Back Bay’s One Dalton building. Condominium sale prices haven’t been able to match the dizzying heights of Boston’s two most prominent luxury condominium towers. Image courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Despite its bumper crop of new luxury condominium towers, Boston won’t be joining the gilded world of $100 million penthouses anytime soon. 

When first the Millennium Tower and then the new Four Seasons skyscraper joined Boston’s skyline, it looked as if New York-style prices had finally arrived in our humble Hub. 

The towers opened with a bang, with Millennium’s grand penthouse hitting the market at $45 million in 2016. 

And the Four Seasons, a.k.a. One Dalton, opened three years later, brokers abuzz with talk that the three tower-topping, double-decker penthouses would each fetch well over $40 million. 

However, it is pretty clear five years on that Boston condo prices, even at the pinnacle of the city’s market, won’t be giving the Big Apple a run for its money anytime soon. 

Penthouse Follies 

The Millennium Tower’s grand penthouse was the first piece of this delusion to crumble. 

Sure, when news of the sale of the penthouse first broke, it seemed as if there might be some truth after all to all the hype about the tower and the uber-expensive condos. 

Sure developer Millennium Partners, one of the most prolific builders of downtown Boston condos over the past two decades, didn’t quite get the price it had hoped for. 

The palatial, 13,256-square-foot unit sold for a mere $35 million in August 2016. Now, that was a far cry from the original $45 million price-tag of the 10-and-a-half bathroom, eight-bedroom unit in the sky above Boston, it still marked a city record. 

But just a little over two years later, the buyer, billionaire investor John Grayken, put the penthouse back on the market, seeking to sell it for its initial list price. 

And there it still sits, unsold, nearly three years later. It makes you wonder how serious Grayken was in buying the unit in the first place, as opposed to seeing an opportunity to buy and flip it for a cool $10 million gain. 

One Dalton Is 1 for 3 

But there were even higher price hopes for One Dalton, which, when it came to sale of its three penthouses on the tower’s top floor, supposed to leave even the swanky Millennium Tower in the dust. 

When the tower opened, the three penthouse units atop the 61-story tower were being marketed at $40 million each. Combined, that would have been $120 million, a positively Manhattan-like payday. 

And luxurious they are. At around 7,200 square feet each, the double-decker penthouses at One Dalton are triple the size of your average suburban home and come with spacious outdoor balconies, a private elevator entrance, fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling windows. 

But as we head towards the mid-point of 2021, only one of the three penthouses has definitively sold, with fetching a strong, but not exactly stunning $34 million, a million less than the Millennium penthouse fetched. 

A second penthouse at One Dalton hit the market for $34 million last spring, while a third was reportedly under contract, though there have been no further signs of that deal. 

New York Steams Ahead 

By contrast, buyers are showing no such reluctance in New York, with various tycoons shattering the city’s price record once again as we head into the summer months. 

A buyer recently plunked down a whopping $157 million for two units at 220 Central Park South, a tower along a gilded Manhattan corridor dubbed Billionaire’s Row. 

That paled in comparison to billionaire Ken Griffith’s $238 million deal for four floors at the limestone tower near Columbus Circle in 2019. 

In both cases, we are talking about big deals for big space – one for two units, the other for four floors. 

But buyers in New York are also ready, willing and able to spend a lot more for a lot less space than they would get in Boston. 

Scott Van Voorhis

The top sale in May in New York was a $33 million unit, also at 220 Central Park South, for a three-bedroom luxury crash pad with a little over 3,200 square feet. While it has great views of Central Park, that’s less than half the size of the One Dalton unit that’s on the market for $34 million, and that’s a penthouse with probably even better views. 

The mixed results when it comes to sales of these uber luxurious penthouse units in Boston points to a price ceiling of sorts. 

We may finally have reached the high-water mark of Boston’s luxury condo building boom that began in earnest two decades ago.  

This is clearly a league that Boston can’t compete in, and may never will. 

Scott Van Voorhis is Banker & Tradesman’s columnist; opinions expressed are his own. He may be reached at   

Boston’s Luxury Condos Have Hit Their Limit

by Scott Van Voorhis time to read: 3 min