speedy 155 Franklin Street loft sale shows neighbor's frostbite in 2009

a (changing) market in microcosm
The deed recording the August 22 sale of the “2,438 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2S at 155 Franklin Street was not filed until Wednesday, so this qualifies as late-breaking news in our world: keeping up with my recent theme-of-the-week, this loft raced through the market at full price:

  • June 1    new to market $2.995mm
  • June 20  contract
  • Aug 22    sold                $2.995mm

Obviously, the right price at the right time in the right market. Interesting that building data shows that neighbors at other times had very different experiences in those markets, but first to the loft…

be still, my heart
This is a loft lover’s loft, for loft lovers who prefer ‘classic’ to clean-lines-minimalist. Such a lover would swoon over the wood beams and exposed joists, might compose sonnets to the iron columns, and would fawn over the exposed mechanicals. Indeed, one’s pulse would quicken over All. That. Brick. (Much of it pleasingly distressed.)

Volume? We got volume. I can’t find an indication of ceiling height for the second floor anywhere, but my guess is 11 feet to the joists though it probably feels higher, with the open joists and the many windows. And the main living space is toughly 33 x 40 feet with four windows on each of two sides. The master suite is well more than 400 sq ft. Instead of the frequent description “split bedrooms” to note that bedrooms do not share walls, these 2 bedrooms are “[d]iagonally opposite bedroom wings”.

I bet the space feels bigger than the book value of “2,438 sq ft”.

2006 all over again
Based on the sale of the same footprint on the 3rd floor (with a 3-bedroom floor plan) in ‘triple mint’ condition at $3.05mm, it seems that the current pricing for #2S sets this building as a 2006 = 2011 equivalence. Loft #3S sold on June 23, 2006 at that $3.05mm after some bidding aggression exceeded the asking price of $2.9mm.

how does a loft get frostbite?
If you looked at the details of the #3S history in the 2006 link, you already know the answer to my sub-heading query: after selling for $3.05mm in June 2006, those buyers had the poor fortune of trying to sell at a 16% premium just a few weeks after Lehman’s bankruptcy changed The Market for everyone. Evidently, they had the motivation to sell, even into the nuclear winter, as evidenced, first, by a price drop to $2.995mm (below their purchase price) and, second, by negotiating a painful cut to $2.575mm to sign a contract by May 4, 2009, just as the overall market was beginning to thaw.

I would call experiencing a 15.6% decline as of May 2009 — not from The Peak, but from almost 2 years pre-Peak — as market frostbite. The remedy for which included amputation.

The recent #2S sellers no doubt saw the 2006 sale of #3S as evidence that their own loft was valued at a similar level (yay!) just as they must have felt relief not to be forced to sell into the terrible market of the nuclear winter of early 2009 (whew!). Having seen (felt!) that roller-coaster upstairs, they are no doubt happy to get out at $2.995mm. (After all, that was what they were asking.)

Whether they felt any regret at having held #2S for ten years to gain only 50% is unknown. (They bought on July 24, 2001 [ouch] at $1.9mm.)

north v. south, or Franklin v. Leonard
This building is one of the most handsome, in a neighborhood properly renowned for having many handsome buildings. The long facade on Franklin Street is enhanced by the street level long front of green doors and windows, and by the (relatively new? but contextual) cantilevered ‘awning’ providing rain protection over the entire sidewalk frontage. That north face is (d’oh) where the “3,532 sq ft” “N” line faces in this block-through building.

The “S” line faces south, over Leonard Street. While a handsome facade in its own right, it is (after all) the rear of the building, so it lacks (IMO) the grace of the north facade. More critically for the “S” line, this face of the building is not as wide as the Franklin Street face, so the “S” line is more dependent on the east windows than the “N” line. Why does this matter?

what will the neighbors do?
One assumes that the #2S buyers did their diligence, as did the #3S buyers before them. One assumes that the buyers looked at those 6 east-facing windows and (a) enjoyed the sunny prospect, then (b) wondered how long it might last.

For those of you who can see photos on Property Shark, here is the Shark’s building page for the single story structure under those east windows at 155 Franklin Street (aka 7-9 Leonard Street). That old (graffiti-laden) garage at 11 Leonard Street certainly adds a note of street grit to the locale, and an obvious element of risk.

One assumes that the “S” line buyers (especially, though development is also an issue for the “N” line) were sufficiently diligent to uncover this former listing for the single-story neighbor.

With C6-2A zoning and 75’ frontage, many options are available for its new owner. Maximum flexibility exists for use as owner/user, live-work, grand single townhouse, loft/residence, mixed-use or luxury condominium development. The FAR 4 allows for significant square footage to be built on this property – up to 26,101 SF with a lot size is 5,689 SF. Landmarked approved development plans are available upon request.

If that site were ever developed, it certainly would not take a very massive building to eliminate (substantially, if not completely) any view east from the “S” line at 155 Franklin Street, while possibly preserving some light and air from the more northern east windows of the “N” line (again, see the Shark’s building photo of the garage for the 155 Franklin Street window array over the garage).

north v. south, redux
My read of the respective footprints is that the “S” line is far more dependent on the east windows than the “N” line. You’d think that The Market would apply a greater discount to “S” than “N” here. (I would think.) If you recall, we just went through this (at a more dramatic level) with the mystery solved at 288 West Street (September 16; again, my thanks to Rudi).

Yet #2S just sold at $1,228/ft. There is some suggestion that an “N” line may not be worth even $1,131/ft (sshhh). Go figure.

Have I mentioned (recently) that comping is hard?

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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