loft lovers trade light on Fifth Avenue in Flatiron for dark space on 24th Street in Chelsea

Manhattan loft voyeurs unite!

Long-time readers of Manhattan loft Guy know that I am interested somewhat obsessed with the choices that folks make when it comes to Manhattan lofts. The folks who traded the “1,750 sq ft” Manhattan loft #7B at 105 Fifth Avenue were evidently enamored of light and condition (the space was babbled as being “stunningly renovated” and was “bathed in natural light”, with “stunning architectural details”), but maybe they needed more than 2 bedrooms in that lovely loft at the corner of 18th Street in oh-so-prime Flatiron. (That was the condition in which they bought the loft, way back in 2007.) Something changed, however, as things often do.

Maybe they needed a challenge, or more sleeping spaces, or preferred to be able to sleep more easily through a bright morning. Instead of 2 bedrooms with that wonderful light and beautiful condition, they opted for the much larger loft #3N at 40 West 24 Street (“2,600 sq ft”), which needed a total gut job to be brought to the equivalent condition to their former Flatiron loft but could never have similar light or views. Interesting, the choices that Manhattan loft lovers make ….

dollar for dollar, even Steven

Financially, they bought at an even $2mm, but there’s probably at least a half million dollar renovation budget (if they could do a high quality renovation just under $200/ft). The broker babble doesn’t quite say a gut renovation is required, but it isn’t hard to read between the lines (“Older renovation waiting to be Fine Tuned”), or to draw that inference from the listing photos, or to ponder the weird floor plan of this 3-bedroom-plus-studio-with-separate-office. (Plus, I’ve seen it; trust me: this is a total gut.) So the purchase looks like a net investment north of $2.5mm, adding the minimum ballpark for a gut renovation without surprises into the equation, compared to their sale of the beautiful and sunny old loft at (I loves me some symmetry) $2.55mm.

My guess is that they did a much better renovation than $200/ft would support, so let’s start with the old place to see what they gave up to get the extra space and all that darkness.

would you make this trade?

The old kitchen (in listing pic #3) “boast[ed] Thassos marble counters and top tier appliances from Fisher Paykel to Sub-Zero and Thermador[….,] a wine fridge and breakfast bar” and is open to the main living space; the new kitchen is not boasted of at all, though shows in listing pic #7 as dark and in the floor plan as floating off the stairwell and elevator entry, mostly closed to the living-space-without-windows (maybe the kitchen is intended only for breakfast and snacking, as the broker babbled about options for other meals “Enjoy Eatly for Dining, Shake Shack for Lunch”).

The old master bath is not described, but appears in listing pic #6 as neat, clean and new, probably finished in teak to match the various built-ins; the new master bath … doesn’t exist. One full bath sits next to the kitchen and opens to the main living space and the other sits off what the floor plan labels as the largest “bedroom” but is, in current reality, part of the “Separate Office w/ private entrance and own kitchen and bath” (see listing pic #10). In truth, the listing photo of that first bathroom (#9) shows a decent bathroom; it may simply be in the wrong place in any likely renovation scenario.

The light in the old place is wonderful (or, as babbled, the loft is “bathed in natural light”), with the 6 large  windows in the living room facing the corner of Fifth Avenue and 18th Street. I’ve seen the light in the new place (so to speak) and it is nothing to brag about. Hence, there is no babbling about light (only about “10 Oversized Windows”) and the photos mainly show windows with window treatments closed (read between those lines, careful buyers!) or with the buildings across 24th Street evident even in a photo taken at the other end of a bedroom (as in listing pic #5).

The old loft is smaller (at “1,750 sq ft”) but that corner loft has two exposures and easily fits two bedrooms, leaving the actual corner for the nicely proportioned living room / kitchen / dining rectangle. The new loft is much larger (“2,600 sq ft”) but plays small due to the single exposure and the possibility that the plumbing stacks limit the flexibility of a new layout to have 3 real bedrooms and an open living area that incorporates more than the first four windows (counting from that corner “study” by the elevator). Logically, the elevator end of the loft should be the public space, but anything other than a galley kitchen against that stairwell wall seriously encroaches into the public space. Make that dark “studio” corner a media or dining room and give the other end of the loft to the bedrooms, with two windows each, with the last one (the current separate office) as an en suite master (the second kitchen becomes a master bath, the current bath by the entrance might drop to a half, depending on what is done with the plumbing stacks on the opposite dark wall).

Creative design might make the West 24th Street project simpler than it looks to me, but the end result of any renovation seems to be 3 rather than 4 bedrooms due to the window shortage, and 3 rather than 2 bedrooms because they had 2 bedrooms on Fifth Avenue. Looks to my unprofessional-but-practiced-eye that this is a total gut (erase all the lines on the floor plan; don’t be limited by the current plumbing choices unless by dire necessity) rather than merely “fine tuning” an older renovation. Especially given the quality of the finishes that the West 24th Street buyers enjoyed in their old loft on Fifth Avenue.

net-net, dollars make sense (for them)

I’d be surprised if they could get the same quality without spending more than $200/ft, so (as noted up front) they are likely to spend in purchase + renovation more than Fifth Avenue sales price. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good result for them (the contrary: they feel that it is a good trade, taking everything into account, and no one knows better than they do), but it is a fascinating trade.

Whatever renovation they did, they must have a good team. They bought the new place on West 24th Street on May 29 last year and sold the old place on December 12, just over 6 months later. That’s pretty quick work (assuming they moved in on West 24th Street just as they sold Fifth Avenue), with coop board approval for renovation plans, Department of Building approval for a gut renovation, and (d’oh) the renovation itself. These are conservative folks: they didn’t put the old place on the market until a week after buying the new loft. (It’s always nice to have the financial flexibility to buy a $2mm loft needing a $500,000 renovation while still carrying a $2.55mm loft.)

Nicely played, Flatiron-turned-Chelsea loft owners. Nicely played. Enjoy!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply