55 Thompson Street is not a nondo, is the luxe-est rental in Soho

back on Broome Street
Let’s move one block east from yesterday’s post, some lofts still get hammered, as 554 Broome Street sale shows, to visit the corner of Broome and Thompson Streets, which was to have been a new condominium but which will be opening soon as a rental building. Josh Barbanel has the current story in today’s Wall Street Journal, Parking Space Becomes Living Space / Early Indoor Garage in SoHo Is Recast as Pricey Apartment Building; Restoring a 1920s Medallion, but Curbed has the all-important back-story that Barbanel missed. Two things interesting about this rental building (dubbed 55 Thompson Street, or Tunnel Garage): it replaced the iconic (actual) Tunnel Garage that sat on this site since 1922 and which was the first garage built as a garage in Manhattan; and the new development was planned as a condominium back in the day.

whose idea was this?
I first noted the clever locution "nondo" on Curbed, where it is used to refer to a new building or conversion built as a condominium but turned to rental after some unsuccessful sales marketing. 55 Thompson Street is the first building I have noticed that changed from condo to rental without having an unsuccessful sales campaign, so I am curious about how that decision was made. Was it the developer or the lender?

In the Old Market, I always assumed that a developer who put up a rental instead of a condo was bullish about the Manhattan real estate market because he was securing an income stream instead of (trying to) take the money and run. That would describe this development if (only if) the developer is the one who decided to go rental, as opposed to the lenders. I am not sure what it implies about the market if the lenders feel they are better off with a rental instead of a condo

I do not follow the rental market the way I do Manhattan loft sales, but the only rental buildings I know of in Soho with more than 6 or 7 units are 80 Varick Street with 61 units, 90 Thompson Street with 27 units,  and 510 Broome Street with 12 units; the typical Soho rental building has 2 or 3 units. (Curiously, that makes this small area the center for Rental Soho.) There is no reason to consider these buildings as in the same category as 55 Thompson Street.

None of these buildings have inventory at these price points: $6,500 for 1 bedroom, $12,000 for 2 bedrooms, $18,00 for 3 bedrooms. As the rental agent for the building said:

Competition for the new building, he said, would come from individual apartments listed as rentals by unit owners in new condominiums.

There’s nothing up on the agent’s website yet about this building and there is no mention of amenities in the Journal article, but I suspect that this rental-designed-as-condo will have some room for amenities (roof deck, at least), plus a doorman. At $12,000/mo for 2 bedrooms, the market will want some oomph, no?

this architect needs a ruler
The Wall Street Journal article has a bizarre side note about the medallion that does not fit. The medallion ("terra cotta … showing a 1920s car emerging from a tunnel, its headlights blazing") used to sit on the curve of the 3-story garage, diagonally facing the intersection of Thompson, Broome and Watts Streets. Somewhere within my memory (I think) it was covered by the less-than-iconic branded sign of the garage operator. Barbanel suggests that some architect on the project way back when did not know how to measure the medallion.

an architect for the developer had once appeared at a public meeting and promised to move the medallion to the lobby of the new building. But when the medallion was taken down from the garage, it turned out to be 13 feet in diameter—too large to fit in the lobby.

Or maybe it was the lobby the architect could not measure.

paging Joni Mitchell
Of course, "the preservationists" got involved when this development was first proposed (way back in 2005; what a different world we lived in then!!). The Villager had this story from December 2005. Personally, I liked the shape of the garage and really am intrigued by the idea that this was built five years before the Holland Tunnel was completed (in anticipation of the tunnel) and that it may be the first Manhattan garage-as-garage.

But I was not such a big fan as to think it merited Landmarks protection. That Villager article suggests that even the preservationists had at least mixed motives about fighting to keep the garage:

Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. director, said the garage is not only historically deserving of landmarking, but also important because the area has lost so much parking in recent years.

I can’t resist (sue me):

don’t it always seem to go
you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
they demolished a 1922 garage
and put up a rental building

© Sandy Mattingly 2010



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

Leave a Reply