114 Mercer Street loft sells at $848/ft with 4 windows, 3 mints, 2 dark BRs + 1 exposure the limits of the Long-and-Narrow form

The Manhattan loft 114 Mercer Street #2 is said to be “2,300 sq ft” with 14 foot ceilings, and to have been gut renovated with some especially chic details. It sits on a prime Soho block (between Spring and Prince), yet the deed filed this week when it sold on November 15 is at $1.95mm, or $848/ft. I blame the footprint, not any choices or work that the seller did. You know … that geography as destiny* chestnut.

It is not just that this loft is a classic Long-and-Narrow footprint (floorplan is here), five times longer than it is narrow, with kitchen plumbing in the middle of one Long wall and bathroom and laundry lines clustered in one back corner. Nor that the public stairwell and elevator extend into the otherwise rectangular footprint, because this is a full floor loft (on this Mercer Street side of the single coop that is also 543 Broadway), ‘squeezing’ the width (proportionately narrow to begin with) in the front third of the loft.

It is that the 4 windows are all on the Narrow (west) wall.

deconstructing a floor plan
With only those 4 windows (one of which is essentially blocked from much of the space by the elevator foyer [ten feet from the window?]), there just can’t be much light penetrating into this second floor loft.

First, that means that the two ‘bedrooms’ are interior, lacking windows. Second, with the non-kitchen plumbing in one back corner, the master suite extends across the full rear of the loft, instead of the very typical arrangement in a Manhattan Long-and-Narrow loft of side-by-side master bedroom and second bedroom. Third, the result of having the second ‘bedroom’ sit on the Long wall between the bathroom plumbing and the kitchen plumbing is that there are only two areas in the entire loft that get the benefit of the full (22 foot?) width: the front 10-12 feet at the windows and the middle 12-15 feet where the dining area and kitchen face each other.

Look at the size and proportion of the main living area in the loft. In a classic prewar apartment, that public space at about 15 x 30 feet would feel nicely proportioned, probably even spacious. But in a loft — especially a loft with 14 foot ceilings — this space will not have the same sense of volume as a wider space. Certainly not as much volume as other 2.300 sq ft lofts with different footprints.

Look at the den / media space opposite the second bedroom. Because they made a (lovely) design choice to use glass to ‘open up’ the master bedroom wall (not just glass, in fact, but “Floor To Ceilings Stained Glass And Steel Frame French Doors”!), the media and furniture in this area have to be on the Long wall. There’s just not as much room for playing with a Wii or getting distance from a big screen sitting (or standing) facing the Long wall. Not to mention that both ‘bedrooms’ are right outside the media space (with a master with only the sound insulation provided by stained glass). (Can you imagine the turn that off and go to bed now ‘conversation’ that might ensue if there were a teenager, or mid-life male, using any reasonable volume on these media??) Or is that really an ‘office’ space? That would be a much quieter use. (Should I channel Emily Litella??)

a lovely loft
Even with all my carping about the inherent limitations of the floor plan, this loft looks terrific. Those 14 foot ceilings have barrel vaults, the flooring is cherry, the kitchen is “top of the line”, and there’s central air conditioning. Yet they couldn’t quite get $850/ft in prime Soho.

Part of that is due to being a coop, no doubt. This single coop with two entrances may have been built as a single building, but is partitioned now with a front (east) building entrance at 543 Broadway and a back (west) entrance here at 114 Mercer Street. It can be a little confusing with the two addresses in the same coop, as you can see from looking at the StreetEasy page (“543 Broadway”, even if you search “114 Mercer”) for this coop, with the loft that is 114 Mercer Street #2 that just sold on the same page as 543 Broadway #2 that sold in November 2007 (the babble claims that one as [one of many!] “THE quintessential Soho loft”; it went for $758/ft very close to The Peak, so it seems there is value in being on the quiet [Mercer Street] side of this coop).

as lovely as 2006?
Without a full set of pix and a floor plan, it is hard to compare the condition of 114 Mercer Street #2 now to when it sold in August 2006 at $1.625mm. That was a “meticulous” (if not “gut”) renovation, with those now-familiar cherry floors. No mention of the Venetian plaster walls in the 2010 listing, but perhaps they are meant to be included in the “… and much more …” of the recent babble (second ellipsis in the babble).

One thing that could not have changed since 2006 is the height of the ceilings. That is seemingly an easy thing to measure, once you decide whether to count from the top of the barrel vault or the bottom, but in 2006 it was sold as a 12 foot ceiling, in 2010 as 14 feet. Sheesh.

comping the tub and interior bedrooms
There are no pix of the “Free Standing Cast Iron Tub” at 114 Mercer Street, but that marketing emphasis, and the single-exposure-Long-and-Narrow footprint brought to mind another recent Soho sale. Did anyone else think of the tub-in-master-BEDroom profiled in my November 11, nice flipping loft at 49 Howard Street?

Tubs aside, #3N at 49 Howard Street is a fascinating comparison for 114 Mercer Street #2. No offense to anyone on Howard Street, but that is a bit less ‘prime’ Soho than Mercer between Spring and Prince. 49 Howard is about half the size of 114 Mercer, which to some extent helps 49 Howard with the problem (Long-and-Narrow-with-single-exposure) that they both share. At half the length, light in 49 Howard is much more likely to get to (and through) the glass walls in that loft.

It is quite possible that the build-out of 49 Howard is at a higher quality than the “gut” or “meticulous” renovation of 114 Mercer. After all, it added a staggering $700,000 to the value of that “1,234 sq ft” loft. But it is not so much better to account (by itself) for the huge spread between the clearing prices of the condo unit at 49 Howard ($1,539/ft) and the coop unit at 114 Mercer ($848/ft). Especially when you recall that 49 Howard is a walk-up.

a short note before I digress, again
It takes a while for deeds to hit public records (114 Mercer Street #2 was filed on December 1; closing was November 15), but this is the first closing in Soho since the front page “obituary” in the New York Times.

for voyeurs only: stalking the seller
The guy who sold this “2,300 sq ft” 2nd floor loft at 114 Mercer St for $1.95mm on November 15 bought this “1,668 sq ft” 2nd floor loft at 159 Duane Street for $2.05mm the next day. The scale is different (his new loft is about ⅔ the size of the old), but functionality is similar, as both lofts have 2 bedrooms plus a den. 159 Duane also has a Long-and-Narrow footprint, but this one has windows at both Narrow sides, so supports two real bedrooms along the back wall.

Another difference? There is “a shower of light from large historic windows”, here abetted by the angle at which the wide Hudson Street goes by.

Another similarity? There’s “a Philippe Starck oval tub”.

City records allow us to stalk follow this guy even more. He appears to have started his Manhattan real estate ‘career’ in September 2004 in the very “apartment” apartment #807A at 20 West 72 Street, selling that “700 sq ft” one-bedroom for $670,000 to buy 114 Mercer Street in August 2006. He clearly has developed a taste for lofts, but has always been a fan of mints and renovation.
*“Geography as destiny” seems to be so common an expression that I could not (quickly) find a ‘source’. But it is clearly associated with Jared Diamond and his seminal Guns, Germs and Steel (although I am not — yet — a member of the Facebook group, Jared Diamond Changed my Life (for better or worse)aka geography is destiny. Loved the book, though.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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