A city steal: Craig Spencer says The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton proffer the kind of big-scale, amenity-rich living popular in New York but at a fraction of the price.
Growing up, Craig A. Spencer’s life revolved around tennis. When famed coach Nick Bollettieri—who went on to train Andre Agassi and Venus and Serena Williams—opened up his academy in Florida, Spencer was in the first class. He later played for the University of Florida, historically among the country’s best collegiate teams. But away from the court, he knew that his real passion in life was business.
“In reality, I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and in real estate,” says Spencer, founder and CEO of Arden Group, a high-end Philly-based developer. “I peaked in tennis at 18. Some people say they will become a baseball player, or a tennis player. I always had a business mind-set, and here I am.”
“Here” is the literal center of the boom in high-end residential living in Center City: the 270 units and 48 stories of The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton. The superlatives are superlative: It is the tallest and highest quality residential building ever constructed in Philly. Residents can enjoy a private garden and have a chauffeur-driven luxury sedan at their disposal, along with all the services that come with being connected to the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel (which is also owned by an affiliate of Arden). Through the building’s glass walls, City Hall appears to be within arm’s reach from many living room windows.
The opening of Dilworth Park has been a boon for The Residences, which enjoyed brisk sales over the holiday season, typically the slowest quarter in real estate. From January 2014 to February 2015, 43 units were sold. Spencer says buyers seized the opportunity once the park began to take shape. “The Residences [can now] provide our owners the views and use of the world-class Dilworth Park—one of the best front yards in Philadelphia,” he says. “Dilworth is quickly becoming the centerpiece of [the city].”
Upper-level residences offer up-close views of the William Penn statue and panoramic Philly skyline.
Still available at The Residences, at press time, are five penthouses Spencer calls “the most dramatic ever built in Philadelphia.” The $14 million top-floor home, located on the 48th floor (the other remaining penthouses, priced between $6 million and $7 million, take up the 46th and 47th floors), is 8,600 square feet with ceiling heights up to 12 feet, plus another 2,000 square feet of outdoor balcony space and 360-degree views of the Philadelphia skyline that bring guests up close with the William Penn statue. Says Spencer, “This is likely one of the most unique [residential] spaces in the US today.”
Spencer came to Philly from Atlanta, where he went to law school. He always wanted to be in the Northeast, “and Philadelphia seemed like a good place to start.” He worked in law firms and real estate before founding Arden—named after his mother, who died when he was in college—in 1989. Spencer now lives in the western suburbs with his wife, B.J., and their four children. Like any new business, he says, it was not an immediate success. “I thought I could do big deals right away, but I soon realized I needed to have a track record before doing $100 million deals, so I lowered the price points,” he says with a chuckle.
Spencer feels The Residences is the premier residential building in the city, not because there aren’t other good properties, but because of the overall quality of the design and construction, as well as the pedigree of luxury associated with Ritz-Carlton. With its 270 units, The Residences was conceived as offering exclusivity and elegance, he says, but with a real sense of place and community, too, which smaller buildings can have a hard time achieving.
He says Philadelphia has never gotten its due, always hearing it’s not-New York or not-Washington. Spencer argues that Philadelphia could be considered the best location in the country, being nearly equidistant from New York (the financial capital of the world) and DC (the political capital), which makes the city’s real estate market prime for 2015. “You can buy a Ritz condo for $800 a square foot, and in New York, it is $4,000 to $6,000 a square foot,” he says. “This is a walkable city with renowned restaurants, historical sites, and education.” For more information, contact Gary Greenip, The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, 1414 S. Penn Sq., 215-851-8000