Two concurrent trends, seeming in opposition to each other, are running through the Manhattan rental apartment market right now. One is the mega-luxury-rental, those massive–and massively expensive–NYC rental apartments catering to the super-rich who want the freedom a rental affords, but also need to live in, say, a four bedroom penthouse on the 63rd floor. Prices of these beauties are routinely hitting $50,000 (and up!) a month. The other movement, and one that is far more reflective of reality for the vast majority of NYC rental apartment seekers, who are increasingly looking for a home for one, maybe two, is Mayor Bloomberg’s embracing of the micro-apartment.
The pilot program for the NYC micro-apartment is in full swing, with the city rezoning one of its lots in Kips Bay for a new building of 55 apartments, each ranging from only 250 to 370 square feet. The city called upon the world’s best design and architecture firms to come up with ideas for how “to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness” in such a tiny footprint, and 33 NYC micro-apartment designs were submitted, the most ever for an open call, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Last week the Mayor announced the winner: the team of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS.
Each NYC rental micro-apartment will have 9- to 10-foot ceilings, a large, floor-to-ceiling glass door exiting onto a Juliette balcony, and be divided into two distinct sections. There’s the “tool box” area, with a compact kitchen (featuring full-height pull-out pantry, a full-height refrigerator, a two-burner stove, and room for a convection microwave), a bathroom, and storage space, including a 16-foot long overhead loft and a full-depth closet. Your living zone will be modular, with Murphy beds or sleeper sofas pulled down/out at night, foldable or pull-down tables in place will you’re awake.
Obviously, this sort of arrangement takes personal efficiency and disciple to really work comfortably. No matter how clever the design, you just can’t bring that much stuff–clothes, shoes, gear, decor, glassware, all of it–into a 250 square-foot home. It helps that almost 20% of the building’s interior space is given over to common areas, so many amenities often assumed to be part of your personal space will, in fact, be shared with your neighbors. For example, the building will have a rooftop garden and deck, lounges on most of the floors for working or hanging out, a large multi-purpose space that you can reserve for dinners and events, a laundry room, bike storage and general storage, a cafe, and a fitness room.
So how much will these Manhattan micro-apartment rentals cost? For this pilot program in Kips Bay, on which construction will begin by the end of this year (each unit is pre-fabricated in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, then brought to Manhattan and, essentially, snapped together), with move-ins by September of 2015, 40 percent of the apartments will be priced in the “affordable” range, from $940 to $1,800 a month.
Prices for the market-rate units haven’t been determined. Every one of these NYC micro-apartment rentals will be rent-stabilized. And if this all sounds a bit too back-to-college for you, well, frankly, that’s my concern as well. But something has to be done, and hopefully the city, through residential rezoning in Manhattan and the other boroughs, and developers, through tinkering and honing, will make the concept functional and affordable for all sorts of lifestyles.
Done well, it could work for single empty-nesters, as well as professionals, artists, and workers of all ages and means. As Mayor Bloomberg said at the current design’s unveiling: “the growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations.”