Strikingly similar new developments across the city are luring buyers away from restrictive co-ops and historic brownstones and into generic-looking, cookie-cutter spaces.
But to buyers like Bartell Cope, who is in contract for a new unit in the Rennie, “You make a place your own with paint, decorations and your personal energy, so it isn’t cookie-cutter to me — it’s practical.”
Cope and his fiancé Samantha Gorman, who are relocating to Harlem from Santa Cruz, California, the priority was finding a place that would allow them to immediately focus their attention on all that the city has to offer.
“The romantic idea of restoring a brownstone is awesome, but frankly a luxury if you can manage that,” said the 32-year-old, whose remote job in sales has given him flexibility.
Although the Rennie is billed as luxury residences with one-bedroom units starting at $675,000, the units lack the transitional spaces featured in super-luxury buildings like 145 CPN or 200 Amsterdam and thus are considered “efficient,” explained Stephen Kliegerman, marketing president of Brown Harris Stevens Development.
“The Rennie, with a 25-year tax abatement at a very reasonable price per square foot, is a great value play,” Kliegerman said. As such, apartments like this “tend to be a lot more efficient, [have] a lot less circulation space, but a lot more usable space.”
While Cope and Gorman’s 792-square-foot apartment at the Rennie isn’t considered a tiny one-bedroom by New York standards, the reality, according to Corcoran agent Sam Teichman, is that a lot of developers of new buildings are “trying to create as many units as possible in the overall footprint of the building.”
More profit in these efficiency buildings comes from more units — not by, say, adding extra square footage to a bedroom or incorporating transitional spaces in a 600-square-foot unit.
At the moment, his clients’ general reaction to this “efficiency unit” model is, “I’d like more space for my money.”
Predictably, those with more disposable incomes don’t have to sacrifice space.
Lane Rettig and his wife Lily Rettig, are thrilled with where they landed at 145 CPN, which Rettig described as a “small, boutique building that has a lot of charm and character,” much like the UWS brownstone rental Rettig admitted they “were very sad to leave behind.”
The Rettig’s three-bed, two-bath 1,509 square-foot $3.5 million unit faces Central Park and was the building’s record high sale as of December 2021.
Aida Sukys, CFO of software company Justworks, pushed back against the idea that new buildings, in spite of not possessing “the pre-war history or charm” are any more cookie-cutter than a pre-war conversion.
In fact, Sukys said she was drawn to “the finishes at Jolie and felt that they were anything but cookie-cutter.” Personally, she said she’d rather, “layer in my own touch and character in the home via furniture, paintings, and wall color, and not have to worry about constant maintenance.”
Louise Phillips Forbes, a veteran luxury real estate broker, said it would be a mistake to blame the developers for the generic layouts, common especially in so-called efficiency units, which manage to escape galley kitchen fate, thanks to an absent wall but not much else.
They’re just responding to the market.
“What developers build and what those cookie cutters offer,” said Philips Forbes, are particularly appealing to “international buyers” who don’t necessarily feel a strong connection to the city’s history and can live without the soul of a pre-war building.
The overriding design aesthetic — lots of light, clean lines — in new builds is also a response to what people want today, said Philips Forbes. “It has to be light, right? Because that’s going to wear with time.”
REAL New York’s Jason Warner, who’s overseeing sales at the Benny (no relation to the Rennie), said the choice to buy in a new building is driven by the desire to move into a “‘real adult’s apartment.’” At the new apartment building in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, where Warner’s overseeing sales, that real adult’s apartment translates to 686 square feet for $580,000.