Out and About: Studios built not only for sleeping

Central Park Studios, at 15 W. 67th St., is one building of several originally designed for artists on that block.

Rare is the individual who can resist the ineffable charm, halo of history and peerless patina of apartments created as studios for visual artists and musicians.  They exist predominantly, though not exclusively, on the Upper West Side.

Buildings created with artists in mind often feature some combination of soaring ceilings, leaded-glass windows, British overtones, ornamental woodwork and, naturally, great northern light.

I can think of such buildings on Central Park South, above Carnegie Hall and in the Lincoln Square area.

There is almost nothing like them, and that undoubtedly explains the premiums they normally command. I spent an hour or so inspecting three of the four apartments that are on the market in a 1903 building on W. 67th St. (known as Artists’ Row)  near Central Park and was struck by how different each of them was from the others and how infrequently units there come on the market; until now, the last time was in 2009.

The smallest of the ones I visited was a 750-sf studio with 11.5-foot beamed ceiling, oversize window, original claw-foot bathtub and gnarled kitchen with an eye-catching stove that surely is a true antique. 

I loved the Old World ambiance of the place, enhanced by the building’s old-fashioned elevator with wrought-iron gates.

The asking price of the co-op is $900,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,068, and the question any buyer will ask is what value to allot to charm as a tradeoff for any semblance of modernity.

With two bedrooms, two baths, a pricetag of $2.395 million and maintenance per month of $2,011, the second unit had all of its original appeal erased in the 1960s.  Renovations undertaken then all-too-accurately evoke that period.

At the same time, the bones of the expansive apartment remain, and there would be considerable opportunity to the turn the corner co-op into a very comfortable living space.  Whether the cost of obliterating the recent past is a burden most buyers would willingly shoulder is an open question.

The third, and most expensive, apartment is an eccentric 2,300-sf duplex with undeniable appeal.  It has 18-foot ceilings; a wood-burning fireplace; walls, molding and ceilings encrusted with wood; modernized kitchen in need of an upgrade; a massive room intended for dining on a banquet scale; and floors that will have to be refinished.

On the second level are a balcony cum library evocative of old times, three smallish bedrooms, two of the unit’s two and a half baths, and a washer/dryer.

Because this co-op apartment, which carries a monthly maintenance charge of $3,855, is so unlike others in the city, I’m going to fudge on my opinion of the market value.

Listed at a reduced price of $4,695,000, it is worth what it is worth to someone consumed by its rarity.

In the only truly robust segment of our housing market right now, the luxury market, a buyer, in fact, bit recently; the unit went under contract a little over a week ago for an amount that we won’t know for a while.

Below are other properties that I’ve seen recently; they are listed by various brokers:

  • A two-bedroom, two-bath co-op between Broadway and Columbus Avenue in the low 70s.  Burdened by a living room that is too small in comparison with a master bedroom that is relatively too big, an inexpensively updated open kitchen that seems out of place, hollow-core doors installed during a renovation longer ago than five years, standard-height ceilings, drywall and blocked exposures, the apartment does enjoy a whirlpool bath, hardwood floors and some original details.  The asking price of $799,000 with maintenance per month of $1,640 is within negotiating range.
  • In the high 80s west of Broadway, a market-chasing two-bedroom, two-bath condo that was offered last June for $1.2 million and has been off and on since then.  With marginally renovated kitchen and baths, a built-in unit in the master bedroom, central air conditioning and good closets sporting bifold doors, this apartment in a 1987 mid-rise chock-a-block with amenities is listed at a twice-reduced $1.05 million with maintenance of $1,787, excluding a $500 reimbursement from the current owner.  Too much by definition, especially given the need of a cosmetic upgrade.
  • A lovely 2,200-sf co-op with a great view of the Museum of Natural History and Central Park in the high 70s.  This winningly renovated apartment in a distinguished, but dog-averse, 1926 building with only a part-time doorman has three bedrooms, three baths, a maid’s room, dining room, ample closet, washer/dryer, skim-coated walls, architectural flourishes and a handsome eat-in kitchen with perfectly serviceable appliances that the new owner likely will want to replace.  Having gone on the market in early February at $3.495 million, the unit last month endured the first of what promises to be more price cuts and now is at $3.3 million with monthly maintenance of $3,619.
  • In Lincoln Square, a basic 550-sf, one-bedroom apartment listed by a broker who cannot be bothered with supplying an information sheet, getting off her butt or lifting her eyes from her smart phone.  The condo’s insupportable asking price is $595,000 with an assessment of $111 until February, common charges of $325 and real estate taxes of $415 per month.
  • A 550-sf alcove studio in the same dog-averse 1964 building as the apartment above.  With views west, standard-height ceilings, exceptional closet space, dated bath and old interior kitchen, this condo has an asking price of $495,000 with monthly costs totaling $703.  Surprisingly, there is no written disclosure of an assessment, and, even more surprisingly, it went under contract a couple of days ago.
  • In the high 90s in a Riverside Park block, a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath co-op that reeks of a sponsor renovation, though it is a re-sale.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the work, except its ersatz ambiance and questionable design decisions.  The living room and master bedroom have southern street views, the baths are acceptable and the approximately 1,000-sf unit provides merely adequate space.  In a building with one of the friendliest doormen ever, as well as a live-in super, this unit is substantially overpriced at $965,000 with maintenance of $1,486 a month.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

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