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Rachel Medalie and detail rendering of 300 West (Douglas Elliman) Rachel Medalie and detail rendering of 300 West (Douglas Elliman)
Rachel Medalie, power broker at Douglas Elliman and Bespoke Living principal, remains undaunted by the coronavirus pandemic. She launched sales at Harlem's 300 West last summer, a time when no one knew what was going to happen next. But in the first 60 days on the market alone, the building signed more than 20 contracts; it also racked up a waitlist of 700 registrants.

Rachel's work on new development sales throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Long Island City has allowed her to become well versed in all facets of development projects - from the ground up to marketing and sell-out - and her experience purchasing, selling, renting, and developing her own properties gives her a unique viewpoint. Her drive and tenacity have helped her cultivate an extensive client base, but it is her ability to read people and commitment to client satisfaction that sets her apart. We spoke to Rachel about her latest project 300 West, her perspectives as both a developer and a broker, and her thoughts on a post-COVID New York.
300 West 122d Street Renderings of 300 West credit of Asthetique)

Can you tell me about your background and how you homed in on new development sales?

New developments and being a broker have been a passion of mine since I first walked through the real estate door in 2008. It's simply what I've always done and I am really blessed to do what I love. I eventually purchased my own building and learned the nuances of the business more. I'm a salesperson by nature—I love working with people, and you really have to gain and maintain people's trust fairly quickly in this business.
You have a wide range of experience steering and marketing new developments. What is your role in shaping new projects?

Since I am design-obsessed as well, I assist in the top-to-bottom planning of new buildings and care about the aesthetics of a project on many different levels. As a long-time broker, I know what buyers want—I speak with them every day. I've learned what they find important and unimportant and where our team should place our priorities in order to deliver the best product out there. It really makes the sales process much easier.
What is the most meaningful development you've worked on so far?

300 West - it's my current project, and my largest and most beautiful building to date. I fell in love with Harlem doing several smaller projects, including the restoration and conversion of four townhouse buildings. The architecture of the neighborhood really appealed to me, so it was very meaningful when we got on our hands on the 300 West project site.

The neighborhood has never seen this level of finishes. When we say luxury, it's because our product is in a different league compared to what's out there. Buyers are recognizing that. We encourage everyone to shop around to understand value. When they come back to 300 West, they better understand the level of detail and that the extent of the amenity package is unseen at this price point.
300 West condos Exterior rendering of 300 West, Rachel's latest new condo development

We've heard 300 West has attracted a good deal of early interest. Are the prospective buyers neighborhood locals, New Yorkers coming from other parts of the city, or even foreigners?

We are receiving a really nice healthy mix of everybody — not so many foreigners, however, for obvious reasons. Many Manhattanites coming from downtown, looking for more value. One such buyer is in contract to combine three apartments for $4.65M.

We are also seeing local buyers from the neighborhood who want to upgrade in Harlem but haven't had the chance to buy into this level of quality until now. A unit is now in-contract with someone who owns a townhouse nearby and wanted a new development that could provide the comfort of living in a building with a doorman and hotel-like amenities. That's why we are selling so well, and our prices are $1,000/ft2 less than competing developments like Circa.
Upper floor homes have near floor-to-ceiling windows

What does 300 West offer that stands apart from the competition?

Our general feedback from buyers is that we offer a combination of value and quality they are not seeing elsewhere. The building is at a perfect location in southwest Harlem with a quiet residential feeling, but an easy walk to the express subway line that gets you door-to-door into Midtown in ten minutes. It's also a 10-minute walk to Columbia University.

Second is the club-style, A-Z amenity package for those who want a pool and a gym. Finally, it's how we've paid attention to design. Our finishes are a different league compared to other buildings. Everything is marble, no porcelain. We have eight-foot-tall windows that let lots of light in without making you feel overly exposed. We have views of Central Park to the south and Morningside Park to the west. That's why in this COVID market we've been doing well. So to answer your question, we don't compete.
Residents' lounge
Fitness center

Issac and Stern are the architects, and Paris Forino the interior designer. How did your team collaborate together to come up with the final design and finishes?

We work with an amazing team. And the product speaks for it. When we bought the development site, there was an already-approved design ready to be built. We didn't think it belonged in the neighborhood — it looked too commercial. We went to Issac and Stern and said we need to completely redesign this. We started from scratch because we needed a building to respect its surroundings.

Paris would obviously elevate the spaces. We wanted a modern building but carrying a traditional feel that works with the fabric of the neighborhood. It really has a feel of Harlem, rather than a building that belongs somewhere downtown.
300-west-122nd-street Unbuilt design for the site by previous developer
200-West-122nd Street Construction progress as of January 2021
Harlem condos Rendering of 300 West's eastern elevation overlooking St. Nicholas Avenue

For someone unfamiliar with Harlem but considering a move, what are some aspects you would like to point out?

Here you are in Manhattan surrounded by great green spaces with Central Park close by and the ease of transportation downtown and to the West Side Highway. The other great thing is the feel of the neighborhood: wine shops and specialty shops that provide a great collective feel. And that's why we moved here. Buyers are bored with the Upper West Side. We have a map in our sales gallery to show you all the things to do. Buyers should spend some time in the neighborhood, go to dinner, and take a walk around.
Morningside Park Brownstones in Harlem

Do you think COVID-19 will have long-lasting effects on urban markets in terms of desire, design, or safety measures?

For the short term, definitely in terms of design. At 300 West, we put in a residents' library to accommodate more people working from home. Some of our units already come with private outdoor space — there's definitely more of a desire for those things. I'm less sure of long-lasting effects. I think people forget fairly quickly. When COVID is no longer a day-to-day battle, I think the world will be okay, and we will remember the pandemic as a horrible moment in history. It has been life-changing. But I believe we will move forward from this fairly quickly.

I started out as a broker in 2008 — a tough market — but I learned how to put deals together in a more detailed, thorough process. Like the recession, this is going to pass and some surprising things might be gained. Everything is cyclical. But if I were one of the ones who ran away upstate, I would die of boredom. While living in the city is expensive, I don't think the suburban or rural lifestyle satisfies most New Yorkers full-time.

Finally, what's your outlook for the city's residential market?

Buyer confidence is coming back. Before the election, we had quite a few interested buyers but many were awaiting the final results. But regardless of who is president and what exact future day COVID is eradicated, people need a place to live. We are not selling $20 million apartments. They are homes for people to live in.
300 West 122nd Street Rooftop Terrace (Rendering credit: Asthetique)

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