Prewar apartments have long been prized for the quality construction and charming details that are absent in most postwar buildings. Along with plaster walls, hardwood floors and gracious layouts, prewar buildings are associated with impressive lobbies, desirable locations, and landmark status. The finite quantity of these buildings has only made them more desirable in the minds of many buyers.
But times and tastes change. The view that postwar buildings, with uninspired layouts and inferior materials, were second-rate started to change once developers began to offer amenities reflecting lifestyle trends such as gyms, party rooms, roof decks and garages. These amenities proved so popular that soon they became the norm. Eventually, prewar co-ops began to create gyms and roof decks of their own for the convenience of their residents but also to enhance the value of their buildings.
But keeping up with the marketing muscle behind new development projects isn’t so easy. Condo developers raised the bar again by offering an array of up-scale amenities to attract buyers to slightly out of the way locations, to set their buildings apart from others on the market, and/or to justify higher prices. Since buyers already expect gyms and roof gardens, many developers now offer a multitude of newer features such as wellness and spa facilities, media rooms, wine cellars, pet spas, basketball courts, bowling alleys, rock climbing walls, and golf simulators.
Some boutique condos have a smaller selection of facilities but offer amenities with a more personal touch, for example shopping perks at certain high-end stores, educator-designed children’s playrooms, and art curators for the buildings’ public spaces. For super lux developments the newest wrinkle in marketing to high-end buyers is to offer concierge services on par with five-star hotel living. With a quick call to the downstairs desk residents can order up a birthday party, last-minute anniversary gift, or walk around the block for Fido.
What does this mean for prewar coops? It means that for many buyers, prewar buildings are no longer so special. Along with new condo developments’ buyer-friendly and more flexible purchasing options, their large menu of amenities has helped shift attention and sales to the newer buildings and the mid- and downtown neighborhoods where so many of these developments are located. The prime “Parkside” environs of the Upper East and West Sides and their prewar cooperative buildings will always have appeal but now have to compete for attention from the many buyers now drawn to amenity-rich buildings in formerly non-traditional areas of the city.