Strikingly similar new developments across the city are luring shoppers away from restrictive co-ops and historic brownstones and into generic-looking, biscuit-shaped spaces.
But for buyers like Bartell Cope, who has a contract for a new unit at Rennie, “you make a place your own with colour, decoration and your personal energy, so for me it’s not a cookie cutter — it’s practical.”
Cope and his fiancé, Samantha Gorman, who are relocating to Harlem from Santa Cruz, California, the priority was finding a location that would allow them to immediately focus their attention on everything the city has to offer.
“The romantic idea of restoring a brownstone is great, but frankly a luxury if you can pull it off,” said the 32-year-old, who has flexibility from his remote job in sales.
Though the Rennie is billed as a luxury residence, with one-bedroom units starting at $675,000, the units lack the transitional spaces found in super-luxe buildings like 145 CPN or 200 Amsterdam, and are therefore considered “efficient”, stated Stephen Kliegerman, President of Marketing for Brown Harris Stevens Development.
“The Rennie, with a 25-year tax break at a very reasonable price per square foot, is a great value,” said Kliegerman. As a result, homes like these are “usually much more efficient, [have] much less traffic area, but much more usable area.”
While Cope and Gorman’s 792-square-foot apartment at the Rennie doesn’t qualify as a tiny one-bedroom by New York standards, the reality, according to Corcoran agent Sam Teichman, is that many new-build developers are “trying to create as many units as possible.” possible in the total floor area of the building.”
More gain in these efficiency buildings comes from more units—not, say, adding extra square footage to a bedroom or incorporating transitional spaces into a 600-square-foot unit.
The general reaction of his customers to this “Efficiency Unit” model is currently: “I would 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 delighted with where they ended up at 145 CPN, which Rettig described as a “small boutique building with lots of charm and character,” similar to the UWS brownstone rental, which Rettig admitted to having they “were very well sad to leave behind.”
Located across from Central Park, the $3.5 million 1,509-square-foot, three-bed, two-bath unit at the Rettig was the building’s record sale in December 2021.
Aida Sukys, CFO of software company Justworks, resisted the notion that new buildings, while lacking “the pre-war history or charm,” are more out of the blue than a pre-war conversion.
In fact, Sukys said she was “attracted to the goals at Jolie and felt like they were anything but cookie cutters.” Personally, she said she’d rather “bring my own touch and character to the house via furniture, paintings and wall paint 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 developers for the generic layouts that are particularly common in so-called efficiency units that manage to escape the fate of the galley thanks to a missing wall, but not much else.
They only react to the market.
“What developers are building and what these cookie cutters are offering,” says Philips Forbes, are particularly appealing to “international buyers” who don’t necessarily feel strongly connected to the city’s history and can live without the soul of a pre-war building.
The dominant design aesthetic – lots of light, clear lines – in new buildings is also an answer to what people want today, according to Philips Forbes. “It has to be light, right? Because that will wear out over time.”
REAL New York’s Jason Warner, who oversees sales at the Benny (not related to the Rennie), said the decision to buy in a new building was driven by a desire to move into a “real adult-sized building.” in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, where Warner is overseeing the sale, this real grown-up’s apartment is 686 square feet for $580,000.