Almost a century ago, if you lived in The Ansonia, a residential hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, you had access to a variety of very interesting amenities, including a menagerie on the roof that included a huge flock of chickens and ducks, some goats and a small bear (yes, a bear).
Ansonia residents lived in luxurious apartments with multiple bedrooms, parlors, libraries, and formal dining rooms. They enjoyed a central kitchen and serving kitchens on every floor, tea rooms, restaurants, a grand ballroom, Turkish baths and a lobby fountain...complete with live seals.
It’s doubtful you’ll find any apartment building with live seals in the lobby today, but even just a few short years ago, building amenities were still pretty over-the-top. For a brief moment during the market boom of the early aughts, says Edward Azria, manager of sales at Rose Associates, Inc. in Manhattan, anything went when it came to amenities offered to new residents.
Dialing it Down
Today however, Azria says that things have changed. Thanks to the sluggish economy, many luxury developers are paying more attention to the operating expenses and carrying charges of the buildings they construct. Boards must maintain and staff these amenities once they’re built, so those costs must be added in before determining whether or not the amenity will succeed.
“At the height of the market, it wasn't uncommon to offer private restaurants, wine cellars and spa facilities—all amenities that are very expensive to operate but were rarely used,” Azria says. No one needs a full-blown pet spa anymore; so it's back to the tub for Fido. And swimming pools may be very desirable, but they are expensive to build and maintain. On the other hand, a fitness center is often considered a must-have, and those costs can easily be substantiated.”