As the market for co-op and condo units continues to soften in Manhattan and throughout New York City, co-ops and condos are looking to make themselves more competitive. One area where existing co-ops and associations can raise their profile among potential buyers is in the amenities they offer. New buildings often have a laundry list of built-in amenities provided by the original developer. However, older more established buildings often have to find both the space and the funds to add similar amenities--among them gyms, roof decks, and up-to-date storage installations. We asked several real estate experts about what prospective buyers are looking for when it comes to amenities and related features.
Up on the Roof
“A roof deck,” says Joanna Mayfield Marks, a broker at the Brooklyn office of Halstead. “This is a huge upgrade, especially if it has a furnished common space. Outdoor space is a fantastic, distinctive amenity for resale advertising purposes, and an additional benefit is that common outdoor spaces create a sense of community, with residents watching the Fourth of July together or bumping into neighbors at the sunset hour for a cocktail.”
Dan Wollman, CEO of Manhattan-based property management firm Gumley Haft, concurs. “The top amenity co-op and condo residents desire in their buildings include some kind of common outdoor space. They seek an area where people – neighbors and their friends – can congregate. This could be a roof deck.” But, he cautions, “a roof deck must be in compliance with the rules of the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act]. If you can’t get to a roof deck, the building can’t have a roof deck. There are also issues with the load that a building’s roof can bear, which may make a roof deck moot.”
“Anything related to fitness,” says Sarah Marsh, Principal of MAAI Marsh Architects in Manhattan. “That can include anything from bike rooms to gyms.” She says that even a somewhat small space - 20 feet by 20, say - can be converted into a well-appointed gym, depending on the configuration of the building. “Say you have a 14-story apartment building with two apartments per floor, as often found on Park Avenue. A 400-square-foot gym will serve the residents well.”
At 760 Park Avenue on the Upper East Side, Meryl Sacks, President of Sacks Real Estate Management, oversaw the reconfiguration of existing storage space. “We demolished it,” she says, “to accommodate the construction and installation of a gorgeous, state-of-the-art gym, with mirrors, Peloton, and everything you could want.” The building had the right budget in place for Sacks to accomplish the goal of adding a gym in the prewar building.
Co-op and condo buildings are looking into other amenities as well. “Storage,” says Marsh, “has become more of a requirement than an amenity.” Marks notes that many buyers today are interested in solar panels as a long-term energy component to their investment. She also notes that package rooms, even in non-doorman buildings, are sought after more and more.
Community rooms are also in high demand. Susan Lauren, Principal of Lauren Interior Design in Manhattan, installed one in a former commercial space at a West End Avenue co-op that functions both as a meeting place and recreation spot for residents, as well as a potential party room that can be rented to residents or outsiders. It has a separate street entrance for non-resident events.
Marsh and Sacks also note that community rooms are popular options in buildings with young communities and older residents, who often take over the space for card parties and reading.
All in all, existing co-op and condo buildings need to consider the following factors when adding on amenities. First and foremost, what do the existing residents want? Second, what will make the building more competitive in the market? Third, do you have the space and the budget to achieve your goals? If yes, add on that amenity.
AJ Sidransky is a staff writer at The Cooperator, and a published novelist.