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Tell Us Your Real Estate Story

Posted by: Chris Palmeri on May 1, 2009


This edition of Tell Us Your Real Estate Story comes from New York City developer Van Velle, who took over a four unit project in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and turned it into a three unit, all built with green features he describes below. It’s listed at $2.4 million.

“We bought 459 West 44th Street in Manhattan from a contractor who had abandoned his project in its early stages and there was little worth saving in the shell of the four story building. He had demolished everything inside, torn off the roof, and replaced the floor joists with improperly sized framing.

Our whole approach to this project was different anyway. We recognized that, in a declining residential real estate market, the demand would be for value – for homes built to last. That’s why we decided to go sustainable. We scrapped the previous plan, which sacrificed quality for quantity, and instead proposed 3 luxury condos constructed with sustainable products and efficient technology.

We started by digging out a basement; much of the excavation required jack hammering through granite. Six months and 20 dumpsters later we at least had the satisfaction of knowing our building sits on solid bedrock. We then reinforced the brick exterior with posts and beams anchored to the brick skin with stainless steel bolts. This would be a foundation that could endure in any market.

Icynene sprayed insulation was used in exterior walls and in ceilings. This is an environmentally safe product that emits no toxic fumes, does not melt or drip in a fire, has no food value for insects or rodents, and reduces airborne introduction of moisture, food, and mold spores.

We chose a Multi-aqua gas powered, ductless HVAC system that delivers hot and cold water to radiators and air handlers for heating and air conditioning, operating in an environmentally safe way. These systems save thousands of dollars each year and in our economy those cost savings can be exponential to a family’s life.

We finished the floors with a water-based Bona sealer and 4 finish coats treated with a catalytic agent that hardens and protects the Select Grade American walnut flooring for more durable wear.

The building is finished with the same care and attention to detail. Viking stoves, Bosch dishwashers and other high-end appliances equip the kitchens. Duravit tankless toilets and Dornbracht handsets complete the bathrooms. Countertops are Cesar stone, each bathroom has unique tile treatments and all window sills are covered with stone.”

Reader Comments


May 1, 2009 2:35 PM

I love an apartment with philosophy behind it. Sounds like all the thought put into this will (or at least should) pay off. I'm reading a book tackling this sort of issue, "The Power of Small" ( ). The point there, as here, is that by paying attention to the details, instead of just the grand picture, you'll be better off. One thing this housing market crash might do is force more people to do just that. With landlords so desperate for tenants now, it's not so easy for them to say, "Here it is, a tiny, dirty apartment in Manhattan," and have it occupied at once.


May 3, 2009 8:04 AM

The living rooms in this place are TINY. The developer went "kitchen happy" and installed enormous kitchens in all the units biut left no space for a living/dining area. Look at the picture associate with the article. That IS the LR/DR and the apartment is over 2000sqft. The bexdrooms are larger than that. Nice finishes but very poor design. The developer should rip it out and start over with larger common areas and a smaller kitchen.

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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