what has changed at Cobblestone Lofts, 28 Laight Street, since 2005?

warning: no rational market ahead
To answer the headline question quickly (as if there were any mystery to it): nothing significant has changed  since 2005 about the new-in-2001 multi-building residential loft conversion known as 28 Laight Street, the Cobblestone Lofts. It still sits in the crook of the Holland Tunnel spillway; it still sports fairly high-end finishes in spaces with many classic loft elements; it still has some inflexible layouts due to those thick walls between the original buildings. But the reason to ask the somewhat rhetorical question is that the “3,578 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2E at 28 Laight Street just sold for $4.175mm, or $1,167/ft, after selling on November 8, 2005 at $3,575,000, or $999/ft, while the “2,687 sq ft” Manhattan loft #2B sold on December 22, 2010 at $2.75mm, or $1,023/ft, after selling on June 23, 2005 at $2.7mm, or $1,005/ft.

Remember: these lofts were brand new in 2001, so operated in the mature resale market in Tribeca in 2005. They were judged equivalent in value in 2005, yet #2E commanded a 14% premium when one sold on March 30 and the other sold 15 months earlier (in substantially the same market conditions, right?).

is it a new preference for larger spaces?
I suspect that The Miller would say that The Market has had a preference for larger spaces since at least 2000. (See my September 10, 2011, deconstructing NY Times article about combining apartments to increase value, for a riff on [the lack of] data supporting that bit of Conventional Wisdom.) Both #2E and #2B are huge for what they are: #2E is a 3-bedroom with “3,578 sq ft” while #2B has 2-bedrooms in “2,687 sq ft”. The #2E floor plan has simply grand proportions: the smallest bedroom is 12 x 15 feet (the size of some masters in some cookie cutter new condos); the master is 18 x 25 feet (the size of a West Village studio); there is a “gallery”  (funny usage, that) outside the two extra bedrooms that is a nearly square 350 sq ft; and the living room clocks in over 1,000 sq ft. Huge.

If we had not just walked around #2E, the #2B floor plan would seem very large, as well. That living room is nearly 900 sq ft, the smaller bedroom is 230 sq ft, and the separate kitchen is 275 sq ft. The problem is that it is what it is. Maybe you could squeeze a third bedroom into the lower right corner of the living room, but that’s it. (Just as with #2E, you could split the master bedroom into two bedroom if you need a fourth, but that’s it.)

blame the thick black lines
In both floor plans, those thick black horizontal lines across the middle are the walls between the original buildings that have since been combined. Obviously, the developer broke through those walls to integrate the separate buildings, so not all of it is needed for support. It should theoretically be possible to do that again to create different proportions, but the problem is that these layouts were created as though those were fixed points, so there would have to be a radical (i.e., expensive) renovation to re-think how to make a 2,700 sq ft loft handle more than 2 bedrooms, or a 3,600 sq ft loft handle more than 3.

They are what they are. And they are what they were. So why is there a 14% spread between #2E and #2B when they were at par in 2005?

north west Tribeca is an enclave of several micro-nabes
The map places 28 Laight Street just to the western half of Tribeca, clearly in the north (with Canal so close), so perhaps this condo gets the halo effect of new-ish developments nearby, such as were featured in the Wall Street Journal ‘bit of hackery’ I skewered in my December 3, 2011, Wall Street Journal flogs north Tribeca for no apparent reason. The premise of that article was that north Tribeca was becoming more of a premium neighborhood than south Tribeca, largely due to new (newer) developments in the north, with the other buildings in the area getting a spillover premium. I don’t think that the premise is wrong; just that the article was a sad collection of poorly selected data points exacerbated by an ignorance of the local geography.

Relevant to Cobblestone Lofts, it sits in a micro-nabe that is very small, bounded by the Holland Tunnel exits and by the daunting north-south traffic on wide and busy Varick Street and wide and busy Hudson Street. There is little ‘connection’ on this block to prime Tribeca a few blocks due south on N. Moore and environs, or to the newly prime northwest Tribeca toward the river, the new parkland, and the new uber lofts on and around Greenwich Street.

And, more relevant to Cobblestone Lofts and the 2005-to-now issue, both #2E and #2B should benefit from an Improving Micro-Neighborhood Effect, if there is such a thing.

So why is there a 14% spread between #2E and #2B when they were at par in 2005? Theories are most welcome….

last sale did not comp well to #2B, but smashed 2004
I hit the last sale in the building in my range in my August 6, 2011, 28 Laight Street loft sale under-performs neighbor’s sale. (My Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 is limited to downtown Manhattan loft sales between $500,000 and $5,000,000 so I ignored the #6AB combo sale for $6.9mm, $1,263/ft, 9 months ago.) The neighbor that #5C under-performed against (at $957/ft) was loft #2B.

Loft #5C had been last sold in late 2004. I won’t spin further afield by worrying about that ancient market, but I will note that #5C on October 19, 2004 at $1.85mm, only $689/ft, so the (otherwise) disappointing $957/ft in August 2010 looks much better in that context. Of course, that 2004 $689/ft is hard (impossible!) to reconcile with the #2E and #2B values one year and +45% later, but all posts must end, sooner or later. Even on Manhattan Loft Guy….

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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