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This Co-op's Lobby Redo Wasn't Undone by a Mere Car Crash

Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks

Westchester County

Lobby Makeover

The Homestead's new lobby and front doors (image courtesy Garthchester Realty)

Clementine had just spent a year dealing with a different mess: the public areas of the eight-story, 50-year-old building. “I’ve been on the board for about 18 years,” she says, “and the hallways and lobby were updated many years before that. The interior of our building was old, outdated, and just worn out. It was pretty nasty,” she notes, recalling wall bubbles that had popped up at various places under the faded wallpaper. “People kept asking, ‘When are we going to do the interior?’”

Most co-op and condo managers agree that a lobby redesign is the most controversial task a board can undertake. (Old management joke: If you want to get a quorum at a meeting, announce you're going to redesign the lobby.) But at The Homestead, populated by a mixture of young professionals, families, and older people, there was nary a word of complaint.

That’s because everyone was kept in the loop, says Brian Scally, a partner at Garthchester Realty, the property’s management firm. There was a meeting with the shareholders to announce both the project and an assessment to pay for it. “We told them what it would cost, [approximately] what it would work out to be per share, and I actually did fee schedules for everyone. We gave them options. You could pay upfront. You could pay in one, two, or three years. Throughout the project, Clementine would post notices constantly about what was going on.”

The board hired designer Mark Zemsky. The wallpaper was out and in its place were Earth-tone colors on the walls, separated with a chair rail, along with a tan and red carpet, and pictures of flowers, all lit by LEDs (both inside and outside the building and both garages). “The lighting is dimmable,” explains Scally, “so as people enter the hallways, the lighting comes up to full power. If no one is in the hallway, lighting dims down to about 20 percent, which is basically saving us about $ 2,200 a month.”

There was only one major bump in the road: the tiles in the lobby were poorly installed. “The tile work the original contractor put down was unacceptable,” says Clementine. “The floor was un-level, tiles were unaligned, and grout lines were crooked. We would complain, and he'd say, ‘I'll take care of it.’ Finally, we fired him, because he wasn't taking care of it. We had to rip out all of his work. That mistake cost us about $40,000, but [the final version] came out absolutely beautiful.”

The hallway and lobby projects, costing about $1 million, were paid for through the special assessment and funds from the reserve account. The work began just before Thanksgiving 2014 and ended about a year later. Clementine, who retired last year as a financial advisor, was very available and “very hands-on,” reports Scally. “She met with the designer, the contractor, and me regularly.”

Everyone is pleased with the results. “People say it looks like an upscale hotel,” says Clementine. “And then a reckless driver used his car to redesign our deck railing, canopy, canopy lighting, and entry door.” But Clementine is unfazed. “There was a lot of damage,” she says with a sardonic laugh, “but we'll get through this.”

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