banging the View Diligence drum (again), for Glass Farmhouse loft views from 448 West 37 Street

once more into the breach
Do you see the light gray band that stretches from 37th Street to 36th Street in the middle of the block between 9th and 10th Avenues on this building map from locating that terrific Manhattan loft building at 448 West 37 Street, the Glass Farmhouse? The 36th Street side lies pretty much in direct line between the Glass Farmhouse and the Empire State Building. (Look at the main listing photo for the August 2011 sale of loft #9D for how nicely framed the ESB can be from here.)  

If the litigious folks at Extell Development have their way (and if they have or can get enough development rights) that view might go away, as The Real Deal reported yesterday that Extell just closed on the purchase of two parking garages and one parking lot, at 430 West 37th Street, 434 West 37th Street and 429 West 36th Street. These sites are just east and just southeast of the Glass Farmhouse.

There is nothing in TRD about potential uses for these sites (hotels seems to be the development of the month idea) and nothing about the scale of development rights that come with (or can be bundled onto) these sites. But if I were a Manhattan loft buyer interested in the relative bargains to be had in the region of the Far West 30s that I long ago dubbed Big Sky Country (as below), or an agent with such clients, I would keep this potential project in mind, to check any view angles before signing any contracts.

Is it just my mind that flits from one set of breaking ‘news’ to another (ADD, anyone?), or is the flurry of recent stories about Manhattan sites being acquired for potential future development a real sign of coming economic recovery? Dunno … but this is a drum I have hit quite a few times in the last few months.

View Diligence should come with the territory
The most recent and most pertinent bang on that drum was in my December 20, 2011, development watch: West 28 Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues, in which the (new) bold should help you get my drift more quickly:

Some stories are perennials. For the Manhattan media wing of the Real Estate Industrial Complex it might be one emerging trend (families move to suburbs for quiet!) or its opposite (families move back to city because suburbs are too quiet!). For someone without a REIC card like Manhattan Loft Guy, it might be new development is new, or developing neighborhoods develop. All of which is a roundabout way of responding to the story reported yesterday in Crain’s (though I saw the version in The Real Deal) that a new hotel might be coming to Chelsea’s (former) Flower District ….

As noted, this issue is coming up a lot lately and, because some Manhattan loft areas are less mature (or protected) than Tribeca or Soho, it often comes up where there are residential lofts. Yesterday it was the high 30s west of 9th Avenue. Above, it was the old flower district, east and 10 blocks south of the Glass Farmhouse.

In my July 28, 2011, NFL guy sells loft at 347 West 39 Street, Observer gets facts wrong (again), it was the northeast views at issue nearby (that post was mostly about bashing The New York Observer for a lack of fact-checking but enough about views in the Glass Farmhouse area [aka Greater Barishnik-ville] that I offered “[t]he problem with the north “views” in this building … I believe, is that there was a large tower going up; the south views, however, had an angled view of the river”).

Just a little bit farther east, still in the West 30s, I catalogued some classic loft buildings that might have at-risk views over a planned (you guessed it) hotel development in my August 18, much diligence due over planned hotel in West 37 Street. I started that post this way, so I guess I am repeating my self (deal with it!):

Part of the charm of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere), for me and I suspect for many people, is that they may be ‘developing’ neighborhoods, with a certain vitality missing from more staid (mature) residential areas and (often, at least early) a discount from the overall market because the ‘developing’ neighborhood may be a little more gritty than mature residential areas.

Part of the risk of living in loft neighborhoods (in Manhattan and elsewhere) that are ‘developing’ neighborhoods is that they … uhhh … will continue to develop.

if you are buying views, View Vigilance must be a subset of Due Diligence
In terms of process, I referred to the kind of information resources that are available in my October 9, 2011, diligence due + negligence committed as West 15 Street lofts + East 15 Street apartments lose views, which was in response to a

[t]errific piece by VToy in [that same] day’s Sunday real estate section of the New York Times, Is That A Bulldozer I Hear? The subtle take-away is that New York City apartment or loft owners who are concerned about the potential ramifications of development sites nearby should remain vigilant (not just diligent)

Indeed, for the specific view diligence issues on West 15 Street that VToy highlighted in October, I wondered way back in my January 9, 2011, loft that missed The Peak at 30 West 15 Street comes back to sell, modestly but successfully, whether a buyer across the street knew that the view was about to be lost.

Can you count on your attorney (or agent?) if you are a buyer? Maybe, but if it were my money I would keep my eyes and ears open, and figure out how the marshall The Google as my friend. I touched on that process point just a few weeks ago, in my December 28, did your attorney use The Google for due diligence? would help at 150 Nassau Street, about a different kind of diligence issue (repairs and assessments) that might not have been revealed in traditional diligence materials (board minutes and the like).

taking, and giving
With the proliferation of uber-lofts and the continued grinding down the rough edges in many Manhattan loft neighborhoods, there are not as many truly pioneering loft areas in Manhattan as there were (east Bushwick fans, take note!). But as I said above in quoting myself from a month ago: some stories are perennials; two pieces from the Manhattan Loft Guy 2006 archives hammer that home:

My July 11, 2006, Now you see it (and pay for it), now you don’t / what are views worth?, was occasioned by an article in The Real Deal that directly bore on this risky-views-in-developing-nabes issue (hint: “development … can both destroy views and increase real estate values”). In other words, the thing that ruins your view might also increase the value of your loft and your enjoyment of living there.

My July 31, 2006, More on lofts with views / Big Sky Country in the West 30s, is unusual because it had (a) pictures [there can’t be more than 2 or 3 other Manhattan Loft Guy posts with photos] and (b) made reference to then-active listings (though not identified by name). The point was that there were million dollar views at less than a million bucks in the West 30s (Big Sky Country, ha!) but that the views should not be understood as perpetual: “As grist for a future blog post, a couple of these buildings have nearby development slated which will impact some of the views, but that is for another day….” I did not use the Note to self … reminder way back then, but it is nice to see that (once in a while) I get back to topics noted “for another day”.

Methinks I will be back to this topic again. And again. And ….

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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