Forget the yoga studio, forget the rooftop pool and forget the gym: Parking is what really distinguishes a building as top-of-the-line.
“Parking is the single most important amenity a building can have,” claims Richard Cantor of Cantor-Pecorella, a residential brokerage, who’s handling sales at two downtown buildings with parking.
But as the cachet of onsite parking increases, so, too, has its cost. The 10 underground parking spaces at the new development 42 Crosby Street — which will cost an eye-popping $1 million apiece for a 99-year lease — nabbed headlines in September. And they are hardly alone among high-priced, luxe parking spaces proliferating in new condos around the city. One of Cantor’s projects, the 53-unit 443 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, has 15 spaces in a garage that boasts vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, terracotta flooring and an electric charging station for each spot. Pending city approval, prices here will range from $775,000 for a regular space to $1.5 million for a special double space. Cantor is also marketing 12 East 13th Street — a former parking garage — which has 11 automated spaces for the building’s eight apartments. Spaces here are built into the price of every apartment, but the three left on reserve cost $500,000 each. The condo at 123 Baxter Street has an automated system, too, at its attached 68-spot public parking lot, where non-residents can also park. They cost $500 monthly, but $650 monthly for a luxury vehicle, such as a BMW, Corvette or Aston Martin.
Of course, parking in this notoriously crowded (and well-served by public transit) city has long been viewed as an extravagance — residents either need the luxury of time to circle side streets for an elusive place to park, or be willing to fork over a hefty sum for a spot in a garage. And the super-wealthy have the ability to cook up creative solutions, like funnyman Jerry Seinfeld, who spent $1.4 million over a decade ago to build a private garage on the Upper West Side for his vintage Porsche collection.
But now, however, as a profusion of parking areas are being sold for development, the number of parking spots throughout the city has markedly decreased: In, 2010, there were 102,000 off-street parking spaces, according to the New York Times; back in 1978, there were 127,000 spots available.
The parking situation is particularly dire downtown: About a third of the land below 59th Street used for parking has been snatched up by developers in the past 11 years, according to city data cited by our sister publication The Real Deal. Of the 31 parking lots between West 30th and 42nd streets, over half will give way to construction or are owned by development companies. Also, six lots and garages located on the High Line are similarly slated for development or owned by developers; a site at 34th Street and 10th Avenue will also give way to a multi-billion-dollar office tower.
“200 11th Avenue made parking sexy in New York,” said Urban Compass’ Leonard Steinberg, who handled sales at the Annabelle Selldorf-designed condo when it launched in 2007, when he worked for Douglas Elliman. The building generated considerable buzz due to its “Sky Garages” — private, apartment-level parking spaces that are accessed through a large elevator with Jetsons-style doors that open from the top and bottom. (For a peek inside a home in the building, please see page 24.)
Steinberg now has the co-exclusive listing (alongside Nest Seekers’ Ryan Serhant) for one of the penthouses in this building. Parking directly outside your apartment “combines that ‘wow’ factor as well as convenience,” he said.
Since the Sky Garage building (as it’s known) opened, parking in Manhattan has only become tougher to get — and onsite parking has become the ultimate luxury. “There’s so little parking, really, that it’s becoming a really highly sought-after amenity,” agreed Raphael De Niro of Douglas Elliman, who handles sales at 27 Wooster Street, which has four spots on offer for $500,000 each, plus another parking spot that comes with the building’s penthouse.
And that’s exactly why developers are taking the step of incorporating parking into their buildings. “We see it’s becoming more and more of a valuable commodity,” said Dan Hollander, the managing principal of DHA Capital, which is developing 12 East 13th Street with Continental Properties.
But make no mistake. As lucrative as having parking can be for developers, it’s not nearly as straightforward an amenity as having a concierge or a pet spa. Parking places are controlled by zoning, and in Manhattan — specifically below East 96th Street and West 110th Street — limitations are strict, according to land-use lawyer Jay Segal. In most of Manhattan south of 59th Street, new buildings are limited to one spot for every five units.
“In order to have more [parking spaces] than allowed, you need to get a special permit from the City Planning Commission,” Segal said. Pursuant to the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, this process could take 18 months to two years, he added.
But there are some workarounds. At 12 East 13th Street — thanks to its former use as a Hertz rental car garage — the project was able to get parking qualified as an “accessory use” for the building.
“If they can get it,” said De Niro of developers incorporating parking into their buildings, “they will do anything they can to get it.”