loft ‘carved out’ of Gilsey House ballroom shows it

not all residential Manhattan loft conversions yield rational floor plans

The Gilsey House at 1200 Broadway (in what can now be termed The Greater Ace Area) is one of the most spectacular large loft buildings in Manhattan, let alone in NoMad, or South Midtown, or whatever micro-nabe label you care to apply to this micro-nabe. Unlike a loft conversion of an industrial or warehouse building, the Gilsey House was built as a hotel for the swells about a hundred years ago, so the facade reflected aesthetic ideals of its time. A beauty:

cast-iron, strong horizontal elements, beautiful detailing, at an angled corner looking down toward Madison Square (never noticed before how the corner windows are different on each floor)

The “2,400 sq ft” loft #2E at 1200 Broadway was, as you know from the headline, “carved out of the hotel’s 2nd floor ballroom”, in this case with “15’7″ ceilings, exposed brick walls and soaring windows that capture a glimpse of the top of The Empire State Building”; i.e., it faces north to get that view sliver glimpse. You’d think that with soaring(?) windows and very tall ceilings, there’d be this huge sense of volume in the loft.

Having seen many lofts in this building over the years, but never having seen this one, I think you’d be wrong. The main listing photo is as good as it gets:

it’s a big box, but not *that* big

There are only three (widely separated) areas with the high ceilings:

an air shaft breaks up the north wall + a mezzanine covers the east wall and splits the east-west axis

I’m guessing that about half the footprint is mezzanined, leaving full (double) height over the living room (as pictured above), half of the dining room, and part of the main floor media / bedroom. That leaves less than 8-foot ceilings anywhere the mezzanine extends, such as in the media room:

am I the only one who involuntarily ducks a head when viewing this photo?

Look again at the floor plan. How many “bedrooms” do you see? As the New York City building code requires that each dimension of a (legal) bedroom be at least 8 feet and have a window or skylight, the correct answer is … none. If the grown-ups in the space sleep in the largest room upstairs, they get light from being open to below (and being open to the first northwest window); or they could choose quiet and live in the en suite “den”(?) with the wall of closets but no window.

Do you see any photos that actually show the outside, or much light? (Hint, hint.) I assume there is that view glimpse of the Empire State Building (why lie about something like that??), but note that the drapes or window treatments are closed in every listing photo. If the (many) lights weren’t on, and walls and ceiling not such a bright white, I’m not sure how light this loft would actually look in real life…. (See, especially, the 4th pic, of the full height portion of the dining room.)

‘carving’ out a loft doesn’t generate premium pricing

You won’t find any bragging about finishes in the broker babble, only bragging about bones. Although the kitchen and pictured bath look fine, the marketing campaign didn’t emphasize their quality. Hence, (only) $1,104/ft in a lovely coop with maintenance barely over $1/ft. There’s no premium here for anything.

The last sale in the building was the north-facing “1,850 sq ft” loft #5G with full-on (“bright”) views of the Empire State Building and lots of bragging about finishes. Adjusting for the time difference between that sale in September at $2.35mm ($1,270/ft) and the current market, the beautifully finished and bright #5G would be worth (only) about $1,300/ft as of February (the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index is up only 2% from September to February, the last month in the Index).

Loft #5G has a pretty rational floor plan, though only 2-bedrooms, to go along with the lovely finishes:

no place to squeeze a 3rd BR, alas

Hence, a time-adjusted $1,300/ft for #5G, compared to the ‘carved out’ floor plan of loft #2E at (only!) $1,104/ft. That’s a spread of about 17% for the better light, much better (simplex, 12 foot ceilings!) layout, and much better finishes in favor of #5G over #2E. Carving can be hard….

my, how times have changed around here (or not)

When this building was converted to residential coops (our listing system says 1979) this was a pretty sketchy gritty area, with SROs nearby and no upscale interesting street retail, though you had many choices for ‘fine’ perfume, cheap sunglasses, or T-shirts. Just imagine what the street life was here, based on the fact that shareholders did not trust each other enough to permit them to buzz anyone into the building. Instead, there was an intercom system, but residents had to go down to the front door to let anyone in. This building has a large footprint, and even with three elevators, it would take several minutes for someone to walk the long hallway upstairs, take the elevator down, then walk the long hallway downstairs to let anyone in, friends, relatives, or delivery people. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the building, but I wonder if the “new video intercom system” permits residents to buzz people in without leaving their loft; given that there are (still) “key-locked elevators”, it seems that residents (still) have to (at least) walk down the hall to bring up visitors.

Can anyone who has been in the Gilsey House recently help me out here?

Speaking of times having changed … this post from July 2007 was at least the fourth time I blogged about lofts at the Gilsey House. Unfortunately, the links in that long ago post to even more long ago posts no longer work. (I hate when that happens.) But the 1980 New York Times article that I referenced there (again without link … really?!?) noted that a photographer who was still in the building in 2007 paid all of $19/ft for “2,000 sq ft” of raw space in 1980. (That is not a typo, but nineteen dollars per square foot.)

Yes, times have changed.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply