How much would you pay for an empty lot in a highly desirable location? If you fancy moving to southern California, Pimco's Bill Gross might have the perfect place for you: an 18,150-square-foot bayfront lot in Harbor Island which he's selling for $26.5 million. According to Redfin, the buildable square footage on the site is 9,734, which puts the price at $2,722 per buildable square foot or $1,460 per raw square foot.
It's instructive to compare, here, the most famous sale of an empty lot in Manhattan: the area bounded by Central Park West, Broadway, 61st Street, and 62nd Street. The lot eventually became 15 Central Park West, where the apartments ended up selling for a total of $2 billion.
The price on that lot was $401 million: a record $690 per buildable square foot, or roughly a quarter of what Gross is asking. On a raw-square-foot basis, a bit of fiddling with Google Maps and the Photoshop Measure tool puts the lot size at about 63,000 square feet, which means that the lot was sold for about $6,365 per raw square foot — and remember that 15 Central Park West has 201 units and rises as much as 35 stories.
The difference is partially a function of construction costs: 15 Central Park West cost a good $1 billion to build, while a California mansion can be put up for a small fraction of the value of the lot. But still, in the context of property values continuing to slump across the country, it's striking that the top end of the market seems to be immune to such pressures. While everybody else is hurting, the plutocrats — whether in Manhattan or Newport Beach — just go on accumulating their millions, blithely unaffected by any downturn.