Soho in 1983: $211,000 for 3,300 sq ft; still an artist's loft

nice bit in the Times today
Manhattan Loft Guy bait in the Habitats feature by Constance Rosenblum on the front page of today’s New York Times real estate section, with a back-in-the-day piece that touches on both Tribeca in the 1970s and Soho in the 1980s, A Loft That Waited for Its Muse. That piece led me to identify the loft building in question (not difficult, as her address is on her website, which is linked in the article), then to do some digging about the history of the building and its present (results below).

Love this quote by the artist who bought a “3,300 sq ft” loft in 1983 that needed a little work (“wreck was truly the word for what lay within”).

“We were so naïve,” Ms. Burton said. “I’d renovated another loft for $5,000. I figured, how much could this one cost?”

Turns out, “well upward” of $300,000, and counting. (“We’ll probably never be finished”.)

That $5,000 renovation job was probably for the Walker Street loft that the artist had rented since “the mid-70s”, “in what was coming to be called TriBeCa”. That is what loft renters did in Soho and Tribeca in those days: spent their own money making industrial space livable, if not legal.

the loft, the nabe
For that $211,000 purchase and $300,000+ renovation cost the artist and spouse created the living space with artist studio in the NYT slideshow. They are on the top floor (7th) with the arched windows in front looking at the Soho Grand, with “ceilings 11 feet high and 360-degree views”.

If the office (pic 10 in the slideshow) has always been in the front, the Soho Grand was not there when they moved in, of course. They had a long open view west, with a block-through field of bricks where the hotel (much) later went in. I don’t know how long the bricks were there, but they were there when I moved to Tribeca in 1980 and did not look particularly fresh even then. Word on the street was that the bricks were all that remained from a church that had to be demolished because it was settling unevenly due to all the underground water in the area. I thought it was called St. Aloysius, as I mentioned in this February 5, 2009 post, but I can’t find any reference to a church by that name in that location and there is another church by that name up in Harlem.

Anybody remember the name of that church, or when it came down?

I see no records of any past sales in this small (6-unit) coop. As it happens, the loft underneath is for sale, so you can see the current “artist loft” configuration and the alternative (open) floor plan here. Check that listing for what the hardwood columns look like, which presumably are the same material as columns on the top floor. That loft appears to be in truly primitive condition, with just one bath, compared to the 7th floor with its nice (modern) kitchen with a huge Viking cook top (pic 4 in the slideshow; what do you think is locked in those drawers under the island??).

Of course, that loft has not yet sold, so the asking price is just the … you know … asking price. But $2.8mm might well be a reasonable starting point for negotiations for a “3,300 sq ft” loft in much more primitive condition than the 7th floor.

I don’t think I knew that
The 1969 deed by which the Jacob Cram Cooperative (named after a former owner of the building) bought the building “subject to existing tenancies” for $95,000 is available through ACRIS, here. The property description contains a nugget that I am surprised I never heard before: “West Broadway (formerly known as South 5th Avenue)”. That 1969 date would make this building one of the very early Soho residential coops.

That 1969 purchase was secured by a purchase money mortgage that was extended in 1979 and not paid off until 1989! The coop continued mortgages on the property thereafter (as coops tend to do), with the most recent financing I see on Property Shark a $1.5mm mortgage in 2005.

live and learn
The artist, having lived through the beginning of “TriBeCa” and the flowering of Soho, has seen a lot. As Rosenblum described the couple, they

aren’t the sort of people who grow misty-eyed recalling the old days. Yet they can’t help but marvel at how profoundly their neighborhood has been altered.

One of the alterations mentioned is the development next door of celebrity magnet Soho Mews, 311 West Broadway. Part of the artist’s education in new Soho is reflected on the 2006 development agreement signed between that project and her coop, which she signed as corporate secretary and which governs things like no pile driving, construction above the water table, engineer’s reports and assurances, easements, insurance and indemnification, etc, etc, etc. Not the sort of thing the artist bought her loft to get involved in, but an example of the necessities of modern Soho coop living and management.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011


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