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Developers are reinventing old walk-up buildings as uber-hip homes for 20-somethings

Todd Jacobs, Martin Nussbaum, Steven Figari and Grady Dunning, the four men tasked with the development and leasing of B.A. Van Sise/for the New York Daily News Todd Jacobs, Martin Nussbaum, Steven Figari and Grady Dunning, the four men tasked with the development and leasing of “The Collective” on E. 33rd Street, a complex of seven high-rise walk-up tenements converted for use as small luxury apartments marketed towards wealthy college grads and young professionals

Your great grandmother’s old tenement building is suddenly hip.

Developers are tricking out run-down Manhattan walk-ups with luxury-level finishes and trendy amenities such as game rooms and rooftop cabanas in an effort to convince rich kids to pay big bucks for tiny apartments with little light or ventilation.

It’s an age-old story of renovating for profit, but now it’s being taken to a new extreme, with developers investing in the kinds of top-tier appliances and services usually seen only in luxury high-rises.

On the flip side, these apartments are even more cramped than Grammy’s, since developers are reconfiguring units to add additional bedrooms in a bid to maximize profits. In other words, 500-square-foot studios are being cut up into one-bedrooms and 700-square-foot one-bedrooms suddenly have two bedrooms.

In Murray Hill, one developer has invested nearly $ 10 million to renovate and rebrand seven adjacent tenement buildings with 150 units on E. 33rd St. as a trendy college-style living environment where twentysomethings can rest their heads in a tiny apartment after enjoying trendy shared amenity spaces.

The company, Slate Property Group, linked all seven buildings with a tunnel to create an underground screening room and a game room stocked with arcade machines where residents can hang out and have a beer. But it’s a tradeoff. Prospective residents must be prepared to live in very small spaces.

“Every apartment we’ve been in, we’ve increased the number of bedrooms by at least one,” said Martin Nussbaum, CEO of Slate. “In some cases, we’ve even increased it by two or three. That’s a big part of the business model.”

Residents of the buildings, which collectively are dubbed (wouldn’t you know it?) “The Collective,” also will have a part-time doorman, dishwashers, a huge shared rooftop terrace with outdoor seating and their own iPad-controlled lockers for laundry dropoff, storage or grocery orders — all of which will be taken care of by staff.

“The Collective was our way of reaching out to the younger marketplace of 22- to 30-year-olds,” said Todd Jacobs of Bold New York, the broker marketing the units. “The people who live here have just graduated from sororities and dormitories and small-knit communities like Syracuse. We wanted to give them that same kind of community feel.”

B.A. Van Sise/for the New York Daily News “The Collective” on E. 33rd Street, a complex of seven high-rise walk-up tenements

The project debuted this May, and already Jacobs has been fielding requests for apartments from friends of current residents, who see buddies making friends and having a good time and want in on the action.

But living at the Collective doesn’t come cheap. Tiny one-bedroom homes start at $ 3,000.

That’s a hefty price, especially since these units have the same fundamental problems as the dark and dingy tenement buildings that immigrants piled into en masse in the 19th century. They’re narrow, they don’t get much light and, with less than a foot of space between buildings, they’re not exactly airy.

In the early 1900s, tenements were considered a step forward in urban design: a residential building for use by three or more families who all lived independently and had their own kitchens. Thousands of such buildings still stand all over Manhattan, many with rent-stabilized tenants.

“It’s interesting that developers are even using the word ‘tenement,’ ” said David Favaloro, chief curator at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. “That word evokes a certain kind of place, one that’s for the poor, is overcrowded and has no indoor heating or plumbing.”

At these prices, renters could easily afford a much larger unit elsewhere in the city. But for young creative types looking for a good time, it’s all about location and amenities. Size doesn’t matter for these transients.

“I didn’t move to New York for lots of square feet,” said British national Will Friend, who has lived in a renovated tenement on the Lower East Side for two years. “The location is my favorite in New York. If you’re looking for a place to spend a lot of time at home, you’d be better off renting in Astoria.”

At a string of similarly renovated tenements on several different streets on the Lower East Side, where tiny two-bedroom homes on the ground floor go for $ 7,000 a month, the landlord, SMA Equities, has taken the finishes to new luxurious heights. Perks include Miele ovens, oak floors, sound-canceling windows that go for $ 1,000 a pop, free WiFi and even central air, which is unheard of in most luxury high-rise rentals, never mind tenement buildings.

“These are the same kinds of finishes that you’d find in a high-rise condo with a doorman,” said Louis Adler of Real New York, a brokerage that handles the renovation and leasing of the apartments. “If anything, they’re a tier above.”

Adler’s business partner Robert Rahmanian called it an “arms race.”

“It’s about figuring out how you can make your building a little bit nicer than the one next door,” he said.

Adler estimates that SMI has invested upwards of $ 50,000 per apartment to attract the kinds of tenants who will pay these rents.

The deal clincher for twentysomethings: Some of Real New York’s buildings, including one at 99 Allen St., have private rooftop cabanas for some of the upper-floor apartments, where residents’ parties will have views of the Empire State Building.

“These are pretty significant parties,” Jacobs said of similar events at the Collective. “It’s all part of the horizontal luxury experience.”

If Bubbe only knew!

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Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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