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Shortly after New York City offices closed at the height of lockdown, rumblings began about turning the empty space into much-needed housing. However, this is not as easy as bystanders make it sound. Mayor Adams is well aware of the city’s zoning challenges, and has thus recommended a rezoning for Midtown that would allow for greater residential use. His plans for addressing the housing crisis also include easing the way of converting office buildings to residential.
But even if the rezoning goes through, the fact remains that many offices are ill equipped to meet the city’s residential requirements. Traditional floor plates make it hard for natural light to reach the rear of the office building; not only does this look aesthetically unappealing and mean extra work for the developers and builders, but building codes require residential units to have windows in the living rooms and bedrooms. Moreover, with utilities like plumbing and HVAC being centralized in office buildings, significant work is required to bring them into each new unit.
As daunting as all that sounds, it is not impossible for empty commercial spaces to get turned into housing. After companies abandoned the Financial District following the 9/11 attacks, their buildings were converted to residential use with appealing architecture and an abundance of amenities. Decades earlier, artists’ adaptations of former industrial and commercial buildings into live/work space were instrumental in the transformations of Soho, Tribeca, and other downtown neighborhoods from abandoned wastelands to some of the most coveted neighborhoods in Manhattan.
Many listings for new construction apartments with open layouts and high ceilings tout “loft-like interiors,” but the following listings are the real deal. Not only are they situated in formerly industrial buildings, but they are rich in architectural details like exposed brick, original ceiling beams, joists, and columns. They truly don't make them like they used to, and listings such as these are becoming increasingly rare.

Sweeney Building, #5H (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

718 Broadway, #5B (Corcoran Group)

258 Broadway, #5E (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

133 Mulberry Street, #5A (Serhant LLC)

The Silk Building, #823 (Compass)

The Chelsea Mercantile, #3E (Coldwell Banker Warburg)

The North Moore, #3B (Compass)

River Front, #303 (Compass)

The Bullmoose, #2B (Engel & Volkers New York Real Estate LLC)

The Carl Fischer Building, #3C (Corcoran Group)

382 Lafayette Street, #4 (Serhant LLC)

15 Union Square West, #4E (Corcoran Group)

The Lofts of Greene Street, #4A (Modlin Group LLC)

118 Wooster Street, #4C/5C (Compass)

112 Duane Street, #4S (Olshan Realty Inc)

Lifesaver Lofts, #4A (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

15 Mercer Street, #4 (Nest Seekers LLC)

The Gerken Building, #11 (Compass)

84 Mercer Street, #2B (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)
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