The Real Deal New York

Traulsen fridges, and other top apartment amenities

October 15, 2007
By Carl Unegbu

The right package of amenities in a new development can make the difference between how quickly a property is sold and for how much.

In the past five years, amenities have taken on an increasingly prominent role in high-end real estate transactions, often becoming a critical factor in a buyer’s decision to make a purchase in a new development, said Neil Tilbury, a leading broker at Manhattan Apartments, Inc.

While Manhattanites might think of themselves as savvy and cutting-edge, Tilbury, an Englishman, believes that the city has lagged behind other parts of the country in terms of its amenity offerings, even though buyers will spend millions on an apartment.

“In so many ways, the city has been light years behind the rest of the country in terms of what you’ve got in apartments,” he said, citing the general quality of buildings and public areas.

The 1990s boom crowd of dot-commers, advertising moguls and fashionistas helped by bringing a new taste for more modern amenities in buildings, raising the standards and prices of new developments, he said.

That means developers are working harder to come up with new amenities and bring in new buyers. In their new monthly update on the Downtown luxury market, Douglas Elliman brokers Leonard Steinberg and Herv Senequier point out that buyers’ expectations keep rising with regard to kitchen appliances and bathrooms.

“Sub Zero fridges are secondary to Traulsen, La Cornue stoves make Vikings appear inexpensive, Waterworks bathrooms are the standard, and custom everything is the trend,” the report said.

Washer-dryer hook-ups are high on Tilbury’s list of civilized perks.

Jacqueline Urgo, executive vice president at the Marketing Directors, said people never mentioned wine cellars seven years ago, but they are now a selling point in high-end Manhattan apartments. Formal dining rooms are also on buyers’ wish lists, she said.

In the realm of entertainment, the report by Steinberg and Senequier says the trend is towards “home technology systems that cost the equivalent of college educations,” and that plasma televisions are “no longer a novelty, and how many you own determines your status level.”

Andrew Gerringer, managing director of Douglas Elliman’s Development Marketing Group, said apartment sizes in Manhattan have decreased over the past five years, which makes storage space in the basement an item in demand among buyers.

“Now you almost have to have storage in a building because people expect it,” he said.

Louise Phillips Forbes, a senior vice president at Halstead Property who works with new developments, agreed that private basement storage bins are now a “must-have.”

Doormen, another amenity, can now be had all parts of Manhattan,
Forbes said. “Ten years ago, the idea of having a doorman in a condominium in Tribeca was just unheard of,” said Forbes. She said 275 Greenwich Street was the first condo building in the area to provide a doorman in Tribeca, in 1987. Other Tribeca addresses followed suit in the 1990s, she said.

Private, full-service clubs are also a new feature in some developments.

RFR/Davis’ Park Avenue Place, a 45-story condo nearing completion at 60 East 50th Street, will offer its residents preferential access to an exclusive, almost country club-like facility.

Called “The Core Club,” the 23,000-square-foot facility will occupy the first five floors of the building. It will include a new restaurant and bar by chef Tom Colicchio of Craft, as well as a library, lounge, screening room and meeting rooms. There will also be a spa and fitness studio, and changing facilities with butler service. Future members will be able to get into the club for a $25,000 deposit and $1,000 per month, with the deposit fees waived for building residents.

The Chelsea Club condominium, under construction at West 19th Street near Tenth Avenue will also have a club with a gym and entertainment area with a room-length bar behind its two-story lobby for residents.

Gerringer predicts growing acceptance of certain amenities he has already seen in a few places, such as refrigerators in the concierge area, to allow residents to pick up their groceries at the front desk. Another feature is a remote-controlled “cyber doorman” in smaller buildings, standing in for a real doorman – because in Manhattan, space is always at a premium.

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