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The “Car Condo” Is Becoming a New York City Fixture

New York City

Car condos, parking spaces, co-op and condo boards, COVID-19, public transit, car ownership.

A rendering of the garage at 378 West End Ave., where parking spaces will sell for $550,000 (image by Williams NY).

Aug. 18, 2021

Way back in 2014, we reported that a parking space in a luxury Soho condominium had sold at a price that cracked the mythical $1 million barrier. Three years later, a humble garage in Brooklyn’s Park Slope was selling spaces for the bargain price of just $300,000 that came with all the typical condo amenities, including a $240 monthly maintenance fee and $51 in monthly taxes.

Today, with a boost from the coronavirus pandemic, the expression “car condo” has cemented a place in the lexicon of New York City real estate. The parking company Centerpark has converted an Upper East Side garage at 301 E. 69th St. into a car condo, Crain’s reports. It’s selling 23 parking spaces, and has hired a luxury real estate broker to market them for sale to the public starting at $199,000 and possibly going as high as $350,000 each.

“So many people have said ‘I’m not going to get on the subway again for a very, very long time,’” says Kirsten Jordan, the Douglas Elliman Real Estate broker who’s marketing the units. “There are others saying, ‘I’m paying $60 to get from the Upper East Side to Tribeca – because Ubers are so expensive. It might make sense to buy’” a spot.

A spokesperson for Jordan’s team at Douglas Elliman tells Habitat: “This is kind of a new thing. Usually private spaces are available only to the people who live in the condo or co-op. This is a condominium that’s all parking spaces.”

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It’s not just garage operators who are selling spaces – it’s also developers of new luxury condominium buildings, such as 378 West End Ave. At that 18-story, 58-unit building, which is now under construction, nine parking spaces open only to owners of the buildings’ priciest apartments are listed for sale at $550,000 each, according to the Crain’s report.

The value of parking spaces had been rising for years, but the pandemic has given it a new boost, as commuting and the use of public transit have declined while car ownership has risen. As of mid-July, weekday subway ridership had plummeted 54% from the pre-pandemic days, according to the Partnership for New York City. The number of city-bound travelers on the suburban commuter rails was also down more than half. Meanwhile, new vehicle registrations in Manhattan jumped 27% in 2020 to 55,748, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles

That has increased demand for parking, according to Gregg Reuben, chief executive at Centerpark. The restaurant sheds that have sprouted up along city streets, combined with new bike lanes, have eliminated as many as 10,000 street spaces, he says, and garages that offer monthly rentals are raising prices. The average per-square-foot price of spots at condo and co-op buildings has soared 51% in the past year.

“It’s simply going to become more challenging to own a car in Manhattan,” says Reuben, who estimates that at least three of the firm’s other 17 Manhattan rental garages could go condo. “People are looking for convenience and security, and there are others who see this strictly as an investment opportunity.”

At Centerpark’s garage at 301 E. 69th St., buyers would get 185 square feet of space between painted lines – enough for a car plus additional room to hang items like golf clubs or strollers along the wall. Owners must pay property taxes – projected at $3,720 annually – and common charges of $75 a month, just as they would on a residential condo.

Back when that parking spot in Soho cracked the $1 million barrier, Beth Fisher, a senior managing director of the brokerage Corcoran Sunshine, told The New York Times: “The No. 1 amenity is parking. In the luxury market, parking is really one of the key, key features that distinguish one development from another.”

Today, thanks to the pandemic, her words are truer than ever.

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