Forget this glassy Hollywood Hills mansion or that shiny new Bel Air palace, real estate marketers would have you believe that the hottest new Los Angeles mega-homes are “mansions in the sky,” condos in the swank residential skyscrapers popping up all over the city. With Manhattan-style services like 24/7 concierge and valet, room service and in-house restaurants, they provide amenities even the glitziest single-family homes can’t match.
And suddenly, it’s not just one or two developments. There’s the chunky 8899 Beverly building, the twin towers of the five-star Century Plaza project, Beverly Grove’s Four Seasons condo tower, and the sexy Pendry Residences on the Sunset Strip. Those are just the biggest projects under construction; that’s not counting previously established players like the iconic Sierra Towers, The Century, or the ultra-luxe Montage Residences in Beverly Hills.
Then there’s the West Hollywood Edition, the slick new hotel/residential combo developed by NYC veteran Steve Witkoff and designed by John Pawson and Ian Schrager. Besides being one of the hottest new buildings in town, the Edition is notable for having just 20 residences atop the hotel portion of the complex; the place is smaller, and more an exclusive boutique in feel than most other developments. Starting at $4 million and rising rapidly from there, the residences’ prices are prohibitive, but buyers have been forthcoming. At least 15 of the units have sold since the initial launch last year, according to property records.
Credit L.A.’s renewed interest in luxury condo living — once mostly restricted to the elderly and infirm — to a demographic shift in the elite circle of folks who can afford these buildings. Today’s jetsetting billionaires are younger than ever, and also decidedly more globally nomadic, far more inclined to split their time between several cities. And unlike their parents, many of these millennials don’t yet see the value in keeping a huge house they barely use. Even for the very wealthy, the exorbitant costs of maintaining an A-list-style estate — upkeep, security, staffing, landscaping, utilities — present an undesirable burden, particularly if the place is only occupied a few weeks per year.
Think of it as a sort of Marie Kondo twist on lavish lifestyles. Today’s young trust-funders and moguls want simplicity and structure on the home front. Who wants to deal with contractors and house managers? With 24/7 concierge and security, plus a trained staff to wash cars, cater to every whim, there’s no need to worry about whether the maid emptied the mailbox or hauled the trashcans out every Tuesday night. And the jetliner views that a sky penthouse provides? That’s just a bonus.
Crafty developers are cognizant of the shift in buyers tastes, but the increasingly crowded condo market presents a challenge for even the smartest marketers. WeHo’s Edition has distinguished itself by aiming for maximum glitz, from its high-style lobby to the residential units that are far more glammy than those of staid established rivals — Sierra Towers, The Century, Montage — as they target a younger and friskier demographic. Besides the chic contemporary decor, the Edition has an A+ location right on the Sunset Strip, directly across from trendy nightclub 1OAK and walking distance to the Soho House. A gorgeous rooftop pool is perfect for influencer-style photoshoots. Sex sells, and here it has successfully drawn in a (relatively) young crop of buyers, although family-oriented billionaires have, as expected, shied away.
Take four of the top penthouses at The Century — they’re owned by “Friends” actor Matthew Perry, Candy Spelling, Walmart billionaire Vicki Walters, and Russian oligarch Sergey Grishin, respectively — all old enough to qualify for full AARP benefits. At the Montage, the story is basically identical. Owners there include Judge Judy, Stan Kroenke, and Ariadne Getty, all of whom lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis.
By contrast, buyers at the Edition are no less wealthy but have skewed significantly younger. Steve Aoki, the dance music tycoon and son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, became one of the first residents to move into the building when sales began closing in 2019. Last September, prolific songwriter Ryan Tedder joined him by paying $6.3 million for his own unit — despite already owning a $12 million Beverly Hills estate and an $8 million WeHo retreat in the same general area.
Tech money has flowed into the Edition, too. Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, 34, paid $5.2 million for a crash pad in the building last year, though that didn’t stop him from subsequently shelling out nearly $19 million for Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s Bel Air mansion.
A handful of buyers are just young at heart, like “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan. Fresh off a highly-publicized divorce from longtime wife Krista Levitan, the television mogul paid $14.1 million for his deluxe bachelor pad in the sky. Then there’s nightlife impresario Michael Hirtenstein, owner of Hollywood hotspot Catch LA, a favorite of every influencer and reality TV starlet on the planet. Hirtenstein’s swanky Edition digs ran him $7.2 million.
There are two penthouses in the building; one is still owned by the Witkoffs and has been privately marketed for sale in the $20 million range, according to people familiar with the unit. The other penthouse was sold for $15.5 million last October to Natasha and Nick Gross, he the 32-year-old only child of divorced billionaires Sue Gross and Bill Gross.
Other reported buyers are Farah and Fajer Al Rajaan, the socialite daughters of exiled Kuwaiti government official Fahad Al Rajaan. The elder Al Rajaan currently enjoys a lavish lifestyle in London, far away from his native Kuwait, where he’s been sentenced to life in prison in absentia, charged with embezzling as much as $850 million from government coffers.
The latest Edition transaction, a $7.2 million condo sold earlier this month, was acquired by Jose Seripieri Filho, a prominent Brazilian businessman recently arrested in his home country in connection with a multimillion-dollar political slush fund.
These residents — some savvy moguls, some trust-funders, some possible money launderers, but all of them jetsetters with no credit limits and highly visible lives — fit neatly into the unofficial ethos of L.A.’s new high-rise condo complexes. Through their influence, the Edition and its competitors hope these young, influential buyers will become unpaid brand ambassadors, indirectly upping the mystique of sky-high living. Aoki has tens of millions of followers across social media, while Mateen introduced one of young L.A.’s most-used apps; both are local social fixtures. The Al Rajaans are well-known in high society circles from L.A. to Milan, particularly younger sister Fajer, who has more than 130,000 followers on Instagram and has previously been spotted out on the town with good friend Kim Kardashian West.
Beyond all the amenities, current Edition homeowners say one of the building’s biggest attractions is a feature it actually lacks: affordable housing, something that has been mandated in other developments. 8899 Beverly and Pendry have the low-income units, while the Edition, Four Seasons and Century Plaza, due to their size and location, do not. Residents at those developments rest easy with the peculiar comfort of knowing all their neighbors are also exorbitantly wealthy, for better or worse.
That’s not to say life at the Edition is totally a pampered fairytale. Just 9 months after buying his snazzy penthouse, Nick Gross has abruptly put it back up for sale, this time tagged with an $18.5 million ask. Sources familiar with the building said Gross — who didn’t comment for this story — was upset about the quality of finishes in his three-bedroom unit, as well as a recurring water intrusion issue.
Then there’s the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the hotel industry worldwide. The Edition has been hit particularly hard. This spring, only a few months after the well-received soft opening, the hotel shuttered; reopening has been delayed until October, at the earliest. In the meantime, residents say they’ve continued to pay their full HOA dues but are receiving a restricted amount of amenities, with no valet parking, no restaurant, and a very limited number of hotel services.
Still, the teething issues are mostly forgiven with a visit to the rooftop deck and pool area, where the magic carpet of city lights is spread out under your feet. It doesn’t take much more convincing that the development, and others like it, herald a new era for Los Angeles luxury living, though it’s unclear if the era is a permanent shift or just a passing fad that will end once millennials (and Instagram) age into extinction. As the sun sets, the L.A. skyline is framed against the orange horizon, providing the perfect selfie backdrop.