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Luxury high-rise near Dilworth Plaza dedicated

The Center City high-rise condo market may be soft these days, but Residences at Ritz-Carlton developer Craig Spencer won't let it get the better of his bottom line.

"I turned down a $1.3 million all-cash sale from a buyer who wanted me to cut the price by $50,000," Spencer said yesterday as he showed a visitor the 8,000-square-foot unfinished penthouse at the top of the 43-story, 270-unit building at 15th Street and South Penn Square.

Spencer told the bargain-hunting buyer that he "wasn't going to destroy the values we built into this project," which cost his Arden Group about $300 million.

"I knew that the minute he closed, he'd tell me not to do the same thing for anyone else," he said.

Prices for the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units range from the $500,000s to $12 million.

By contrast, the 40 condos at the Murano at 21st and Market Streets that will be auctioned June 27 start at $249,000, with prices averaging about 50 percent of what they were listed for originally.

On the day he formally dedicated his luxury high-rise, and gave city and Center City District officials a chance to describe plans for a $45-million revamping of Dilworth Plaza, overlooked by the Residences, Spencer acknowledged that 80 units had closed so far in a market that saw one-third fewer new condo sales in the first quarter of 2009 than in the 2008 period.

Spencer also says that he'll likely lose half of 37 pending agreements - "for a variety of reasons, including being unable to get a mortgage, and other things I cannot do anything about."

Yet, unlike other condo developers who need to get sales moving to avert significant financial problems, Spencer said he has five years to completely sell out the building, "and I expect to do it in less time than that," so he is unwilling to deal.

"It's just like this penthouse," Spencer said, looking around a huge space where, on the east deck, you come face to face with the signs on top of the PSFS and PNB buildings. "I've gotten several people looking, but they haven't been sincere."

"They ask for a discount, they get zero," Spencer said.

At the dedication ceremonies, Mayor Nutter recalled the events of Feb. 23, 1991, when fire ravaged One Meridian Plaza, the building that had previously occupied the site, killing three firefighters and injuring 24.

"To ensure that no one will ever forget what happened here, there will be a memorial near the entrance honoring those 27," Nutter said.

Spencer said Fire Department officials had designed the memorial, which will be dedicated in the fall.

The Dilworth Plaza project, in which Spencer, the state and city and the Center City District are participating, will replace the steps and walls with a lawn, and add a programmable fountain, a cafe with a Parkway view and metal and glass pavilions, said Nancy Goldenberg, the district's vice president.

As for the city's share of the project, Nutter said that, "as with many of our checks in these tough economic times, it is in the mail and you will be receiving it in the future."

Spencer smiled at Nutter.

"I'd be happy to send a courier for the check if it would make it easier," Spencer said.