By Liana Grey
At the Sheffield, a condominium tower near Columbus Circle, broker Stephanie Mastronardi once joked that showing around families was the easiest part of the job: children would practically sell apartments for her, begging mom and dad to buy, say, the model unit decorated with the butterfly sculpture and dog-shaped lamp.
That was back in October, when the building’s amenity spaces were still under construction. Had prospective buyers been able to tour the playroom, with its polka-dot patterned floor and seating area shaped like a giant clock, multi-bedroom units might have disappeared from the market especially quickly.
At One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a waterfront condominium complex in Brooklyn Heights that frequently receives visits from families, “the kids get wowed by the space” in the building’s two- and three-bedroom apartments, said Rachel Poggi, director of sales at the 14-story building, which is currently 56% sold.
While visiting a model unit with their parents last summer, a pair of twins turned the shower in one of the bathrooms into a makeshift sprinkler. “They felt right at home,” said Poggi. To further appeal to visiting preschoolers – there are a variety of family-sized units still available, including a four-bedroom listed on Streeteasy for $2,300,000 – the sales team sets up crayons and coloring books in a children’s art room adjacent to a play area.
Now that spring is here, apartment-hunting parents (or rather their progeny) are keeping their eyes peeled for more than generous living space and indoor playrooms. It’s what’s on the outside that counts: slides, swings, baseball fields, and grassy lawns that evoke the greenery of suburbia.
And because family-friendly condo amenities and proximity to open space tend to go hand in hand, it can take a particularly flashy playground to impress prospective buyers.
Pier Six, a new promenade just steps from One Brooklyn Bridge Park, offers what the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy calls a “destination playground”: nearly two acres of open space with rope swings, two-story-high slides that let out onto a sandbox filled with stone animal sculptures, and an innovative “water laboratory” where kids can splash around.
For family nights out, there’s a restaurant and roof deck with views of New York Harbor and the office towers of lower Manhattan.
“When Pier Six opened last summer, we saw an influx of buyers,” said Poggi.
There are plans to one day extend Brooklyn Bridge Park to Atlantic Avenue, and build 14 miles of pedestrian and bike paths from Sunset Park to Greenpoint, in the northwest tip of Brooklyn. The construction of additional parkland, which is being promoted by the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Initiative, a public-private partnership, would benefit families in Williamsburg, the hipster hotspot now popular with the stroller set.
“Williamsburg in general has grown up,” said Jennifer Lee of Aptsandlofts.com, who manages sales at the Residences at the Williamsburg, a condominium complex adjacent to an upscale hotel, with access to a pool, fitness center, and rooftop bar.
Young professionals have married and settled down in buildings like Warehouse 11, a 120-unit condo complex with floor-to-ceiling windows, and look to the basketball court and baseball field of 35-acre McCarren Park, as well as the slowly developing green space along the East River, for space to play with their kids. “They’re going to build a huge waterfront esplanade,” said Lee.
Pier One, the first section of Brooklyn Bridge Park to open, got off to a rocky start last April, when two toddlers burned their hands playing on metal domes that had overheated in the summer sun. But the domes were removed, and the park, which currently stretches from DUMBO to southern Brooklyn Heights, has become a mecca for young kids when the weather is warm.
“Several families that live in the neighborhood but had never considered new development purchased after realizing how convenient it would be for them to live here,” said Poggi. “We also had increased interest from families living in Manhattan and outside the city that weren’t very familiar with the building until they came to check out the new park.”
The building’s relative privacy – it sits in a formerly industrial area just beyond an elevated highway, a block from the shops and picturesque brownstones on Joralemon Street – is a bonus for families seeking the middle ground between urban chaos and suburban quiet.
But it’s not so toddler-centric that parents will be tempted to move when their children hit the teenage years. A video game lounge and movie screening room offer high schoolers a place to unwind while giving their parents peace of mind. “Kids can have friends over and stay in the building,” Poggi said.
And there’s more to Pier Six – as well as Pier Five, an extension of the park slated to open next summer – than just playscapes.
“The unique features of the new water playground, in combination with the sand volleyball, and Pier Five soccer fields allow families to continue taking advantage of the building’s location, even after the children have outgrown a traditional playground,” said Poggi.
The Rushmore, a pair of 289-unit glass towers along Riverside Drive that opened for sales in 2006, has also managed to attract buyers with kids of all ages. There, too, the key was a variety of recreational options, on landscaped yards built by Extell, the building’s developer.
The condo complex is located just blocks from Riverside Park and Central Park, both of which offer movie screenings, concerts, and other family entertainment in summer months.
But on a lazy weekend afternoon, most residents are content playing catch with their kids on the Extell-built Little League field, or organizing volleyball matches on a sand-covered court. “It gives kids a lot of extra play space,” said Melissa Zeweslin of Corcoran Sunshine, who manages sales for the building.
For rainy days, there’s a ground floor playroom designed by Kidville, an Upper West Side fixture that, Zeweslin said, is already familiar to many buyers, who tend to come from the immediately surrounding neighborhood or the Upper East Side. (Two-bedroom units are in the million-dollar range, and a six-bedroom sold for $6,315,000 in February.)
Most importantly, the space seals the deal for prospective buyers’ children. “Once the kids see the playroom they don’t want to get out,” said Ziweslin. It’s also mom-approved, with padded floors and added supervision from other parents, who congregate regularly for play groups.
A pool down the hall offers swimming classes for children.
Equal thought went into the amenity spaces at One Rector Park, a condominium tower in Battery Park City. The 15-story building, which has a four-bedroom unit listed on Streeteasy for $1,725,000, offers a homework center in addition to a state-of-the-art playroom.
The center doesn’t go so far as to offer on-site tutoring services, but it’s a quiet place for school-age kids to work while their younger siblings attend storytelling sessions in the play area. Children of prospective buyers are welcome to drop in – if they’re not too busy playing outside in the parkland spread throughout Battery Park City.
Like the Rushmore, One Rector Park is surrounded by green space: 36 acres of landscaped grounds, soccer fields, basketball courts, and paths for biking and jogging along the Hudson River.
In addition to the esplanade, there’s a smaller park just out the door. “It’s right in front of Rector Park, which is like having a front yard,” said Tricia Hayes Cole, the building’s sales director. “A lot of people are attracted to the fact that it’s so green, and so full of outdoor activities.”
Despite the past week’s cold spell – and the fact that the city’s trees and flowers have yet to bud – buildings like One Rector Park have already seen a rise in interest among prospective buyers. Over at One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the sales office became busy over the last month. “We’re definitely seeing the activity pick up,” said Poggi.