From Storage to Stairmaster Basement Converted to Trendy Amenities

About ten years ago, Doug Anderson, the board president of 1125 Park Avenue, and some of his fellow board members walked though their building’s basement and saw a wall which, according to Anderson, "didn’t make sense." The inquisitive cooperators asked the building superintendent what was behind the wall and when he replied he hadn’t a clue, the board gave instructions to bang a hole through it. Anderson describes finding a large, cavernous space with 27-foot-high ceilings which turned out to be a coal storage bin from the days when the grand pre-war building had furnaces heated by coal. This 4,000 square feet of unused space was enough room to create, as Anderson remembers, "an amenity for everyone in the building." With a healthy reserve and a board that wanted to improve the sense of community, 1125 Park Avenue built a gym, a children’s room and a basketball court. Gyms and other amenities created from basement space are now "de rigeur" in New York City.

The Trend Towards Gyms

Debbi Davis, owner of a Soho art gallery and resident of East 73rd Street says, "All of the buildings on my block have gyms now." In Davis’ building, what was once a makeshift gym is now being refinished and refitted with new machines. Don Levy, director of management of Lawrence Properties, a real estate management company in Manhattan, says the installation of health and exercise facilities constitutes a "valuable asset" to a building, even when the homes upstairs contain exercise equipment. He explains, "Gyms in co-ops universally have a positive impact on a building’s sales potential."

Stephen Killcoyne, a partner at Allen & Killcoyne Architects in Manhattan, concurs, "Co-op and condo gyms are a phenomenon that has swept New York." Killkoyne should know; one Park Avenue board president describes Killkoyne and his partner Dan Allen as having started a cottage industry with their design of more than 40 gyms in residential buildings. Some include basketball courts, although a building must be old enough and large enough to house the double-height coal storage bins necessary for the courts. Some of the gyms, says Killcoyne, such as the one in the twin-towered Eldorado on Central Park West, boast gyms "on a par with commercial ones."

Many of the architects, designers and residents state that people of all ages use these at-home gyms. Terry Kleinberg is an architect who sits on the board at 170 West End Avenue. Kleinberg enjoys seeing the popularity of the gym in her almost 500-unit building, which is part of the Lincoln Towers complex. "It’s really great to see the older people go down to the gym in their sweatpants with water bottles in hand to do their workouts!"


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