendants of the same royal family since it was built in 1804, giving it an authenticity that is hard to replicate.

The Belgadia Palace.

Source: The Belgadia Palace

A portion of this historic palace has been converted into an 11-room hotel by Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo, royal descendants of the family. It boasts lofty ceilings, marble corridors and artifacts.

There’s also a lavish dining hall that serves Odisha-style meals, and elegant verandas on which to drink tea. The palace arranges activities such as traditional Chhau dance performances on the pristine lawns, handicraft village tours and other excursions. 

8. Chittoor Kottaram — Kochi

The height of exclusivity, the Chittoor Kottaram — which once belonged to the king of Cochin — hosts only one group of no more than six people at any one time.

Chittoor Kottaram.

Source: Chittoor Kottaram

Nestled amid coconut groves by the edge of the lagoon backwaters of Kerala, the three-room abode boasts beautiful Athangudi floor tiles and wooden ceilings.

Precious artworks by Lady Hamlyn of The Helen Hamlyn Trust, the restorer of this 300-year-old palace, lend the property something of a museum feel. A personal chef prepares traditional Keralan dishes that can be eaten at a waterside gazebo or in the lush garden.

Ayurvedic massages and private cultural shows can be arranged, as can a private sunset cruise on the serene waterways.

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This LA mansion is staring down an April 1 deadline before the seller loses millions

The owner of this over-the-top, seven-bedroom and 11-bath mansion in Los Angeles is prepared to accept $6 million less than what he paid for it less than two years ago — all to beat a ticking clock.

The home features a Kobe Bryant-themed basketball court, car showroom and a 70-foot infinity pool that appears to float some 45 feet above the mountainside, and it’s on sale for a reduced price of $38 million.

If it doesn’t sell by April 1, the property would be subject to a looming new, local mansion tax, which goes into effect next month and could cost the owner a further $2 million.

The grand living area opens to the outdoors with 22 foot ceilings, a 10-ft long fireplace, and a giant wall covered in living green moss that extends across three levels of the home.

EstateLuxShoot

The Brentwood estate, now known as the Star Resort, was built by veteran spec developer Ramtin Ray Nosrati, who sold it back in 2021 for $44 million. According to public records, the almost 16,700-square-foot residence was purchased by the trust of wealthy investor Jeffrey Feinberg, who runs Feinberg Investments. 

About a year after buying it, Feinberg put the home back on the market for $48 million but couldn’t find any takers. Feinberg brought in Dan Malka of Ikon Advisors to implement a more aggressive pricing strategy, and the original asking price was chopped down $10 million, or almost 21%. To put that price cut into perspective, it amounts to the home dropping almost $64,000 in value every single week for 94 weeks straight since Feinberg bought it.

One wall of the dining room is a 1,000 gallon salt water aquarium with views into the kitchen on the other side.

Yann Ippolito

Malka told CNBC yearly real estate taxes on the Star Resort run his client around $550,000 a year, plus about $20,000 a month in utilities.

“Plus, the staff and so on, so probably a million dollars of expenses [per year],” Malka said.

Jutting out from the lowest level of the home is a Kobe-Bryant-themed half basketball court.

EstateLuxShoot

Trying to unload an expensive mansion in the midst of a banking crisis with the LA real estate market softening and uncertainty looming large isn’t exactly great timing. 

Feinberg, like all luxury mansion sellers in LA, is also contending with the new mansion tax approved by voters in November. The ULA tax, as it’s called, was designed to “fund affordable housing projects and provide resources to tenants at risk of homelessness,” according to the city of Los Angeles website.

It’s levied on the seller as a transfer tax upon the sale of a home, or any real property, that trades for $5 million or more.

The home’s impressive foyer includes double height ceilings and glass walls that open to the pool deck and outdoor bar.

Yann Ippolito

For homes priced between $5 million and $10 million, sellers will have to pay the city 4% of the total sale price. For real estate trading north of $10 million, the rate increases to 5.5%.

The new tax is on top of the city’s current 0.45% transfer tax. And it’s levied based on sale price, not profit, which means sellers will have to pay up even if they’re already taking a loss, as could be the case with the Star Resort.

The city’s website includes a tax calculator, which estimates ULA and city transfer taxes owed on a $38 million deal at $2,261,000, or just under 6% of the total deal.

The primary bedroom is accented by a recessed wood-panel covered ceiling and walls of glass that slide away for access to a private terrace.

EstateLuxShoot

For many high-end home sellers and their agents, the race is on to lock in profits and close on a sale before the new tax takes effect. But for Malka, who wouldn’t discuss his client by name with CNBC, the pressure is on to get the best price and rein in his client’s losses before the new tax takes them even higher.

“That’s why we decided to give a good price cut and send a signal to the market that my seller is motivated to sell and that he wants to move on,” said Malka, who still holds out hope he can broker a deal before the first of the month.

After CNBC’s report on the mansion and looming tax bill was published, Malka reached back out to CNBC on Friday to add that the current pricing is intended to pass on tax savings to a buyer willing to close prior to April 1. His client also intends to raise his asking price to $41 million after the tax takes effect with no intention of accepting offers below that price after March, he said.

A bar, billiards table and 250-bottle wine cellar on the home’s lowest level.

Yann Ippolito

Real estate broker Aaron Kirman of AKG/Christies International called the short runway to offload homes before April 1 “crazy.”

“People had a four-month window from the day [the new tax] passed to sell a house,” he said.

Kirman, who is one of LA’s top-producing luxury real estate brokers, does not represent the Star Resort, but he does have many clients who are also in a big rush to sell.

It’s a trend, he said, that’s reflected in LA’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which according to Kirman shows 86 homes with sale prices over $5 million currently in escrow.

A glass wall in the lower lounge offers a view into a sleek car gallery.

Yann Ippolito

“The tax is coming out at a complicated time with interest rates, inflation and bank issues,” Kirman told CNBC. “It couldn’t have been more of a perfect storm.” 

The ULA tax, he said, “has led to dramatic price reductions on many homes.”

Potential homebuyers are swooping in with all-cash offers, and the promise of a fast-closing deal, Kirman said, but at deep discounts.

The Star Resort’s main bar is clad in stone and accented with back lit onyx.

Yann Ippolito

The Star Resort’s backyard includes a an outdoor kitchen & bar, infinity pool and lounge areas.

EstateLuxShoot

Jonathan Miller, president of the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, told CNBC it will be hard to project the impact of the tax on any one piece of real estate, but he does have a prediction across the region: “It ultimately lowers achievable prices as compared to the period before April 1 and becomes baked into market expectations in the future.”

In other words, the new tax will create a downward pressure on homes over $5 million as owners anticipate the future cost of higher tax bills.

One of the residence’s seven ensuite bedrooms with a private terrace.

Yann Ippolito 

CNBC asked Miller to crunch market data to see how much sellers of luxury single-family homes in LA would have paid in 2022 if the mansion tax were already in effect. Last year, sales of $5 million-plus totaled almost $2.5 billion.

According to his calculations, all of those sellers combined would have racked up a mansion tax bill of almost $131 million. Sellers of homes trading between $5 million and $10 million would have seen an average tax bill of $43,000, according to Miller’s estimates, and sellers of $10 million-and-up homes would have footed an average bill of $1.2 million.

It’s important to note Miller’s analysis focused exclusively on single-family home sales over the price threshold. According to the city’s projections, which include commercial and multifamily sales, the new tax could generate between $600 million and $1.1 billion annually.

The night view from the pools hot tub.

Yann Ippolito 

According to Miller, the rush to sell before the April 1 deadline matches a similar frenzy in New York four years ago.

“When New York implemented the mansion tax in 2019, there was a surge in closings just short of the July 1 start date and a void of sales in the following months,” he said.

Home cinema with Rolls-Royce inspired star lit ceiling.

Yann Ippolito

The primary bedroom’s terrace includes a fire feature and views of the pool below.

EstateLuxShoot

Kirman said even with the tax pressures, one thing will remain the same: “The house is worth what the buyer is willing to pay for it.”

And if that amount is over $5 million, there will be some new taxes to pay on it.

The Star Resort’s sport simulation room offers virtual golf, hockey and soccer.

EstateLuxShoot

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Dan Malka of Ikon Advisors.

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#mansion #staring #April #deadline #seller #loses #millions

A look inside a $22.5 million Miami condo with insane luxury amenities

This $22.5 million condo in Miami spans 6,200 square feet with four bedrooms and five and a half baths. But perhaps more impressive than what comes inside those four walls is the mind-blowing list of over-the-top amenities that comes with it.

The luxury condo is situated on the 48th floor of the Turnberry Ocean Club Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, where the touted amenities span over 70,000 square feet and 300 acres and include everything from a giant waterpark to a $1.2 million beachfront cabana.

The primary suite and balcony with views of the Atlantic.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

The building’s prime location, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, means flow-through apartments that extend the entire length of the building — like unit 4803, currently up for sale — deliver two different waterfront views and command a premium for buyers who will pay more to see the sun rise over one shoreline and set over another.

The condo’s impressive amenities helped it break a record in October when a $23 million duplex on the 50th floor sold for over $3,850 per square foot, the highest price-per-square-foot ever achieved for a condo in Sunny Isles Beach according to South Florida real estate broker Senada Adzem, who recently took CNBC on a tour of the building and the $22.5 million residence up for grabs.

“Sunny Isles Beach is the epicenter of ultra luxury branded developments, and with all the competition they have to differentiate with extraordinary amenities and unique brands to command a premium,” said Adzem. 

Dramatic ocean views from the residence’s east-facing balcony.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

It will take some time to unpack all the extras offered to residents at 18501 Collins Avenue, as they span six amenity-devoted levels inside the building and spill over to the 300-acre Turnberry Isle Country Club.

Residents get a social membership program at the club, which is about one mile away and includes two 16-hole world-class golf courses and a giant waterpark. The condo’s mega-amenity package also extends over to Fontainebleau Aviation, a private corporate jet center at the nearby Miami-Opa locka Executive Airport, where Turnberry residents receive so-called “VIP privileges.” And for the yachting crowd, there’s access to the Turnberry Marina which can dock yachts up to 180 feet long according to the residences’ website.

“Turnberry Ocean Club carries with it a discernible cachet,” said Adzem, “There’s an ‘it’ factor in play, and people want to be part of it.”

The building’s three-story Sky Club starts on the 30th floor and spans approximately 40,000 square feet. The building’s sales executive Sabine Otamendi told CNBC the Sky Club cost $100 million to construct and no part of the building is open to the public.

A view of the building’s Sky Club which spans three levels from the 30th to 32nd floor and includes two cantilevered pools one for sunrise the other for sunset.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

On the 30th level there are two cantilevered pools — one for sunrise and another for sunset — plus a juice and smoothie bar and outdoor living rooms with televisions.

An aerial view of the sunrise pool on the 30th floor, which cantilevers 333 feet above sea level.

DroneHub Media

The 31st floor is entirely dedicated to wellness, with a full-service spa in the sky, plus indoor and outdoor fitness areas, men’s and women’s locker rooms, and steam showers and sauna.

The Sky Club’s full service spa.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

Inside the Sky Club’s fitness center where the treadmills come with impressive views.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

On the 32nd floor there’s a sunset lounge with a wine vault, lounge areas, an indoor dining space and full catering kitchen.

The Sky Club’s wine vault and lounge.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

Outdoor sunset lounge

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

Also up on 32nd floor is a so-called dog retreat where lucky pooches can take in the ocean views and relieve themselves. There’s another pet area on the ground level as well.

Outdoor pet retreat and dog walking area.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

The amenity list keeps growing on floors one, two and three, where you’ll find another pool and 31 ocean-view cabanas.

The view from the ocean front infinity pool.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

There’s a poolside outdoor restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, along with a fine-dining restaurant and piano bar on floor three. That level also houses a screening room and two hotel suites for residents’ guests. Off the lobby there’s a coffee lounge called Drip where a barista serves complimentary coffee and continental breakfast seven days a week.

A barista staffs the building’s ground-level coffee lounge where residents are offered free coffee and continental breakfast.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

The beachfront neighborhood only spans about 1.8 square miles — for that size there’s a remarkable 16 high-end condominium residences vying for buyers with units priced north of $10 million. 

“Branded projects are all the rage now, with renowned architects, designers, spas and beach clubs coupled with ultra luxury amenities and services,” said Adzem.

Among the higher-end branded condos in Sunny Isles Beach is the Porsche Design Tower, which stands next door to the Turnberry Ocean Club, the Bentley Residences, the Residences by Armani Casa, The Estates at Aqualina, Jade Signature, and the Ritz-Carlton Residences.

Aerial view of the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach. 

Here are just some of the stand-out amenities being used to lure in wealthy buyers in some of those buildings:

At the Porsche Design Tower, in-unit parking is accessed by car elevator, aka the Dezervator, named after the building’s developer Gil Dezer. The futuristic amenity whisks residents and their wheels up to their apartment so they can park steps away from the living room.   

The “Dezervators” whisk Porsches up to their units.

Source: Dezer Development

Dezer has planned a similar automobile elevator for his yet-to-be-built, 63-story Bentley Residences where each home will have multi-unit in-sky parking as well as its own pool.

The project is being marketed as the tallest beachfront residential tower in America. Among the planned amenities is a fine-dining restaurant, whiskey bar, spa, gym and landscaped gardens.  

A rendering of the automobile elevator planned at the Bentley Residences.

Bentley Residences

“With every new project, we are always trying to outdo ourselves, so the amenities we imagine have progressively gotten more over-the-top” Gil Dezer told CNBC.

A rendering of the automobile elevator planned at the Bentley Residences.

Bentley Residences

The Residences by Armani Casa, which Dezer is also developing alongside Related Group, will deliver 35,000 square feet of amenities including an Armani gym, a two-story spa and interiors designed under the artistic direction of Giorgio Armani with Casa Armani furnishings according to the website.

Rendering of the Residences by Armani Casa

“The skyline of Sunny Isles Beach features some of the most exciting towers in all of Miami, and it has become a destination where developers can experiment with architecture, branded concepts and amenities,” said Dezer.

The Lagerfeld-designed lobby at the Estates at Aqualina.

The Estates at Aqualina, developed by The Trump Group (no relation to the former president) includes a lobby designed by the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld plus “45,000 square feet of awesome,” according to the residence’s website.

Marketing image of the FlowRider wave simulator.

Estates at Aqualina

Amenities here range from an ice skating rink to a Formula One race simulator plus a so-called Wall Street Trader’s Club room and a FlowRider surfing simulator — in essence, a wave machine that creates swells for building residents to surf on.

An image depicitng Aqualina’s so-called Wall Street Trader’s room.

Estates at Aqualina

A marketing image of Aqualina’s ice skating rink

Estates at Aqualina

But if they’d rather catch a ride on four wheels, residents can hop in the building’s house-car, which is a bright red Rolls Royce.

Marketing photo of condominium’s red Rolls Royce house-car

Estates at Aqualina

“Sunny Isles Beach sometimes feels like Dubai meets Vegas on the ocean — in only the best ways,”  Adzem told CNBC.

According to public records, the neighborhood’s top recent sales included a $27 million deal at the Estates at Aqualina in 2021, which combined two penthouse units at just over $3,100 a square foot, and a $23.5 million penthouse that traded last year at Jade Signature for about $1,840 a square foot. 

The three most expensive listings currently on the market are all also at the Estates at Aqualina: the highest priced is an $85 million residence that spans 15,000 square feet across four stories and delivers seven bedrooms and nine and half baths, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

The pool and cabanas at Aqualina.

The Estates at Aqualina

For comparison the average sale price of a luxury condo, representing the top 10% of sales, in Miami Beach was just under $5.4 million, with an average price per square foot of just over $1,960, according to the Q4 2022 Elliman Report.

Here’s a closer look around the $22.5 million residence for sale and some more of the amenities offered at the record breaking Turnberry Ocean Club Residences:

The grand lobby with views across the pool and ocean.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

At the center of the residence is a formal dining area with four floor-to-ceiling louvered wood panels that can pivot to open or separate the space from the grand salon. The unit is being sold turn-key, including all furnishings, artwork and even the bed sheets, according to Adzem who said, “just bring your sunglasses.”

The residence’s formal dining area.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

The kitchen includes three islands and comes equipped with custom Italian-made cabinetry and high-end German appliances.

The kitchen is equipped with three islands and Italian-made cabinetry.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

Off the kitchen a family room overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, with floor-to-ceiling window panels that slide open to one of the units two balconies.

The family room and adjacent balcony that overloooks the Intracoastal Waterway.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

The primary bath features walls and floors clad in white marble with a steam shower that connects his and her baths.

The marble-clad primary bath and steam shower.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

The walk-in closet in the primary bedroom is made by Brazilian design brand Onare and mixes glass, leather and mirrors that appear slightly smoked. The building’s sales executive Otamendi told CNBC the total cost of custom closets through out the entire apartment came to over $350,000.

The primary bedroom’s walk-in closet.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences / Leo Diaz

Unit 4803 is being offered with a 250-square-foot oceanfront cabana, which is usually priced at about $1.2 million, according to Otamendi.

A rendering of one of the Turnberry Ocean Club Residences’ beach front cabanas. The 250 sq ft structure is priced at $1.2 million.

Turnberry Ocean Club Residences

Adzem told CNBC if the unit sells for its current asking price, real estate taxes plus condo association dues would total more than $500,000 per year.

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#million #Miami #condo #insane #luxury #amenities

I asked ChatGPT to help me plan a vacation. Here’s what happened next

Some people love travel planning.

But I am not one of those people.

So the idea that artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT and Bing, can research travel destinations and create itineraries is intriguing.

But I’m skeptical too.

Do recommendations just scratch the surface — for example, suggesting that I see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Or can they recommend lesser-known restaurants and handle specific hotel requests too?

The answer is: yes and no — at least for ChatGPT.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t test Bing. When I tried to access it, I was put on a waiting list. The website said I could “get ahead in the line” if I set Microsoft defaults on my computer and scanned a QR code to install the Bing app. I did both. I’m still waiting.

ChatGPT was easier. I went to the developer’s website, clicked on the word “ChatGPT,” registered for an account — and started chatting.

‘Can you help me plan a beach trip?’

“Of course!” replied ChatGPT. But first, I needed to tell it about my interests, budget and how long I planned to be away.

I’m looking for a week-long beach trip in mid-March to spend time with my family, with no set budget, I typed.

“Sounds like a wonderful idea!” it replied, before recommending Hawaii, the Caribbean — specifically the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic — Florida and Costa Rica, along with details about the weather and popular attractions for each.

Nice. But I live in Singapore, I said.

“I see!” it exclaimed. (ChatGPT loves exclamation points.) In that case, Bali, Indonesia; Langkawi, Malaysia; and Phuket and Krabi in Thailand were better choices.

ChatGPT is nothing if not apologetic.

Cost estimates for each hotel were more accurate. But ChatGPT couldn’t show photographs of the hotels or help book them — although it did provide ample instructions on how to do both.

By road or by rail?

Flights

ChatGPT can name airlines that connect cities, but it can’t give current flight information or help book flights.  

It wasn’t able to tell me the cheapest fare — or any fare — from London to New York this spring because it doesn’t “have access to real-time pricing information,” it said.

In fact, ChatGPT data ends at September 2021; it doesn’t “know” anything that’s happened since.

However, the bot could answer which month the London-to-New York route is usually the cheapest, which it said is “January and February, or during the shoulder season months of March and November.”

As for the best airline in the world, it said: “As an AI language model, I cannot have personal preferences or opinions.” But it went on to name the top five airlines named to Skytrax’s “World’s Top 100 Airlines” in 2021.

The list wasn’t correct.

The list provided by ChatGPT appears to be Skytrax’s airline ranking from 2019 instead.  

“Where should I eat?”

Specific questions

I had many more questions for ChatGPT, such as:

“How should I spend five days in South Africa?”
“Which chateaux accept visitors in Bordeaux?”
“If I only have one day in London, what should I do?”
“Which rides have the longest lines at Disney World?”

But before I could, my screen said “Access denied” alongside an “error code 1020” message.

This error may be caused by overloaded servers or by exceeding the daily limit, according to the tech website Stealth Optional. Either way, all of my previous chats were inaccessible, a huge negative for travelers in the middle of the planning process.

A new window didn’t fix the problem, but opening one in “incognito mode” did. Once in, I clicked on “Upgrade to Plus,” which showed that the free plan is available when demand is low, but for $20 per month, the “Plus plan” gives access to ChatGPT all the time, faster responses and priority to use new features.

With access again, I quickly asked about wait times on Disney World rides, a subject which I had spoken to luxury travel advisor Jonathan Alder of Jonathan’s Travels about last week. Alder lives close to the park and has lost count of how many times he’s visited, he said. Yet, only one of their answers — Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” — overlapped.

ChatGPT mentioned that FastPass and Genie+ can reduce wait times at Disney World, which is partly right. The company phased out its “skip the line” virtual queue FastPass program when it introduced Genie+ in the fall of 2021.

The takeaway

ChatGPT is fast, chatty and feels like you’re interacting with a human. I found myself responding with unnecessary pleasantries — “Ok, sure” and “Thank you” — out of habit.

I could see how it could save travelers’ time, especially if they are looking for an overview or are at the early stages of planning.

But information will need to be current, of course — and bugs and error messages, which I faced several times in addition to the “1020” message mentioned above — will need to be fixed.

OpenAI states that the current ChatGPT version “is a free research preview.” It also says the system may “occasionally generate incorrect or misleading information” and that it’s “not intended to give advice.”

When I asked it about its travel planning abilities, it said it “can assist with many aspects of travel planning” but that it may not be able to “provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.”

My verdict: Travel agents’ jobs are secure for the time being.

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#asked #ChatGPT #plan #vacation #Heres #happened

Luxury developers in Los Angeles bet someone will pay record prices for these condos

Two developers in California are looking to lure a buyer willing to do something no other buyer has ever done before in Los Angeles history – pay between $50 million and a $100 million for a condo. 

A deal anywhere near those asking prices would shatter a record in the City of Angels, where no single condo unit has ever sold for more than $22.5 million, according to public records.  

A rendering depicts the penthouse terrace and pool at the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles which is on the market for $75M.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

A behemoth duplex-apartment located at 9000 West 3rd Street in Beverly Hills comes with a price tag of $75 million. 

One LA, as the penthouse is called, hit the market back in July. It spans the top two floors of the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles, part of an ultra-luxe condo project by the Genton Development Company that includes 59 units across 12 stories.

Rendering depicting the finished penthouse atop the Four Seasons Residences Los Angeles.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

It’s the first stand-alone Four Seasons residence in North America and it sits across the street from its namesake hotel. According to the building’s website, the crown-jewel residence delivers almost 13,000 sq ft of indoor living area and nearly 6,000 sq ft of outdoor space.

Rendering of the primary bedroom at the penthouse known as ONE LA.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

The penthouse, which appears fully furnished in renderings used to market the unit, is actually being sold “white-box,” meaning a buyer would take possession of unit as an unfinished shell. That means no kitchen, no baths, no millwork, no fixtures. It’s so empty that Billy Rose, co-founder of The Agency RE and co-listing agent on the deal, can be seen with his team in a marketing video riding bikes through the vast raw space.

At the current asking price, the unfinished unit is over $5,700 a sq ft. Rose told CNBC finishing costs vary widely depending on a buyer’s taste, but $8 million is a ballpark estimate. Some buyers, he said, actually prefer the blank canvas delivery so they can customize the residence to their personal taste. 

A 19-person IMAX theater is one of the luxe amenities offered at the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

The building’s amenities include in-residence dining and housekeeping, a private 19-seat IMAX theater with access to first-run films and private screenings, a fitness center designed by nutritionist and celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, a pool with private cabanas, and Four Seasons staff at your beck and call, according to the website.

A double shot of luxury

The other ultra high-priced penthouse that’s reaching for LA’s most rarified air is located at 8899 Beverly Blvd in West Hollywood. It has a $50 million asking price that can be super-sized to $100 million.

The 10-story, 40-unit building, designed by architecture firm Olson Kundig, was developed by Townscape Partners. The top floor is divided into two similarly sized penthouses, one on the east and the other on the west.  

According to broker Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman, who reps the development and recently took CNBC on a tour of penthouse east, the four-bedroom, five-bath residence spans about 6,450 sq ft, with 14-foot ceilings. It has motorized glass panel walls that slide away for access to another almost 1,500 sq ft of outdoor space on the wrap-around balcony.  

Unlike One LA, unit PHE is being delivered finished. it’s currently staged with furnishings by ASH Staging. They are not included in the $50 million asking price, which comes to over $7,700 a square foot.  

The view from 8899 Beverly Blvd’s unit PHE where glass panels walls slide away and open to a wraparound balcony.

ASH Staging

The developer has yet to officially list either of the two top-floor penthouses, but has been testing the market’s appetite for PHE since at least April. That’s when the developer started marketing the unit with a $50 million price-tag in a so-called whisper campaign – a term that usually describes the word-of-mouth marketing used to shop around an off-market residence.

In this case, Townscape Partners and Eklund have been whispering pretty loudly about the deal to the press for months. The team is simultaneously shopping an even pricier off-market deal that pairs both of the top-floor penthouses as a combo with a $100 million ask.

The primary bedroom in Penthouse East at 8899 Beverly Blvd.

ASH Staging

The combination residence would position its owner at the highest vantage point in West Hollywood. As a pair, the penthouses deliver eight bedrooms, 10 baths and four kitchens – each includes a main kitchen and an adjacent staff kitchen.

According to Eklund, the package deal brings the total interior footage to somewhere around 13,000 sq ft with an additional 6,000 sq ft outside. Building amenities include an over 12,000 sq ft outdoor area with pool, fireplaces and dining area. There’s also a fitness area and a yoga studio, and a fine-dining restaurant is coming soon.

Penthouse PHE’s primary bath.

ASH Staging

On the subterranean level there are so-called car stables, a term Eklund uses to describe the building’s luxury garage. The parking area includes moody lighting, herringbone-patterned tile flooring and parking spots tucked behind sliding doors made of wood and steel. 

The broker told CNBC a pair of parking spots here cost $750,000, but as part of the penthouse deals the developer would throw in a few spots for free. It would also include a garage-level penthouse-only private lobby with views of the garage, plus seating and elevators that can whisk penthouse guests directly to the top floor. 

The so-called auto stables on the garage level at 8899 Beverly Blvd.

DroneHub Media

Too expensive even for LA?

A rendering of the rooftop terrace at ONE LA.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

At the current asks, a prospective buyer of either One LA or the penthouses at 8899 Beverly Blvd would have to take a gigantic leap from the records established at The Century. While Miller told CNBC real estate markets don’t typically make drastic moves like this, this sort of thing has happened before in LA.

The example he points to is a sliver of the town’s single-family housing inventory known as ultra-luxury spec-mansions. Over the past decade, these homes suddenly achieved sales that broke through the $50 million mark and sustained it. Now the once unimaginable price-level is breached regularly in the high-end spec market.

“It’s a subset of the greater market that doesn’t have a linear or direct connection to what was the luxury market before,” said Miller.

According to Miller, a sudden spike in a housing subcategory like spec homes can happen when developers convince buyers that they’ve created a new real estate product that’s so different from what existed before that it should command a significant premium.

The full-service pool area at the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard and CRTKL

“It’s the beginning of a new dataset,” Miller said.

Rose calls LA’s new super-luxury condo inventory “2.0,” a wave of apartments he describes as more modern, luxurious, and amenity-packed than any condo inventory that came before it. He believes those are some of the reasons the units should command higher prices over the previous wave, which Rose believes includes the record breaking sales at The Century Condo.

So far Rose’s 2.0 theory is supported by a recent sale at the The Pendry Residences, another luxury condo project in West Hollywood, where a 2,700 sq ft unit sold for $13 million and breached $4,800 a sq ft. That is now the highest price per sq ft ever achieved for a condo in LA. This record is more than double the price per sq ft reached in each of those three top sales at The Century Condo.

A seating area on the wraparound balcony of penthouse east at 8899 Beverly Blvd.

ASH Staging

Eklund believes his $100 million whisper listing can and will break a price record in LA. What’s happened already in New York helps. On Central Park, he said, trophy condos have surpassed $10,000 and even $12,000 a sq ft. 

“That happens a lot, so is Los Angeles undervalued still?  Long term, maybe,” Eklund said.

Over the last decade, multiple listing service data shows more than 140 units in New York have sold for $35 million, compared to zero at that level in LA. But Miller adds a giant caveat: the two condo markets are very different. While he said The Pendry sale is clearly a sign, this new market would need to deliver a lot more transactions to determine if it’s sustainable. 

In other words: developers of One LA and the trophy penthouses at 8899 Beverly are in uncharted territory. 

“This is a new market segment,” Miller said. “So we’ll have to see how consumers respond.” 

A seating area and fireplace inside 8899 Beverly Blvd’s penthouse east residence.

ASH Staging

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Inside the largest mansion for sale in Malibu, going for $58.8 million

This $58,808,000 mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean is one of the largest homes for sale in Malibu. 

At 16,600 square feet, it’s the grandest single-structure residence in town and a whopping 4,100 square feet bigger than the next-largest home on the market.

The Bali-inspired residence at 11870 Ellice Street, named the Kaizen House after a Japanese term meaning “continuous improvement,” is perched above the Pacific Coast Highway at County Line Beach. The modern glass-and-concrete architecture is built around an open-air courtyard with lush palms and a koi pond.

Aerial view of the home’s open-air courtyard and koi pond.

Simon Berlyn

While the newly developed residence on Ellice Street has a Malibu address and postal code, it’s located 2 miles outside of the city of Malibu, where four residences on the PCH have sold for $100 million or more —including the record-breaking compound purchased by billionaire Marc Andreessen in 2021 for $177 million.

Ellice Street is located in Ventura Country, less than a mile west of Los Angeles County. Here, sales north of $15 million are few and far between.

And yet, the street that spans under a half-mile has seen five smaller mansions, each one older than the Kaizen House, sell for between $15 million and $24.7 million. The hot neighborhood’s top sale closed in October commanding just over $2,500 per square foot, according to public records, way above average for Malibu.

The Kaizen House spans two levels and 20,000 sq ft with a 95-foot infinity pool in the backyard.

Simon Berlyn

At the current asking price, the newest listing is more than 10 times pricier than the $5.8 million average sales price achieved in Malibu during the third quarter. The average price per square foot hovered just under $1,400, according to the Elliman Report compiled by Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants.

Public records show developer-owner Kris Halliday of MKH Developments purchased the one-acre lot at 11870 Ellice Street back in 2018 for $5.4 million.

After completing the Kaizen House, he listed it in March for $74.8 million — or more than $4,500 a square foot. There were no takers at the initial ask, and over the following eight months it saw three price reductions that took the asking price down by more than 21%.

The mansion at 11870 Ellice St sits above the Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu overlooking the ocean.

Simon Berlyn

Last month, the ask settled just under $59 million, or about $3,500 a square foot. That price tag would still be an all-time high for the section of Malibu that sits in Ventura County.

“We brought it down from $75 million to $58 million, so right now this is looking like a really good deal,” said co-listing agent Branden Williams, co-founder of The Beverly Hills Estates.

Glass walls on the home’s lower level open to the sun deck and swimming pool.

Simon Berlyn

The six-bedroom, 10-bath home is being marketed in the midst of some very challenging headwinds: rising mortgage rates, skyrocketing inflation and the potential for recession. Still, Williams told CNBC he remains confident.

“Is it challenging? Of course, will this house sell? Yes,” he said.

What’s more, Williams said the house can command a premium in light of its sheer size, the high-end materials inside, and the fact that it’s new construction, which is rare in Malibu.

Here’s a look around the $58.8 million Kaizen House:

The home’s dramatic entrance delivers fire, water, and intricately carved Belgian bluestone walls

Simon Berlyn

Halliday infused the mansion with Indonesian influences that are evident even before stepping inside. 

A glass entryway is flanked by a pair of carved stone statues and two fire features that appear to dance on water. The large glass-paneled doorway is framed by walls covered in Belgian blue stone intricately carved in Asia, listing agent Williams said.

The stone artwork is a design element that’s repeated in other areas throughout the home. Williams calls the architecture “Zen modern tropical.”

The upper half of the foyer’s 25-foot walls are clad in onyx imported from Asia.

CNBC

The double-height foyer is drenched in sunlight that streams though a 30-foot-wide sky light.

The lower portion of the foyer’s 25-foot walls is covered in fluted oak, while the upper half is wrapped in an eye-catching dragon onyx from Asia, Williams said. 

A stone path leads into the open-air courtyard and across the koi pond.

Simon Berlyn

Past the foyer is the home’s tropical-themed courtyard, where lush greens are punctuated by red flowering plants and glass lamps that double as heaters.

Water cascades down the courtyard’s intricately carved Belgian bluestone wall into the koi pond.

CNBC

The main wall in the central garden is clad in more of the intricately carved blue rock. Water cascades down the stone’s surface and trickles into the pond, filling the space with the soothing echo of a running stream.

The 14-guest dining room table is centered between a living wall of leafy green vegetation on one side and a 2,000-plus-gallon aquarium on the other. The saltwater tank offers a watery window into a vibrantly colored living area on the other side.

The brightly-colored living area has a trifecta of water views including the 2,000 gallon aquarium, infinity pool and Pacific Ocean.

Simon Berlyn

At the press of a button, most of the home’s glass walls spring into motion and open to the outdoors.

The automated luxury opens the dining room, kitchen and two first-floor living areas to an impressive pool deck.

The 95-foot infinity pool in the backyard features a 12-person hot tub, partially submerged sun loungers and underwater stools that offer a refreshing spot from which to access the poolside bar.

The swimming pool includes a sun lounging area and sunken conversation pit with fire feature.

Simon Berlyn

The main kitchen features two islands entirely wrapped in a distinctive green bamboo onyx.

Hidden behind the kitchen’s fluted-oak cabinetry is a second full kitchen for the private chef. And like most of the stone featured in the residence, the stone-clad islands have lights embedded inside which ignite the onyx with a luminous glow after dark.  

The the home cinema features a state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos sound system, carpeting imported from New Zealand and more illuminated stone.

Simon Berlyn

Primary suite

Simon Berlyn

The home’s upper level includes six ensuite bedrooms, each with its own terrace.

In the primary suite voice-controlled glass walls can be commanded to slide away for access to a private terrace that overlooks the ocean. 

Primary suite bath.

Simon Berlyn

The suite includes a stone-covered bath and a pair of walk-in closets, which also feature impressive views of the Pacific.

The primary suite’s walk-in closets include a floor-to-ceiling window with impressive views of the ocean.

Simon Berlyn

Along with Williams, the listing is represented by agents Rayni Williams and Tony Barsocchini of The Beverly Hills Estates and Kurt Rappaport of the Westside Agency.

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The future of parking is in New York — and it costs at least $300,000 per space

Hidden deep below some of New York City’s most luxurious apartment buildings is an exclusive world of futuristic parking spaces where high-end vehicles are parked and retrieved by robotic parking systems. 

The high-tech spots are a rare amenity in the Big Apple, and if you want your car to occupy one of these VIP spaces you’ve got to be ready to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The spots are only accessible to residents of buildings where the apartments will set you back several million, and if you want your car to live there too you’ll need between $300,000 to $595,000 more to score some precious space in the private garage.

CNBC found two buildings in Manhattan offering spots for sale inside a so-called robo-parking garage.

The first is located at 121 East 22nd Street near NYC’s Gramercy Park where a 140-unit condo building developed by Toll Brothers offers 24 automated parking spots.

High above the 22nd St condo’s underground garage is the wraparound terrace of a 5-bedroom duplex apartment that recently sold with a $300K parking spot for $9.45 million.

DroneHub Media

Earlier this month, Lori Alf, a full-time resident of Florida, picked up one of the rare parking spaces for $300,000 when she purchased the building’s priciest unit: a 5-bedroom duplex spanning almost 3,800 square feet.

She told CNBC the package deal, which totaled $9.45 million, was a gift to her children who are now spending more time in New York.

The sun-drenched living area inside Lori Alf’s penthouse unit at 121 E 22nd St.

Toll Brothers City Living

Now when Alf or her kids want to park the family’s Porsche Cayenne in the condo’s garage they pull up to a kiosk where the wave of a small radio frequency ID tag unlocks access to a subterranean car lair where no humans are allowed. 

Pressing a button on the kiosk sends a jolt of life into an empty metal pallet one level below. It slides across a track onto a powerful lift that sends the empty pallet up toward ground-level to meet the Alfs who can then carefully position their car on top of it.

As a vehicle enters the automated system a motion board delivers messages to the driver to assure the vehicle is positioned properly for the parking process to begin.

CNBC

Before their wheels are whisked away, a set of cameras scan the system’s entryway to confirm the car’s trunk and doors are all closed — and that there are no objects or humans left behind that might obstruct the automation. 

When the scanners deliver the “all clear,” the pallet, with car on top, disappears into the floor, pausing briefly as it descends into the basement to spin the vehicle 180 degrees before slotting it into one of the empty spaces.

The system can lift and shuffle two dozen cars across four rows and two levels. 

A car parked on the lower level of the automated parking garage at 121 E 22nd St where prices start at $300K per spot.

CNBC

Retrieving the car is a lot like making a selection from a giant vending machine. Residents swipe their RFID tags once again, and the system delivers their cars in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

One of the perks for Alf: She never has to put the car in reverse to exit the building.

“The car is turned for you by the robot,” she told CNBC. “Who doesn’t live for a robot that sets you in the right direction in NYC?”

Pedro Fernandez, a local sales representative for Klaus Parking, the company that sold the German-made parking system to the building’s developer, told CNBC it’s the most automated garage he’s ever installed in Manhattan. 

The company’s top-tier system typically costs between $50,000 and $70,000 per spot installed. Fernandez said developers invest over a million dollars in the intelligent parking infrastructure because it’s super efficient at arranging vehicles and maximizing space.

The view inside the robo-parking machine at 121 E 22nd St reveals a system of pallets and hydraulic lifts that maneuver cars around a two-tier subterranean parking structure.

CNBC

“There was no other way to park 24 cars,” Fernandez said of the garage space under 121 East 22nd Street.

The self-parking system can unlock more spaces per square foot because it doesn’t require the ramps and driving lanes you see in most conventional garages, he said.

​”As crazy as it may sound, $300,000 for a residential parking spot is considered a reasonable price in New York City,” said Senada Adzem, a Florida-based real estate broker at Douglas Elliman, whose team represented Alf in her recent purchase.

Adzem told CNBC spots in the system that include a charging plug for electric vehicles will run you $350,000. And whether it’s electrified or not, every parking spot carries a $150 per-month maintenance fee.

“The overall lack of parking in the city, an ongoing problem with no end in sight, will only escalate such pricing,” said Adzem. 

She believes short supply could turn the seemingly lavish expense into a money-maker for owners, who could eventually resell their spot at a profit.

A car inside the automated parking garage at 520 West 28th where spots start at $450K.

Martien Mulder & Related

Across town, parking spots are even pricier in a building that was once home to popstar Ariana Grande and currently houses rock musician Sting and his film producer wife Trudie Styler.

The price to park at 520 West 28th Street starts at $450,000. 

The $16.5M penthouse at 520 W 28th St unfolds over the 15th & 16th floors, featuring a 2,040 sq ft terrace that wraps around the building’s curvaceous glass facade.

Colin Miller / Related

The luxe residence, designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid and developed by The Related Companies, includes a 4,500-square-foot penthouse currently on the market for $16.5 million. And according to listing agent Julie Pham of Corcoran, a parking space in the building’s garage can cost upwards of $595,000 more per vehicle.

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” Pham said of the unique amenity.

Residents can use an app to communicate with the so-called “secured parking portal” and remotely start the automated retrieval process so the car is ready to go when they are.

The $16.5M penthouse listing includes ten rooms and almost 4,500 sq ft of indoor living space, the asking price does not include parking.

Colin Miller / Related

While Pham wouldn’t reveal the identities of any past or present clients, she did tell CNBC the automated parking was a major draw for one famous resident, who had a security team examine the parking area prior to moving in.

The unnamed celebrity’s representatives OK’d the deal in part because the star could enter and exit the garage in total privacy, Pham said.

 “They liked the idea that you didn’t have to engage with a valet or an attendant, or that anyone couldn’t come in right behind you,” she said.

And during the pandemic, the broker said, residents who wanted to minimize their exposure to Covid-19 loved that they could deposit and retrieve their vehicle without handing over their keys to a valet.

While the automated spots are pricey, they’re not even close to NYC’s most expensive.

In recent years, some condo developers have pushed their asking prices for a basic concrete-and-yellow-stripe parking spot to the $1-million mark, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a firm specializing in real estate appraisals and consulting. Still, he said, it’s unlikely a spot with a 9-figure asking price has ever lured in an actual buyer.

“I never found evidence of their actual closings,” he told CNBC.

Miller, who analyzed public records at CNBC’s request, said one of the most expensive parking spots sold in town last year was located at 220 Central Park South, where a parking space went for an impressive $750,000. Miller said, based on public records, it appears connected to an apartment in the building that traded for $16 million.

“It’s really tough to track since most sales are embedded in the sale of a unit,” Miller told CNBC.

And it’s even tougher to track sales of spots in the newer automated systems, because, in many cases the spots are actually licensed to buyers, not deeded and sold like most real estate, according to brokers.

Miller said his best estimate for the going rate of a single NYC parking spot: “I think $300,000 to $400,000 is the sweet spot for new development.”

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