Lofts waxed as fashionable; will they wane? (NY Times article 3.19.06)

The March 19, 2006 NY Times wondered on the front page of the real estate section about Manhattan apartment fashion Is Prewar Losing Its Status to Glass?


In contrasting classic prewar styling with “glass-wrapped [new condo] towers”, the Times claims the newbies have created “an entirely new category of Manhattan real estate”. The thrust of the article is that this New Style will — or maybe won’t — trump (no pun intended) the grand prewar classics as the places to be. (Hint: the great prewars will always be great for the people who like that sort of thing.)


But the Times makes an interesting point about trendy real estate development, and whether the ‘trendy’ will last. In many ways the success of early loft conversions in the 1980s and 1990s were the trendsetters of their day, leading directly to the Nouveau Condominiums profiled by the Times.


Loft living then (and still) was a significantly different way to use space than “apartment” living (prewar, postwar or no-war), and so attracted many of the Art-erati, which popularized lofts for the next generation of buyers. Loft living became fashionable, and fashions do change.




I think the great take-away from the Times piece is the recognition that the things that make classic prewars “classic” will remain (the wonderful ‘flow’ of rooms, boulevard locations, the proportions, and the relatively high ceilings) so that there is likely to be a market segment willing to pay for these elements into the future.


Not so — necessarily — the slapdash construction from the 1960s through 1980s in buildings that were built as rentals and converted to coops or condos. The buildings from this era that will suffer in the market personify “cookie cutter”, with low ceilings (often ‘popcorn’) and no sense of proportion.


But many loft buildings contain units that are “classic” (vast, flexible space, ‘character’, high ceilings, much light), so they are likely to attract a market segment “always”.


That’s my story, at least, and I am sticking to it.


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