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Decades before discussions about turning empty offices and hotels to residential units began, a number of developers were busy transforming their rental portfolio into apartments for sale. This typically involves combining smaller units into larger apartments and upgrading all apartments with new, high-end finishes and appliances. Amenities often get a makeover as well, both by upgrading existing facilities and adding new ones that have proven popular among buyers.

With buildable land increasingly scarce in New York, developers appreciate the opportunity to work with a building that’s already up. As painstaking as restoring a prewar building in a historic district or an individual landmark can be, it is nevertheless easier than making multiple trips before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (“Landmarks”) to get a new design approved. Finally, the rentals have a built-in client base of tenants who might like to stay in the building, and sometimes a renters-only discount below market rate further sweetens the deal.
At the same time, some residents would be happy to stay in the buildings and buy their apartments, but high real estate prices might have put down payments out of reach for those who could barely afford the rent. Indeed, sometimes the value of local real estate has gone up to a point where even the most generous discount or buyout won’t allow some renters to find a similar place in their beloved neighborhood. Those who choose to stay will have to contend with the dust, noise, and disruption of services caused by the construction work.
In the past, 15% of New York rental tenants were required to agree to buy their apartments in order for a sales conversion to take place. However, as part of the sweeping rent laws of 2019, 51% of tenants must now agree to buy. The New York State Legislature has passed a bill allowing 15% agreement in buildings with five units or fewer in May 2022, but it is still awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature. A study from May 2021 found that such conversions plummeted in the wake of the rent laws, but not that they have stopped altogether. Below, see a selection of notable condos and condops that got their start as rentals.

Coming Soon

450 Washington Street, Tribeca
Completed in 2009 | Converted in 2022
Sales launch coming soon

450-Washington-Street-01 450 Washington Street (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)
When Tribeca was coming into its own as a residential neighborhood, Truffles Tribeca rose across the street from Hudson River Park in an area that has since become home to some of Lower Manhattan's most expensive real estate. The address and private balconies in select units could scarcely be improved upon, but Roger Ferris + Partners has brightened up the facade and created sophisticated homes with modern detailing inside. A teaser site has just gone up.

Tribeca Green, 210 Warren Street
Completed in 2004 | Conversion estimated for 2023
Sales launch TBA

210-Warren-Street-01 Tribeca Green (Eleven Visualization)
When Tribeca Green was constructed as a rental, it got its name from such eco-friendly features as solar panels on the roof, mechanical systems that reduce the building's carbon footprint, and twice-filtered outdoor air. As Robert A.M. Stern Architects leads the conversion of the building they originally designed, the apartments will become even more sustainable with the addition of NEST thermostats to allow future residents to control their homes' temperatures responsibly.

Now Selling
212-West-72nd-Street-01 212 West 72nd Street (Jason Schmitz)
Upper West Side condos
212 West 72nd Street
Almost immediately after a developer purchased The Corner, a glassy Upper West Side rental above Trader Joe's, rumors swirled about a condo conversion. CetraRuddy converted the 196 rental units to 108 spacious residences with high-end finishes, and also introduced a new array of amenities that include a new lounge, a fitness center with adjacent outdoor terrace, and a roof deck with lounging and grilling areas. While the convenient Upper West Side location has enticed buyers from all over New York, the director of sales says the building has attracted the children of former residents as well as past residents who have gotten married or grown their family after living in the building. Closings have recently commenced.

The Solaire, Battery Park City
20 River Terrace
Completed in 2003 | Converted in 2022
14 availabilities from $745,000

20-River-Terrace-01 The Solaire (Evan Joseph)
Battery Park City condops
Lower Manhattan condops
Before sales officially launched at The Solaire, word-of-mouth requests from residents and neighbors drove a number of units into contract. Since then, it has become one of the best-selling buildings of 2022. It is hard to pinpoint any one factor, but the well-appointed apartments, extensive amenities reimagined by COOKFOX, sustainable features like photovoltaic cells and on-site water treatment plant, and prime Downtown address are certainly factors in its popularity.

393-West-End-Avenue-01 393 West End Avenue (Brown Harris Stevens)
Upper West Side condos
West End Avenue condos
Nearly 100 years after 393 West End Avenue was constructed by Goldner & Goldner, its developers filed permits to turn it from a rental to a condo just before the new rent laws took effect. In addition to bringing the interiors up to modern living standards and creating a garden-level amenity suite, CetraRuddy restored original architectural details in the building's Collegiate Gothic facade. It is located in the West End-Collegiate Historic District extension, and Landmarks unanimously approved the required modifications.

The Avant, East Village
531 East 12th Street
Completed in 2009 | Converted in 2020
5 availabilities from $1,275,000

531-East-12th-Street-01 The Avant (Real New York Properties)
East Village condos
East Village apartments
Like 393 West End Avenue uptown (see above), the developers behind The Avant's condo conversion submitted their plan just ahead of the deadline. The interiors were gut renovated and turned into larger apartments than seen in the building's incarnation as a rental, and the amenities got streamlined with a state-of-the-art smart video intercom system, new gym, and furnished roof deck.

The Broad Exchange Building, Financial District
25 Broad Street
Completed in 1902 | Converted in 2019
12 availabilities from $865,000

25-Broad-Street-01 The Broad Exchange Building (The Corcoran Group)
Financial District condos
Lower Manhattan condos
There has been much talk of turning vacant offices to residential units as of late, but The Broad Exchange Building was an early practitioner: Originally constructed as the largest office building in New York City, it was converted to rental apartments in 1997 after years of vacancy. Years later, Hoffman Architects and CetraRuddy worked closely with Landmarks on alterations to the building amidst the condo conversion. It now offers 347 luxury units and an 8,000-square-foot amenity package.

River & Warren, Battery Park City
212 Warren Street
Completed in 2001 | Converted in 2015
6 availabilities from $1,150,000

212-Warren-Street-01 River & Warren (Brown Harris Stevens)
Battery Park City condos
Downtown condos
Plans for the rental-to-sales conversion of The Solaire (see above) came hot on the heels of the success of its neighbor, the newly christened River & Warrn. Amidst the conversion to condos, many of the units were enlarged to include more bedrooms, the better to entice families of all sizes. Additionally, between expanding the gym and turning two apartments into a children's playroom, the amenities got an upgrade as well.

One Rector Park, Battery Park City
333 Rector Place
Completed in 1986 | Converted in 2011
6 availabilities from $760,000

333-Rector-Place-01 One Rector Park (Compass)
Battery Park City condos
Lower Manhattan condos
A number of Battery Park City condos and condops got their start as rentals, and One Rector Park was an early example. The Post-Modern design by Charles Moore remains a Lower Manhattan standout, but the interiors were renovated by Costas Kondylis to feature well-appointed apartments, a double-height lobby, and an amenity package that includes a windowed gym and beautifully furnished lounge.

Sheffield 57, Midtown West
322 West 57th Street
Completed in 1978 | Converted in 2006
17 availabilities from $850,000

322-West-57th-Street-01 Sheffield 57 (CityRealty)
Midtown West condos
Billionaires Row condos
While the soaring value of Lower Manhattan real estate has driven many a recent rental to sales conversion, the area around Sheffield 57 has gone several steps further, evolving from a no-man's-land to home of some of the most expensive real estate in the world. An open-air rooftop tennis court was removed amidst the conversion, and amenities at the top of the building now include a glass-walled swimming pool, a fitness center with Pilates studio, a screening room, a children's playroom, and a lounge. Architecture critic Carter Horsley spoke favorably of the conversion of the Emery Roth & Sons-designed building, saying, "It's no longer the proverbial big obnoxious kid on the block."

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