room or light? Tribeca or Chelsea? 2 lofts sold above ask at $2.645 million have different charms

new space or old?

I had ticketed two contemporaneous Manhattan loft sales back when there was a summer in New York; now is a good time to check them out. The “1,789 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the3rd floor of 56 Thomas Street and the “1,493 sq ft” Manhattan loft #12A at 130 West 19 Street (Chelsea House) each have 2 bedrooms. More critically, both sold within 10 days of each other above ask at exactly $2.65mm. The similarities are limited to island, bedroom count, and market value. In fact, I would be surprised if many people willing to spend around two-and-a-half-million for 2 bedroom loft space saw both of them.

On the one hand, there is new Chelsea; on the other, classic Tribeca. The Chelsea entry is in ground-up construction finished in 2006 that is more loft-like than loft, but it has the high ceilings and open kitchen layouts that compete with “loft” listings; of course it also has amenities and (even with an unexpired tax abatement) relatively high monthlies. Floor to ceiling windows provide great light and long views.

The Tribeca entry is a classic Long-and-Narrow with only a few classic loft touches (some brick, 10 foot ceilings that [though dropped] reveal sprinkler pipes, large windows). The recent renovation gave it a skin and finishings that are (to quote the babble because it appears to be true) “simply beautiful”, and at a significantly mint-ier degree than the 2006-era new development finishes at Chelsea House.

The most obvious differences are light and views; the more subtle difference concerns flexibility. From the 10th floor on 19th Street, all that glass lining #12A brings natural light into every inch of the unit all day, with roof-clearing views and sky. On the 3rd floor opposite the huge Legal Aid Society building on narrow Thomas Street, the babbled “wonderful light” will all be reflected and the huge windows provide views of nothing but limestone and office windows. The less said about views and light in the back, the better; or, as the babble hints, the space is “quiet”.

I am not sure how much value The Market places on flexibility, but that quality is a hallmark of traditional lofts like at 56 Thomas and an anathema to newly built condos designed within an inch of their lives like Chelsea House. The #12A floor plan is perfect for what it is, down to that angled kitchen counter to open up the entry-to-living-space trip. It squeezes 2 ensuite bedrooms and a public powder room into “1,493 sq ft” ringed by glass apart from the back wall and one wall of the second bedroom. Finding even a place for built-ins is a challenge.

The “1,789 sq ft” 3rd floor floor plan, in contrast, has many options, depending on how you feel about light and how much money you are willing to spend. That back wall can fit two (real) bedrooms, but then you’d compress the plumbing rooms up that east wall (not difficult, just expensive). No matter what you do, that vast central part of the loft is a long way from windows; hence, the decision in the new renovation to really focus inward by, for example, installing that large two-sided fireplace that, among other things, visually separates the dining area from the front windows. This space is built to be enjoyed without (much) need of the windows (though the front room may, in fact, be bright), precisely opposite to the orientation of #12A. With no structural supports in the Thomas Street loft and plumbing running a long way on that east wall, there are many options for the array of rooms. The renovators chose a large master suite and a second (interior) bedroom / den that is babbled as making “a wonderful den” for owners who would all sleep together in the back.

As I said, these lofts have such different charms and limitations that I doubt someone who had a good idea of what they wanted would have seen both. They didn’t overlap on the market, but they were somewhat close, and in function (2-bedroom) and price they are similar:

Feb 17

#12A new to market


Mar 27

#12A contract

April 22

#3 new to market


May 21

#3 contract

June 11

#3 sold


June 21

#12A sold


“$2.645mm” is hardly the kind of round number that you often see properties close at. In the one case, it was $50,000 (and 2%) above the ask; in the other, $150,000 above (6%). The new #12A owners is already paying almost $1,000/mo more in taxes and common charges, with an abatement expiring in 2018.

One set of buyers were prompted by competition to pay exactly the same price as the other set of buyers, who were similarly prompted but looking for completely different benefits. A happy serendipity for people who spend time poring over closed sale records.

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