New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Paula Chin in Building Operations on January 24, 2017
Coop and condo boards – the smart ones – are perpetually on the lookout for amenities that will enhance residents’ quality of life. Sometimes the amenities are over the top. And sometimes the addition of a simple amenity has the side benefit of removing an unsightly nuisance.
Consider the Gramercy Plaza, where the packages, parcels, and deliveries had gotten out of hand. Although the 287-unit cooperative at 130 East 18th Street in Gramercy Park is a luxury building, the lobby didn’t look it. “There were boxes piled upon boxes everywhere, and with our mirrored walls it seemed as if there was twice as much stuff,” says board member Erica Bown. “The place looked like a huge closet where you cram all your things before company comes over, except with the door left open. It was an embarrassment.”
These days, however, the lobby is spotless, spare, and clean, thanks to a redesign that carved out unused space to create closets, shelving, and cabinets that keep packages neatly out of sight. The co-op is just one in a wave of properties that are building new package rooms or expanding existing ones in order to cope with a constant – and constantly growing – deluge of deliveries.
“The volume has increased exponentially in recent years because of the proliferation of online shopping,” says Joel M. Ergas, president of Forbes Ergas Design Associates, which handled the Gramercy project. “I was visiting one lobby we were redesigning, and there were actually car tires in the corner,” he says. “If that’s not a clue to the crying need for more storage space, I don’t know what is.”
At Gramercy Plaza, the tiny, 50-square foot package room was no match for the deliveries arriving daily; making matters worse, it was inconveniently located at the back of the L-shaped lobby, 60 feet from the concierge desk. An unobtrusive storage area was needed in the front. Ergas saw a solution in the long, 31-foot wall of underutilized space that ran along one side of the seating area beyond the vestibule. He installed six bays of seven-foot-high closets with walnut doors. “The shelving inside, as well as the hang bars for clothes, are all adjustable and removable, so any combination can be created as needed,” says Ergas. “I wanted to provide total flexibility.”
Equally important, the concierge desk was moved from the left side of lobby to the right, just steps from the storage area. Ergas also built a 36-inch-high black marble-top counter with an open compartment underneath where boxes too large for the closets could be stored. “The open side doesn’t face the lobby, and the counter height allows the concierge to have a full view of the door at all times so security isn’t compromised,” he says. For good measure, a furniture cabinet was installed adjacent to the vestibule, where residents could leave laundry bags for pickup and a cleaner can drop them off without distracting the doorman.
“Whether it’s a large, luxury building or a smaller one with a modest budget, co-op and condo boards run into the same problem, which is finding sufficient storage space in a limited area and coming up with a layout that makes sense,” Ergas says. Thanks to the redesign, the Gramercy lobby has never looked better.
“It’s a seamless integration of form and function,” says board member Bown. “The staff has easy access to the closets, the doors are easy to open and close, and you’d never know that packages and boxes are behind them.”
Best of all, the lobby no longer looks like an overstuffed closet.
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