The sale of the residential units in Historic Warehouse Lofts is seen by many as a bellwether of the downtown residential market. So far, the results are beating expectations. Twenty-one of 30 units have sold in less than a year of marketing.
“We initially anticipated a three year sell-off, but we are more than two-thirds sold one year in,” says architect and developer Jake Schneider of Schneider Development.
Schneider purchased the former Seneca Paper Co. warehouse at 210 Ellicott Street in 2007 and the first tenants moved in one year later after a $7.5 million makeover. The building contains one floor of commercial space topped by five floors of residences. It was one of downtown’s earliest conversion projects.
City leaders have touted residences as a crucial part of downtown’s resurgence, saying residents would help draw restaurants and shops and their foot traffic would inject new life to downtown streets.
While new condo construction has been rare outside of Waterfront Village, the luxury rental market has been brisk, nearly all in repurposed buildings taking advantage of state and federal historic preservation tax credit programs. Those incentives require residential conversion projects to remain rentals for five years and Historic Warehouse Lofts is the first project to convert to condominiums.
“We have been pleasantly surprised by the demand and interest thus far,” says Schneider. “People want to be in the middle of what’s happening downtown.”
Since October, 18 units have closed ranging in priced from $220,000 to $360,000 with three others under contract. Of the nine remaining units, four are two-bedrooms and the remainder one-bedroom plans. They are priced from $215,000 to $275,000.
The residences are spacious with high ceilings, quality finishes and city views. Every unit includes a walk-in laundry room, substantial closet space, exposed structural concrete loft ceilings, hardwood floors, fireplace, a large soaking tub, and a fully-equipped kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and maple cabinets. Two-bedroom units have two full bathrooms. There are a total of sixty, gated parking spaces, fourteen of which are covered, and a basement storage area.
“We’re providing a quality product at an attractive price point and I think that’s making all the difference.”
Schneider Development is pursuing Fannie Mae approval for the building which is expected to give sales a further boost. At the moment, buyers are utilizing portfolio lending products that typically require 20 percent down. Fannie Mae approval would enable purchasers to put 5 percent down and expand the number of banks able to provide mortgages in the building. The process is expected to take three months.
“Fannie Mae approval is going to expand the pool of buyers, which should both further catalyze sales and increase the long-term value of the units,” says Schneider. “Not everyone can or wants to put 20 percent down up front.”
The 210 Ellicott Street location promises to be even better in the future. Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is working with the City to construct a mixed-use commercial, retail and parking structure across the street on what is now a surface parking lot. One of the key components of the proposed project is a market, possibly run by Tops.
“We have a couple hundred residential units downtown and continually hear from our residents that a grocery store is in high demand,” says Schneider. “Being able to walk across the street and pick up groceries is definitely a luxury.”
The market is expected to draw even more residential development downtown. Schneider Development is doing its part with three residential conversion projects complete and a fourth underway. The company is putting the finishing touches on the redevelopment of 295 Niagara Street into a mix of residential and commercial space. The 40 units at the Turner Bros. Lofts project are now pre-leasing and will be tenant-ready in May.
Schneider Development, 716.923.7000