Real Estate in SoHo

“Landlords grow rich in their sleep.”

— John Stuart Mill

With several new condo projects stalled, like the Renzo Piano towers at 565 Broome and hotels like The James and The Dominick closed since March, you would think that rentals were doing well.

Not so.

Of course, landlords cling to the belief that this pandemic has only a short way to go and that waves of renters will shortly start rushing in to grab what’s left like a scene from the season finale of Fear the Walking Dead.

Naturally, this leads to the continuing intransigence about dropping prices. It’s a naturally objectionable concept for landlords. Except, that it’s where we are right now.

Take the “Affordable Housing” project that has been advertised for nearly a year at 111 Varick Street — the site of an old parking garage where the owner passed down the real estate to his son. The 27 story building offers 100 apartments at prices ranging from $4,000/mo. for a studio and $6,000/mo. for a one bedroom. Stanford, the rental agent who answered the phone, knew nothing about the “affordable” apartments and referred us to HPD. According to the offices of CB1, CB2, the Borough President and State Senator Brad Hoylman’s office, no one knew how to access the list of apartments that no doubt were part of the approval to build in the first place.

The Renzo Piano building began as an eight story rental building, morphed into a hotel with no height limits (an as-of-right zoning in a commercial area), and was then bought along with the surrounding parcels after the zoning had favorably changed — with the help of the Planning Board. The result, of course, are two huge condo towers which are mostly vacant.

After having followed up on the 111 Varick project for over a year, does anyone actually wonder why residents refuse to believe anything politicians tell us?

So, rental prices are dropping. Many local buildings are dropping their asking prices. However, several older buildings are not budging on their asks. No doubt, in contemplation of that mad rush of bodies returning to SoHo and other areas in Manhattan.

Which may never come. Companies have realized that people working from home helps their bottom line. SoHo is now in danger of a huge number of vacancies in storefronts, vacancies in commercial space — and empty apartments.

With the plethora of homeless and the increasing likelihood of resistance from landlords to filling their properties with this transient group — what is the possibility of the vacant hotels in SoHo being used to fill this void?

Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Photo by D. Clark MacPherson

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