Posted by Leonard Steinberg on April 21st, 2012

As a large swath of very beautifully designed buildings head our way in New York City, a result of the re-awakening of new development construction that was dormant for several years, I want all ‘older/existing’ co-op’s and condo’s to acknowledge that soon they could be viewed as the ‘poorer cousins’ when compared to the newer buildings that will include exquisite common areas, lobbies and entrances. So if your building has not addressed the following yet, this is what I suggest should be the FIVE items no building should ignore:

1)   FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  By adding a touch of greenery to welcome you and your guests home, you are creating a good first drive-up-appeal impression, and you are benefitting your entire block. This is probably one of the most inexpensive upgrades for a building and worth every penny. In fact, if your building is too cheap or short-sighted to see the benefit of doing so, you or a small group may even want to pool together the $ 2,000.00 and but the two planters, potting soil and boxwoods. Remember to plant plants that are well suited to the light/shade/wind traffic conditions. Of course you can get more creative and group several planters, or more.

2)  THE LOBBY: Whether you have a doorman or not, the lobby is the first interior impression of your building and sets the tone. A clean, renovated, up-to-date lobby is a wise investment. A gut renovation is not cheap. The alternative is minor fixes such as: painting or applying wallpaper to the walls in a chic coloration (surely someone in your building is, or knows a good interior designer to help with this selection?), changing out the lighting (no fluorecents!) or adding an appealing light fixture/chandelier, adding an orchid or fresh flowers. Maybe adding some artwork would help too:  good, simple, not-too-taste-specific prints from such mass-but-tasteful stores such as Restoration Hardware or Room and Board will do the trick. Why not add an elegant bench or chairs with a side table and some books?

3) THE ELEVATORS: A tired elevator interior sends a message of tired apartments and their owners. Re-finishing an elevator interior is not cheap, but certainly well worth the $ 15k or so it takes.

4) THE HALLWAYS: When you step off the elevator, seeing some art on the walls is the quickest, easiest fix. Again, simple black and white photos are more than adequate. A good, clean carpet and clean painted or papered walls are better. Add some good, soft lighting: Fluorescent lights are always vile…..there are warmer, equally energy efficient LED lights these days.  Make the hallways look like the elegantly designed hallway of a tasteful home and you have a winner.

5) GET OVER IT! Unless your building delivers on all fronts, don’t expect it to sell for some of the super-high prices of buildings that do. Upgrading your building common areas may indeed benefit those who are selling their homes:  it benefits those who stay even more as they get to enjoy these elements longer AND benefit if indeed they ultimately sell. A higher sale price of your neighbor’s home makes your home worth more too whether selling, re-financing or simply knowing your home is improving in value. Building owners would work together quickly and simply to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise from spending money. There are several ways to elegantly address those that simply cannot afford to contribute to building improvements. And to those that simply don’t want any change at all, put it to a vote: we live in a democracy after all.