Manhattan to Get First ‘Micro-Unit’ Apartment Building

New York City’s first “micro-unit” building will have apartments as small as 250 square feet (23 square meters) and pantries that pull out from the wall, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The “My Micro NY” building, a conversion of a city-owned property at 335 E. 27th St., will be the first multifamily building in Manhattan to be built entirely from prefabricated modular pieces, the mayor said in a statement. Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corp. and nArchitects, the project’s developers, won the adAPT NYC competition, which sought proposals for space-optimizing units.

“The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations,” Bloomberg said in the statement.

The 55 apartments in the building will have ceilings 9 feet to 10 feet (2.7 meters to 3 meters) high, balconies and loft space overhead, according to the statement. The building’s apartments will range in size from 250 square feet to 370 square feet, with 40 percent of them designated affordable units renting for below-market rates.

Each unit’s kitchen will include a full-height refrigerator, range and space for a convection microwave oven. The building, in the Kips Bay neighborhood, is designed with public spaces, such as a rooftop garden, porch with picnic tables and a lounge that can seat 20 for dinner or accommodate 40 for standing-room events, according to Bloomberg’s statement.

Construction Cost

The developer paid the city $500,000 for the land, and the cost of construction will be about $15 million, Nicholas Lembo, president of Monadnock, said in an interview.

Of the 55 units, 22 will be rent-restricted depending on tenants’ incomes, and 33 will rent at market rates, Lembo said. The restricted rents would range from $939 a month for those who earn 80 percent of the area’s average annual income, or $55,000 annually for a couple, to $1,873 for those earning 155 percent, or $106,640 for a couple, according to the mayor’s office.

The city’s housing codes don’t currently allow for an entire building of micro-units. Under the pilot program, Bloomberg will waive some zoning regulations at 335 E. 27th St. to test the market for micro-units, the mayor’s office said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Appealing Idea

Micro-units may be an appealing idea for developers, who prefer building studios and one-bedrooms and find doing so a challenge because they need larger apartments to cover the costs of construction in the city, said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

“I believe there’s a market for this,” he said in a telephone interview. “But at what rent? What will it cost to build and to carry the units, and will the market rent that can attract people cover the costs? That’s the real question.”

Manhattan rental prices have climbed in the past year across all apartment sizes, as demand escalated. The average monthly rent for a studio increased to $2,012 in the fourth quarter, up 3.2 percent from a year earlier, while rates for one-bedroom units rose 5.1 percent to $2,794, according to a report by broker CitiHabitats. A two-bedroom apartment commanded an average of $3,909 a month, up 4.8 percent.

The city’s request for proposals for the pilot project was downloaded 1,600 times and resulted in 33 completed submissions. It was the largest response ever to a request by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development, according to today’s statement.

(Updates with development and rent costs in sixth to eighth paragraphs.)
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