2 Cooper Square arrives, looking old-school

Developer wants new rental building to blend in on the Bowery

A muscular brick façade, cornice molding and double-hung windows typify the architectural designs of the 19th-century buildings throughout the city. But that description now also applies to a new luxury rental in the East Village.

Atlantic Development Group, which was cofounded by developer Peter Fine, constructed 2 Cooper Square as a throwback in a neighborhood defined by its historic buildings but which has increasingly become home to modernist glass-and-steel structures.

“If I was living so far Downtown in the Village, at the nexus of five neighborhoods, would I want to live in a [modernist] building that I can live in, in Midtown? You know what? Probably not,” said Sharon Smith, executive vice president of Atlantic Development Group.

As of early last month, after about four weeks on the market, one-third of the 134 apartments were pre-leased for between $75 and $100 per square foot, and Atlantic said leasing has gone faster than projected.

One-bedroom apartments start with asking rents of $3,350 a month and two-bedrooms start at $5,500, with prices rising depending on floor, size and outside space. The highest-priced unit in the building is a 2,030-square-foot four-bedroom with an asking rent of $22,000. (It has been shown several times but is not leased yet, according to Smith.)

Unlike many other new construction projects, which launched during the downturn or during this tenuous recovery, 2 Cooper Square was planned as a rental rather than as a condo. “We came to market with a pricing structure we thought the market could absorb,” Smith said. “We did not lower our pricing [because of the downturn]. We haven’t had to.”

Brokers who are not affiliated with the project say 2 Cooper Square is among the most upscale — and highest-priced — projects in an area with a growing appetite for luxury developments. (Cantor-Pecorella is handling the leasing.)

“There is such a dearth of luxury product in the East Village, so whoever has the amenities that a professional requires can demand pretty high prices,” said Yuri Lobachevsky, managing director for Citi Habitats.

Greg Welch, managing director for Magnum Real Estate, agreed. “In the East Village, the vacancy rate is very low, and we’re seeing more of a demand for new construction,” he said. “People moving into the area want luxury, but they want to be in the East Village.”

Lobachevsky and Welch pointed to 188 Ludlow, where one-bedrooms start at $3,650, and Avalon Bowery as rental projects comparable to 2 Cooper Square. At the Avalon Bowery, one-bedroom apartments “are in the high threes and low fours, and two-bedrooms start at $5,000,” Welch said.

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And condos are also sprouting nearby.

North of Cooper Square is the new Village Green luxury condo at 311 East 11th Street. Corcoran lists a two-bedroom at the eco-friendly designed development for $1.9 million.

Atlantic Development has built affordable housing as well as market-rate residential and commercial projects across the city, including another high-end rental on 10th Avenue in West Chelsea. (There is an ongoing probe of the firm by the city Department of Investigation, reportedly in connection with campaign contributions, but Atlantic said that 2 Cooper Square is unrelated to the investigation.)

While the exterior of 2 Cooper Square pays homage to 19th-century architecture, the inside is all about 21st-century luxury living, with Liebherr refrigerators, Bertazzoni stoves and a washer and dryer in every unit.

The original plan actually called for smaller apartments with no special amenities, Smith said. But then Atlantic saw the neighborhood going upscale and altered its plans to better compete. The apartments got bigger, the finishes were upgraded, and the pool on a landscaped roof arrived.

In a bid to echo the “historical richness” of the neighborhood, Atlantic and GKV Architects included elements such as column-to-column expanses of glass in the end bays of the building akin to the warehouses found in Noho.

The apartments range in size from 400 to 2,000 square feet and have nine-foot-high ceilings. Other building amenities include a 15-seat private screening room and the Cooper Club, a gym that offers massages and personal training services to tenants.(Several amenities are included with the rent, like the pool and movie screenings, but there will be a “modest fee” for the gym and treatment services.) The ground-level retail space, which wraps around the building, is being leased by Robert K. Futterman & Associates.

The building was also constructed with the involvement of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The city requires that in order to build on a property zoned for manufacturing — not residential — a developer must restore a landmark in return. To that end, Atlantic committed to renovating the historic Samuel Tredwell Skidmore House at 37 East 4th Street, adjacent to 2 Cooper Square. Ten of the project’s 144 units will be there.
The new development will stand in stark contrast to Cooper Union’s new building at 41 Cooper Square and the Cooper Square Hotel, two boldly contemporary structures that sit across the street, on the east side of the square. And just a block away is 52 East 4th Street, a new 15-story condo with floor-to-ceiling glass.

But Atlantic is confident its architectural efforts will pay off.

“We believe the people who choose to live in Cooper Square would choose not to live in a glass building. … It’s completely intuition,” Smith said.