offered with permission to dream, 5 East 16 Street photographer's loft sells at $862/ft, most likely

live-work, with very different living and working spaces
The large Manhattan loft on the 9th floor at 5 East 16 Street was marketed as a “photography studio plus 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home” in the marketing that lead up to its recent sale. One the one hand, it is “ready” for you to do with it anything that you like (“[f]eel free to dream … a wide variety of floor plan possibilities”); on the other, the north quarter of the loft has been built out in what appears to be a thoroughly modern way. This loft is more of a hybrid than many artist lofts, as the private space has been relatively well finished and separated from the open, working space.

If your dream happens to match the sellers’ tastes in kitchen and bath materials, you may start out 25% of the way towards building your dream, with, perhaps, those south dining room and living room walls to come down, the vast middle open space to be refinished, and the “office” walls to come down in front. Or, you could send in a demo team to gut the whole space and start over. I wonder how many buyers would be tempted to at least try to make the present well-finished spaces work.

The purchase price for this set of possibilities was $3.45mm on April 2. Depending on how big it really is, the price-per-foot is either $958/ft (using the “3,600 sq ft” in the broker babble), $862/ft (using the “4,000 sq ft” associated with the deed on StreetEasy) or $814/ft (using the “4,100 sq ft” in the listing for the 7th floor when it sold in 2007). Since this building is a condominium (the Photo Arts Building Condominium, as it happens) I am going to go with the “4,000 sq ft” associated with the deed on StreetEasy and with this unit on The Shark.

It is hard to say how the condition of the 9th floor compares to that of the 7th floor, which was the last unit to sell in this 12-story building, on August 3, 2007 at $3.4mm. That was billed as both “a classic artists loft” and as “designed by a well known artist/ architect”, but had only 1 bedroom and 1.5 baths, and no bragging about any finishes. It is likely that the east views are much superior from the 9th floor, as the 7th floor windows appear in the building photo to just line up with the roof line of the building just to the east. These hints suggest that the 9th floor suffered a bit in the market-to-market comparison of same building sales, 2007 to 2012.

a narrow, if interesting, range of building values
Given these two sales, the September 2006 sale of the 5th floor is fascinating. First, it sold at $3.3mm, hardly commensurate with the velocity and trajectory of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market from September 2006 to August 2007. Second, it was in no better shape than the others, as it then “await[ed] you and your architect’s individual design”. Third, at this height there are no eastern windows (compared to 4 on the higher floors; and the ast windows allow views of Union Square), so there is much more flexibility on the higher floors.

The spread of only 4.5% in the sequence from 2006 to 2012 is simply too small, especially considering windows, light and exposures, and the possibility of retaining some of the 9th floor kitchen and bath finishes after a build-out:

  • Sept 1, 2006 #5 $3.3mm
  • Aug 3, 2007 #7 $3.4mm
  • April 2, 2012 #9 $3.45mm

“Too small”, that is, for fans of the efficient market theory. That $100,000 gain from 2006 to 2007 is especially awkward, but there you have it. The fickle market does what the fickle market does.

I was hoping that there might be some photos of the working space, as it was being worked, on the (vacated) studio’s website, but all I see are thumbnails of jewelry, watches and still life. Darn.

The Photo Arts Building Condominium has lost one of its photo artists. That’s life in the big city.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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