Seven units sell swiftly in Theatre Condo

By Candace Taylor | November 26, 2008 03:06PM

The days of selling out a new condo project may not be as far gone as we think.

Walter & Samuels recently announced that Phase 1 of its Theatre Condominium, located in the East Village’s former St. Marks Playhouse, sold out within a month of going on the market.

“We hit the ground in July and we were done by August,” said Peter Weiss, an executive managing director at Walter & Samuels.

There were a total of eight units in Phase 1 of the project, which has finished construction, Weiss said. Seven were sold and one was held off the market because one of the partners plans to buy it. The four units comprising Phase II are under construction and will go on sale in 2009.

The speedy sell-out is very unusual in recent months, said Jeffrey Jackson, chairman of appraisal firm Mitchell, Maxwell & Jackson.

But upon review of some neighborhood sales data, Jackson said, it looks like “the pricing was very competitive, therefore absorption was above average.”

Prices in the building start at $800,000, for units ranging in size from 790 to 1,935 square feet, Weiss said, or an average of $1,200 to $1,300 per foot.

The building, at 133 Second Avenue, at the corner of St. Marks Place, was built in 1936. It went through several incarnations over the years, but is perhaps best known as an off-Broadway theater which housed productions by the Negro Ensemble Company, an African-American theater troupe founded in the late 1960s.

Walter & Samuels has converted the building into loft apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights, Weiss said. Because the building is on a corner, many of the apartments have two walls of windows, he said.

Phase II will involve converting the theatre into “mezzanine apartments,” that make use of the building’s original structure and soaring ceilings, he said.

The building is light on amenities, but those it does have, including a landscaped roof deck, are aimed specifically at the demographic of young people interested in the edgy East Village, said Steven Forrest, executive managing director at Walter & Samuels.

“Having the third refrigerator and the wine cellar — in times like these, people aren’t going to pay for that,” Forrest said. “If it has well-thought-out amenities, it’ll sell. This is a testament to exactly that. We sold because we hit it right.”

Most of the buyers were young professionals, college students, or parents buying apartments for their children, he said.

The location was also a key element to the project’s success. “You have all the action of St. Marks at your finger tips,” Weiss said.

The timing — just before September’s financial crisis — likely played a role, in addition to the project’s East Village location, Jackson the appraiser said.

“Quality housing in the Village is always in short supply,” Jackson said. “If you priced appropriately in July, I can see how they would sell out.”

But today’s market is much different from this summer’s, said Jonathan Miller, president of the real estate appraisal firm Miller-Samuel. The developers may have a more difficult time selling the Phase II units, he said, and will have to make sure the units are priced competitively.

“The credit situation has deteriorated significantly,” he said. “Demand is down. There are more layoffs and more economic duress. It continues to be critical to price correctly.”