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First look: San Francisco’s newest luxury condos open at 181 Fremont

Business on the bottom, party at the top

The $850 million mixed-use tower at 181 Fremont made headlines this year after Instagram leased the lower part of the newly opened tower, filling the first 34 floors of the 55-story tower with tech ilk. But the real story (no offense, Insta) is what’s happening above the social media mammoth.

Jay Paul Company, a leading San Francisco developer, built the Heller Manus-designed 181 Fremont to stand as the tallest residential building on the West Coast. Aside from its eyebrow-cocking exterior—love it or loathe it, its shingled glass, damped mega-braces, and tapered spire set this tower apart from its clunky neighbors—the residential interiors by Hornberger + Worstell and Orlando Diaz-Azcuy won’t be ignored.

As homeowners enter their pricey new digs, they use the Fremont Street lobby (the Instagram lobby entrance is around the corner, between the building and Town Hall restaurant), hop on the elevators, and ascend up into their mini castles on a cloud. But before reaching the residential units, denizens have the option of chillin’ in the Sky Lounge, the midsection cutout of 18 Fremont.

Here, condo owners can hold business meetings with views of Twin Peaks, flex via yoga on the deck, take a spin class (the gym side of the lounge comes equipped with several Pelton bikes that retail at $2,000 a pop), read The Grapes of Wrath in the library, grab a cocktail at the bar, or relax next to the outdoor fireplace.

Next up, the sky-high homes. During the tour, we visited two units—one a $4.8 million pad; the other a $6.4 million abode. You know, no big deal.

What’s refreshing to see in a luxury residential high-rise is that it’s actually a luxury residential high-rise. Similar to overused terms like “genius” and “literally,” the word “luxury” gets tossed around thoughtlessly and liberally. Here, the tony descriptive—criminally misused in ad copy for many newfangled residences—is applicable.

From the handcrafted French door handles (featured on each unit) to the Italian marble aligning perfectly in the bathrooms (the marble seams are painstakingly matched to resemble Rorschach tests), these homes are where the elite will meet to eat and sleep—all of it designed by Bay Area-based Charles de Lisle, who helped conceive the interior designs.

De Lisle uses a blend of dark and natural tones to match the hues of blues care of ODADA, Diaz-Azcuy’s eponymous design firm. Most of the condos are move-in ready, which is ideal for multimillionaires sans design savvy.

Additional highlights include minimalist kitchens (which can be closed off for catered affairs) and—the unicorn of San Francisco high-rise real estate—bathrooms with windows.

The tower also boasts its own art collection, put together by Gagosian Gallery and Jessica Silverman Gallery, featuring pieces in the residential lobby; the Sky Lounge; and some of the show homes, which are available for purchase. (During our tour we saw a real Man Ray that, alas, was not for sale, but a pleb can dream.)

Should you choose to call 181 Fremont home, note that it comes with only 55 condominium homes and—get this—12 accessory suites (i.e., separate studio apartments not available for individual sale, but for homeowners to use as guest homes or au pair units).

The residences come in two- and three-bedroom condos ranging in size from over roughly 1,200 square feet to more than 2,500 square feet.

Not big enough for you? The full-floor penthouse, which is just shy of 7,000 square feet, is on the market for hair-pulling $42 million. Why not?

Residences start in the low $3 millions for two-bedrooms and mid $5 millions for three-bedrooms.

Note the Man Ray on the wall above the dining table.
Matt Lituchy, chief investment officer at Jay Paul Company.
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