I'd bet you have never been inside THIS building.
This past weekend all over New York City, an event called Open House New York took place. About 200,000 people tour hundreds of buildings over the course of two days. The event began in 2003 as a way of letting New Yorkers nose around inside city buildings that are typically closed to the public.
On a very rainy Sunday afternoon, I took my family to Open House New York, and we toured Westbeth Artists’ Housing, a building I had admired from the West Side Highway and often wondered what was inside. What we found was so interesting, and I’m excited to tell you about it.
The original building on Bethune Street between Washington Street and West Street was built in 1868 as the headquarters for Bell Labs. It was the birthplace for the first talking movies, microphones, television and the binary computer. But by the 1960s, Bell Labs had left New York City and the surrounding neighborhood had declined since the elevated West Side Highway gave cover to drug-dealers, streetwalkers and other shady characters who lurked under the overpass. In 1970, the city converted the building to residential artists’ studios and christened it Westbeth Artists Housing. Today, the building holds 383 apartments where approximately 800 people live and work. Only tenants who make their living as an artist or performer can apply to live there. Today, an eligible artist can join a waitlist that is about 18 years long.The unique mix of artist and performer residents have made Westbeth a vibrant and bustling community run by the painters, sculptors, dancers, and musicians who live there. The building hosts gallery spaces, art classes, and art sales. Hallways are lined with the resident’s works of art. There are signs everywhere of an active and engaged community with message boards, classes and even a community-sponsored thrift shop in the basement.
Some of the buildings’ more famous residents have included Vin Diesel, Robert Deniro, Sr. and Merce Cunningham.
The neighborhood has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. What was once a dangerous neighborhood has become incredibly valuable real estate in the West Village, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after neighborhoods. Historic brownstones and high-design new construction with multi-million dollar price tags line West Village streets. When the Richard Meier-designed towers on Perry Street launched in 2002 with asking prices over $3 million and celebrity residents including Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart, the neighborhood officially shifted from quaint to super posh and has continued that ascent ever since. Today, the West Village is one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive neighborhoods.
What’s the lesson here? Naturally, it’s buy and hold New York City. While there aren’t many neighborhoods left on the island of Manhattan that are still unsafe or ‘down-and-out’ there are still some blocks that we believe will outperform. Finding those spots is just like truffle hunting, which is what we love doing at Compound.
Compound lets you buy and sell shares of beautiful apartments in beautiful cities. (But we think you should buy and hold.)
What better time to start than in today’s buyers’ market?