that awkward moment, when your Tribeca past catches you short

third owners ever for American Thread Company loft face new challenges

Did you ever have the experience of walking down the street (perhaps with your head down [snow!], perhaps on Beach Street, walking east at the rounded corner with Sixth Avenue) and bumping into someone going in the opposite direction? Personally, I’ve actually never done that, but I had the real estate equivalent level of surprise when I updated my Master List of downtown Manhattan loft sales and found that the “1,334 sq ft” Tribeca loft #6G at 260 West Broadway (the American Thread Building) sold recently for $1.825mm in such condition that the only listing image was the floor plan.

You see, I created this floor plan when loft #6G was an open loft, without interior walls:

this floor plan is (mostly) 34 years old

I bought this loft from the sponsor at the end of 1981 (the first American Thread unit to close) and moved in a few weeks later, as soon as we could get a contractor to build the walls for the master and second bedroom, and those closets in the master. (The curved wall took awhile, as I recall.) Some other owner in the building moved in without putting up any walls, so we are not the first American Thread residents, just the first owners.

The loft hasn’t been listed with a broker since 1981. I haven’t seen this floor plan since we sold it in 1989. Day-um.

The full Property Shark ownership record shows that the woman we sold to in 1989 died, and her estate transferred the loft to a related party (her husband? son?) in 2002, and that guy’s estate was the recent seller. In nearly the same exact configuration as we built it out in January 1982. I am pretty certain the home office with sleeping loft above was not part of our plan, but I can’t remember where we put the east wall of the master (lined up with the master bath wall, with the second bath wall, or somewhere in between?). If the loft truly hadn’t changed otherwise, there would be clerestory windows in the north wall of the master, and I am pretty certain there were glass bricks in the west wall of the second bedroom. That kitchen island is new (well, since 1989), as we had a piece of furniture there that served as an island, the top of which was a 30″x60″ maple butcher block we bought on Bowery that was 2-1/2″ thick, a portion of which is in my current kitchen.

I can’t remember what we sold for in 1989, though it was something like $489,000. (The deed doesn’t have more than the then-standard “ten dollars and other valuable consideration” thing.) But I do remember what we paid for it: $209,000. And I remember what the initial rate was on or mortgage.

(wait for it)

16.5% (yup: sixteen point five percent) We were in a recession then!

I also remember that we cancelled a planned trip to Hong Kong in order to buy the loft, resolved never to eat out again. (Ha!) But I digress …

the loft is (largely) unchanged, the environs not so much

There are no listing photos, and you educated consumers know that this bit of broker babble means the space was in pretty primitive condition:

Ripe for renovation …with three exposures

Maybe the kitchen appliances and/or cabinets have been changed, but (other than the office/loft thing-y) the place has not been appreciably updated for a long enough period that there is no mention of “updated” anything. I am betting the place is pretty much as we left it. In 1989. As we built it in 1982. Day-um.

Without photos, you’d have to know the building well to know what those “three exposures” get you. Those five west windows were never worth much, as the (narrow) St. John’s Lane is over there, permitting little light from this height and no view. In our day, those four north windows had full views uptown, with no taller buildings until you crossed into Soho. But now there is a hotel abutting the north wall of the American Thread Building, with a roof line that must be pretty close to these windows. (I’ve not been in the unit since the hotel went up, obviously, so I am estimating based on having gazed at the hotel roof [many times!] from the sidewalk by Nancy Whiskey Pub.) My guess is that these windows just clear the roof, but that whatever mechanicals are on the hotel roof are at eye level from loft #6G. Behind the hotel lies One York, so even higher floors lose a big chunk of north view. (See the second and third listing photos from the 8G duplex rental listing for peaks at One York and, through the east window in #3, one of the new hotels on the south side of Canal Street.)

In other words, there is some light, but no northern view from this height worth speaking about. That leaves the solitary kitchen window facing east as the only view. A major change since our day, and a major challenge to the new owners. Not that this issue was a problem in attracting a buyer: to market at $1.7mm on October 22, in contract at $1.825mm by November 20, and closed on February 9. Yes, Virginia, the correct asking price solves what would otherwise be marketing ‘problems’!

That’s a pretty good value for a loft needing a gut renovation, especially one with only one window with a view. The last sale in the building of a loft of similar size and view was the “1,380 sq ft” #9E duplex. That was sold for $2.025mm in July 2013 with two advantages over #6G: a no-detail spared renovation, and it was said to be “light filled”. I am skeptical about the light, as the window photos all show the blinds down, with just the hint of brick walls nearby, but the next building is no taller than the American Thread roof (12 floors up) so maybe the 9th and (especially) 10th floor windows over St. John’s Lane get enough sky to actually have light. Anyway, #6G at $1,368/ft while needing a gut in February 2015 fits remarkably well to #9E in July 2013 at $1,467/ft in no-detail-spared condition.

Adjusting that #9E sale for time based on the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index (up 17% as of January) would ballpark that current value as about $1,710/ft. That leaves the new owners of #6G with a renovation budget of about $342/ft to bring #6G up to #9E’s standard and value. That should be do-able.

heading for a light and dark split here in Tribeca

While I’m here, let me note (in passing only) that the hotel that blocks “G” line windows below #6G probably also blocks light in low floor west or north windows on the other side of the building (the wing that fronts on Sixth Avenue). This will likely lead to a significant split in values between those units that look ‘outside’ (the south and east facades you see in the building photos) and the other units, which are dark because they face only St John’s Lane and/or (on low floors) the hotel. We’ll deal with that another day, as I want to get to meandering down memory lane a bit….

back in the day

I’ve long considered the American Thread Building to be the first great condo in Tribeca. There might be older condos, though not many; the older owned residences down here were coops, almost exclusively. A couple of weird things about how this condo was marketed ….

This might be the oldest doorman coop or condo in Tribeca. It wasn’t supposed to have one, at least not at first. I can’t remember when we signed the purchase agreement in 1981, but at that time there was no doorman planned. Sometime between contract and closing the developer proposed adding a doorman, and increasing common charges. I suspect every contract signer had the option of withdrawing, but I also suspect no one did. I can’t remember if it was originally a two-shift doorman, or if it was a 32B-J contract, but the additional expense was shared among enough units that it didn’t cost much. And certainly was worth it. Which brings me to the lobby, which was retrofitted to add the doorman desk….

Before conversion, the building had been squatted by ‘artists’ for I don’t know how long. I say squatted because I don’t think they’d been paying rent. And I say ‘artists’ because, whatever else they were, some were vandals. In addition to the unforgettable “Die, yuppie scum!” spray painted on the facade before we moved in, the lobby had been trashed. Again, details fade into memory mists, but I remember lovely mosaics and column capitals in the lobby that had been seriously damaged by (we were told) artists in … er … residence. It didn’t seem to have been done for materials so much as simply to cause damage. In that, the ‘artists’ succeeded.

Speaking of art …. I can’t remember as I sit at the keyboard if any remain, but there was an art installation on the north faces of the two wings, consisting of some metal panels affixed to the facade. Each panel was a different single color, about 30″ by 60″ or 72″. It had something to do with the way light reflected off each colored panel differently, and different from the way light played off the (white) facades. Or maybe it had something to do with the way they were placed, as the windows on those two facades were not the same on each floor.

That art was used as a selling point. (It wasn’t for us, but it may have been more significant for other owners.) There was also a technology angle. Details are lost (I hate when that happens) but there was some sort of computer package offered with the loft. Whether it was a dial-up connection (was there email or an internet in 1981??) or just a piece of equipment, you had to check a box to not get the technology package (and get a discount of some hundreds of dollars off the purchase price). It had something to do with being cutting edge, anticipating the further use of such technology, but I don’t think it had to do with special wiring. I wish I could remember….

I had lunch last week with a former American Thread neighbor who has also been out of the building a great many years. He remembered more of the many creative types who lived in the building when we did (I got Isabella Rosellini, Jamie Lee Curtis & Christopher Guest, Betsey Johnson, Adrian Lynne; he had names I was unfamiliar with from the art world). In checking Property Shark about #6G I was stunned to see three other owners from the sixth floor who were owners in my day.

One final note: the developer was a Rose family entity. This project was understood to have been the personal project (and the first such personal project) of Jonathan F. P. Rose, who has gone on to do many interesting projects on his own, often with a social utility (such as affordable housing) or other public interest angle (green building techniques, for example). I often wonder when I see his name in the paper what he thought of the American Thread project. He liked it well enough to have bought a very large unit (probably the duplex or triplex in the southwest corner of the building), which is always a comforting thing for original owners, though a fraught choice by a developer.

That’s more than enough for one day, one blog post, don’cha think?

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4 comments on “that awkward moment, when your Tribeca past catches you short
  1. John Leighton says:

    Thousand thanks for your brilliant nostalgia-gram on the American Thread Building. You tranformed real estate lore into a romantic adventure in a New York that’s slipping fast away. I remember, on one of Matt Postal’s tours, walking past American Thread and hoping, “Some day, somehow, I’ll have a place there, right on the bend overlooking the little park.”

    Thanks especially for the note on creative people who lived there. Allow a few decades’ flexibility and it might have been Edna St. Vincent Millay stepping out of the elevator.

  2. Sandy Mattingly says:

    Wow, John, thanks, especially for “tranformed real estate lore into a romantic adventure in a New York that’s slipping fast away”. I’m definitely gonna brag on that one.

    I think *everyone* who has been here for a while has stories like this (everyone older than 30, perhaps). Humans (at least, modern NYers) tend to look back to their earlier days, or even to the days just before they arrived to a location. That base line becomes the Good Old Days, even if the folks who were grown up at that time may have felt “nah … you shoulda seen this when I was a kid!”.

    Again, your feedback is much appreciated. This post is very different from my typical look-what-loft-just-sold post, as I *really* was jolted by the image of the floor plan. I showed the listing to my daughter last weekend, asking “do you want to see your old room, at least in outline?”. Never expected it would be in the same shape after all these years.

    Watch out for melting snow!

  3. Bob H. says:

    I seem to recall that Cindi Lauper lived in the building for a while.

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