Ellen Kornfeld, Vice President and Partner, The Lovett Company
Co-op and condo boards are always looking for ways to improve their properties and enhance the value of their apartments. Sometimes they manage to find amenities and treasures that no one would have thought of, which was the story at one of your buildings.
Yes, it’s a prewar co-op that is located on Fifth Avenue between 10th and 11th, a nice neighborhood. We often talk about what space we can utilize and what we can do to get higher values for the building and more bang for our buck. In this case, we had an area outside in the back that was just concrete and weeds. It didn’t have any visual appeal. It was basically looking out on a distressed area that wasn’t being utilized.
What did the board have in mind?
Well, we looked at the space and wanted to do some investigation to find out if it was something we could convert into a kind of a viewing garden that could add to the quality of life within the building. It’s much nicer to look out onto trees and flowers, not concrete and weeds. We had to do probes to see if we were going into ground, into dirt or into other concrete, because the space was so old and had been neglected for so many years that nobody really knew what was under the weeds.
We hired a contractor, who did about four or five probes and was able to determine what areas had soil and what areas were covered in concrete slabs. There were certain areas we couldn’t plant in, but we could put in above-ground planters. And there were some areas where we could actually put plants and trees and all kinds of decorative grass directly into the soil that would be very beautiful.
Did you bring in a landscape architect or did the board do the planting itself?
There is a gentleman in the building who is a landscape architect and very famous in his field, and the board approached him. He volunteered his time to help us develop a plan for the backyard, and he put together all the plants that would be needed for that particular type of surrounding, given the light and the exposures that we get during the day. He came up with a wonderful design with plants that are user-friendly for that particular environment and would only require maintenance maybe four to five times a year, just cleaning up and checking to be sure everything is in good condition. We put in a very elaborate watering system. Every plant and tree is irrigated, and we had to put in electrical wiring to enable the irrigation to work.
How much did everything cost?
We laid out an initial investment of about $120,000. But at the end of the day, we got a lot of bang for our buck because we were able to convert this wonderful space using flip tax money and reserve fund money and make it into this beautiful garden with trees and flowers and a very unique design. It’s not a sitting area, because the only way to get out there is through the super’s place, which is on the first floor. But it’s a beautiful view for people who live in the back of the building, and if their values go up, it ultimately brings the value of everybody’s apartments up. It’s all good. It was something that was just wasted space that we really didn’t think much about until we explored making it into a beautification project.