Building in Amenities Old Building, New Tricks

While current technology allows one to access almost infinite information in real time, history allows one to look back. And for many New Yorkers, the city’s rich architectural tradition is inscribed in the countless prewar buildings that populate the five boroughs—many of which have achieved official landmark status. But what is the protocol when these buildings want to update amenities or appearance to remain competitive, while staying true to their historic roots? 

“A lot of prewar buildings and buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t have amenities like gyms or fitness centers, they only had laundry rooms and storage rooms all for which were located in the basement,” says Ethelind Coblin, principal at the New York City-based Ethelind Coblin Architect, P.C., which specializes in residential architecture and interior design including lobbies, hallways, fitness centers and apartments. 

“What happened is that the market got so hot, Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue and everyone else realized they had to upgrade their buildings because buyers were looking at newer buildings with these types of amenities,” says Coblin.  

Coblin goes on to say that she is inundated with project requests for co-ops and condos. Since 1989, she worked on roughly 10 prewar co-op or condo buildings that required amenity upgrades. In the last year or so, she has seen over a half-dozen such project requests cross her desk. 

And the trend isn’t limited to prewar properties. “We are also seeing buildings like the Bromley on West 83rd Street, which was built in the 1980s, upgrading the amenities they already have,” she says. “And what we are seeing from board members of all types of buildings is that they want to add amenities like playrooms and fitness centers to remain competitive. I bet other firms are getting a lot of calls, too.”

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