a question of views for gut renovated 29 Howard Street loft at $1,383/ft

why cut off views over Crosby Street?
The “2,061 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 4th floor at 29 Howard Street was recently renovated with high-end finishes, and then sold. Since it got the full ask (February 14, $2.85mm) it would be churlish of me to quibble with the renovation choices, but such is life for a critic like Manhattan Loft Guy.

The single most outstanding feature of the loft is what is outside the windows looking north, up Crosby Street. That is the lede in the broker babble (“remarkable open sky and city views looking north up coveted Crosby St”) and is the featured listing photo. So why is there any carpentry blocking even some of that view from the main living space?? Maybe there is a structural or aesthetic rationale that I can’t see in the floor plan or in the photos, but you’d think you’d want as much of that view to be accessible to as much of the space as possible….

As I said, this ‘problem’ did not prevent a full-price sale, or even slow it down: the loft came to market on December 1 and was in contract by January 27. $1,383/ft for a no-frills, no amenities (apart from basement storage, that is) condo loft is none too shabby. Especially for a loft that was bought in July 2003 for $955,000, presumably in fairly primitive condition.

classic floor plan, otherwise
The 4th floor has that Long-and-Narrow footprint that is most amenable to the floor plan that has been created: the 24 ft width splits the 3 windows in the rear into 2 bedrooms; the lack of side windows limits the space to just those 2 bedroom; plumbing stacks seems to be unusually concentrated, limiting the options of where to put 2 bathrooms and kitchen. I can’t get over that (unnecessary!) wall with french doors separating the foyer and “living / dining area” from the “living area” with those magnificent views, but that’s my problem.

Crosby Street never looked so long
With a higher resolution photo, perhaps you could see all the way to Bleecker Street from these 4th floor windows on Howard Street, from the bottom of Crosby at Howard, to its northern terminus at Bleecker. “T” intersections offer wonderful views; this may be the only one in Soho. (If you consider 210 Lafayette Street at the foot of Delancey-turned-Kenmare Street part of Soho proper, that is a second; the views are not as interesting from there, IMHO, even if they are wider and include a bridge.)

Angled streets can also give long open views, especially if the architects considered that in placing corner windows, such as in the Flatiron loft looking down Broadway that I just hit in my March 13, if you want a spellbinding loft at 889 Broadway, it will cost ya. That building architect cooperated by making the windows floor-to-ceiling, but the windows at 29 Howard Street are big enough (waist to ceiling). Now look again at the 3rd picture, and please tell me why that wall is there….

not quite the no-man’s land that it was, but still quiet
Howard Street is one of the littler streets in Soho, with few reasons for foot or auto traffic. You can only get to this building in a cab by going up Centre Street or down Lafayette; any farther west and you can get back here. And there is little reason to do that, unless you live here or have business on that bottom block of Crosby, such as at the Hotel Mondrian.

I hit a nearby loft in my November 11, 2010, nice flipping loft at 49 Howard Street, in which I talked about that quiet stretch of street:

There is a sense that this building was in a foggy region (the fog that on old maps indicated the limits of the known world) between prime Soho, Chinatown and the moat that is Canal Street. Howard Street runs only four blocks, west from Centre Street to Mercer, and there is very little car traffic other than cars with business in the bottom block of Crosby, who need Howard Street to get anywhere. Not much pedestrian traffic, either. Martin Scorcese, who knows a thing or two about Manhattan street life, used this stretch of Howard Street in his 1985 film, After Hours. (If you click on the trailer, pay particular attention to the street view in the scene with the Mr. Softee truck.) I.e., d-e-s-o-l-a-t-e.

Here is what a graffiti artist Ellen Harvey had to say about this particular building in 2000, from the Howard Street side, in a book about her street art adventures written in 2005 (New York Beautification Project):

For some reason, this building in SoHo has avoided gentrification. It is completely covered with graffiti and full of garment workers. It’s a bit like going back in time.

Harvey talks about having to avoid the garment business owner on Howard Street. Her Beautification Project #9 was on this building; when she returned to photograph it the next morning, it had already been substantially covered by still more recent graffiti. She took her photos anyway (see the book excerpt).

The people who bought that loft at 49 Howard Street, by the way, paid $1,540/ft for a (probably) even-better-renovated loft, rather smaller than the 29 Howard Street loft, but that was up 2 flights of stairs. Without the spectacular open view up Crosby.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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