Out and About: Panache vs. pragmatism

Terrace of $4.150 million townhouse

A new development in Hell’s Kitch– er, Clinton has had a loooong history.  And therein lies a tale.

The long history, of course, has to do with the amount of time it is taking to sell out the building, where sales started two years ago and which has impressively designed and finished interiors. In fact, the development won a 2007 design award from the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Combined living room, kitchen

Loaded with amenities, including garage spaces that run $130,000, the building has 51 open flats, 22 duplexes and penthouses, plus nine townhouses.

With preternaturally clean lines, sharp angles and an accent on drama, the units have expensive features such as honed white quartz countertops, marble-tiled baths with radiant heating, Corian- encased soaking tubs, floor-to-ceiling windows and wide-plank solid oak floors. At the top of the windows are molding and electrical service to accommodate remote-controlled shades, which would be mandatory for any owner facing south.

Penthouse staircase

On the downside is the allocation of space. In duplex and triplex apartments, the (albeit stylish;y sculptural) staircases consume a great deal of square footage and tend to make their presence obtrusive. For example, a $2.35 million penthouse is so burdened by the stairs that the living room becomes essentially a kitchen, which is lined against one wall.  Further, bedrooms that are not the master are generally on the small side, as is the case with most new developments.

But there is much to like about the condos — for example, the Bosch washers and dryers, the high-end appliances in the kitchen (Miele, Liebherr), the quality of the workmanship and, in the penthouses and townhouses, terraces.

The triplex townhouses, or maisonettes, of some 2,750 square feet have their own pluses and minuses.  The ceilings in the four-bedroom, three-bath property that is staged are 12.5-feet high, its inviting terrace consumes 695 square feet, and the great room with its open kitchen could not be more appealing.  The asking price is $4.15 million.

Townhouse entry

Then there is a subterranean, windowless room down a steep flight of stairs to the basement with access to the garage.  Perhaps it could be a gym, media room, children’s playroom or dungeon, though that space is about as offputting as the great room is welcoming.

When I checked Streeteasy, there were 47 recorded sales at an average price per square foot of $1,038.  Now, there are 26 apartments available at $1,380 square foot.

If you’re wondering whether prices might be negotiable, the answer seems evident.  And the listing broker, as listing brokers are wont to suggest, does indicate that there is room for negotiation.  Of course!

Here are some of the properties that are listed by various brokers and that I have seen:

  • On Amsterdam Avenue near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an 800-sf condo short of closets.  This two-bedroom, one-bath apartment has what amounts to a living room that doubles as a kitchen, arrayed as it is against one wall.  Each of the three rooms is small, but the updated unit has charm, flexibility, good light, quiet exposures and a combo washer/dryer instead of a dishwasher. In a pet-friendly 1909 building with part-time doorman, live-in super and uncommonly beautiful lobby from its original construction, the condo represents excellent value at $599,000, reduced from $649,000, with low monthly costs totaling $775.
  • In the high 70s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, a one-bedroom co-op that shows beautifully.  It has a handsome high-end kitchen separated from the living room by a slate-topped breakfast bar, dining “L” and stylish bath with green-glass tiles from floor to ceiling.  There are a wine cooler, built-in surround-sound system, herringbone floors, recessed lighting and custom closets.  With open exposures north, unfortunately over a playground, in a pet-friendly post-war low-rise lacking a doorman, this 874-sf unit seems way too aggressively priced at $875,000 with maintenance per month of $1,206.  Yet it went under contract last month.  (The purchase price early in the already well heated market of 2006 was $815,000.) 
  • A four-bedroom but only two-and-a-half-bath co-op in the very low 90s on a corner of Broadway.  The 2,500-sf apartment needs a minimum of $600,000 in improvements, and they cannot change the eastern exposures over the thoroughfare of three of the four bedrooms, including the master.  With nine rooms altogether, custom closets, French doors, built-in bookshelves, nicely renovated eat-in kitchen, washer/dryer, good layout, floors worn in spots and exceptional expanses of woodwork, the unit has much to offer.  In a 1909 building that has part-time doorman, roof deck, pet-friendly policy and prohibition of delivery persons beyond the lobby, the unit was aggressively priced at $3.675 million with maintenance of $2,570 a month.  Luckily for the sellers, it changed ownership at that price last month.  
  • In a Central Park block of Lincoln Square, a miserable junior one-bedroom apartment of 500 square feet.  This smelly and cramped unit has bad floors, older galley kitchen, dated small bath with tiles of bright robin’s-egg blue, and a living room that has no windows because of the wall erected to make a bedroom.  In a grim 1938 building with few amenities such as doorman, the apartment is listed for $379,000 with maintenance of $725 a month.  It has been on and off the market for as much as $550,000 since 2008, the last reduction having been $10,000 in January.  Not knowing the history at the time, I sought to commiserate with the listing broker by noting that the place was a hard sell.  “Why?” he asked, offended.  “How long has it been on the market?” I responded.  “A few months.” 
  • A depressing 600-sf co-op that questionably claims two bedrooms in the high 80s just west of Amsterdam Avenue.  With washer/dryer, small rooms, old kitchen and blocked exposures, the apartment was overpriced after a silly $15,000 cut to $540,000 at the time it went under contract in February.  Maintenance is $797 per month, and the right sold price must be close to $500,000.  

Tomorrow: Missed piggy

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you can privately search all available listings for your new home.

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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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