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Would you pay $2,900 for 300 square feet? We tested out NYC’s first micro-apartments.

As rental prices in New York City continue to rise, the government and developers are looking for affordable housing solutions. One idea that has long been floated and is now being tested is the micro-apartment, an apartment with minimal square footage supplemented by lots of communal space. The idea is that smaller apartments cost less and are great for singles or young couples starting out.

So could you live in an apartment that’s between 260 and 370 square feet? We decided to take one for a test drive.

The Ollie at Carmel Place is a government-approved micro-apartment building located in the Kips Bay neighborhood, on the far east side of Manhattan. Studio apartments range between $2,500 and $2,900 a month with 14 lottery-based subsidized apartments going for $950 (but don’t hold your breath: 60,000 people applied for these reduced-rate apartments, they’re harder to get into than Harvard). The unit we checked out rents for $2,750.

For a full 360-degree video tour, check out our Facebook page.

Pras: Love it

When I first heard of the micro-apartment concept, I thought there was no way I could live there. Especially with a significant other. But after visiting the building, its common areas, and the apartment itself, my mind was changed. This holds especially true if you are new to the city.

Yes, the price is a little steep, but you get a fully-furnished apartment, with fixtures that are optimized for space. And these are high-end fixtures, too. The floor-to-ceiling windows make a huge difference in terms of the illusion of extra space, and the fold-away queen-size bed is a necessary, and nice, touch. Storage was good too, although my only criticism was the size of the fridge, which I found too small even for one person. The space itself would be good for one person, however, you could live with someone else in a pinch – but I wouldn’t consider that a long-term solution. The fact that the building has nice common areas (lounge, gym, and rooftop garden) do make the experience much more palatable for a couple.

Nicole: Leave it

Naturally, I was skeptical. A 273-square-foot apartment costs $2,562 at The Ollie—that averages out to about $9.38 per square foot. My current apartment in Brooklyn averages out to a bit less than $4 per foot. In fact, my previous apartment in Brooklyn cost $2,100 each month for about 700 square feet. From there it took me 30 minutes to get to work, the same amount of time it would from the The Ollie. So, where’s the deal here?

The price wasn’t impressive, and neither was the apartment building. The building is located in an area of Manhattan far from restaurants and public transportation. It’s down the block from two hospitals (who wants to hear a constant stream of ambulance sirens all night?). And while the there’s a gym and rooftop lounge, I wasn’t blown away by the communal space. My current apartment has the same amount of public space plus full-sized apartments that cost about the same as these micro-apartments.

When pressed, Eric Bunge, co-founding Principal of nARCHITECTS, who designed the building claimed that this particular building was expensive because it was the first of its kind and the building doesn’t have that many units, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is far and above the highest price per square foot in the area.

The hallways in the apartment building are sterile, and I couldn’t help but get dorm room vibes. The apartment itself is well-appointed, the furniture and finishings modern and clean – and there’s plenty of storage. But it was claustrophobically small; there’s only one room and if you want to lie down you have to pull a Murphy bed down from the wall.

You might be able to entertain a few friends for a drink, but forget about cooking them a meal – the kitchen doesn’t even have an oven. As someone who really enjoys baking, this was a dealbreaker for me.

I’ve lived with my boyfriend for about five years now and have learned that an important part of cohabitation is being able to have your own space every now and then. In this apartment, It’s impossible for one person to watch TV while another does work. There’s one bed – and no sofa. The only escape would be to sit in the bathroom. I could see this apartment ending a lot of relationships!

Overall, I’d say this is a big leave it for me. If you do even a little bit of research, you’d see New York – while pricey – does have some more affordable and larger options.

Jeanie: Would love it for the right price

I’ve lived in seven apartments in New York City, ranging from studios where I’ve lived alone, to four-bedrooms with multiple roommates. Because space has always been tight, I’ve been forced to get creative in maximizing every inch to find ways to make our home feel more spacious and less cluttered.

That said, I would’ve loved living in this micro-apartment when I was single. And if they were to design micro-apartments in New York for families like they are in Boston with units that are 700 to 1000 square feet, I would seriously consider it for my family because we love city-living and want to try to stay here for as long as we can. To live more comfortably with kids, adding just one extra bedroom, like this 400-square-foot apartment, would make a big difference because it can comfortably sleep four.

In fact, as a result of this project, nArchitects, the designers of Carmel Place, have been commissioned to construct micro-suites in Hong Kong for families interested in micro-living — with one- and two-bedroom units that are 300 to 400 square feet.

For me, the pros of Carmel Place’s micro-apartment include an insane amount of closet and storage space, plenty of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and modern fixtures. But to get me to live there today, I would need to have a kitchen with a regular oven and a fridge with a freezer larger than the size of a shoe box. Christopher Bledsoe, co-founder of Ollie who helped designed the interior features and building amenities, said the lack of a regular size refrigerator has not impacted overall demand for the unit, but that all of their future apartments will be designed to have full-size refrigerators. Some of the other “Ollie” amenities included in the rent are monthly deep cleaning, weekly housekeeping, premium cable/wifi and memberships through their network. Leasing for Carmel Place started in June and the building is ahead of schedule in reaching full occupancy with only five units left to rent out of 55 units in the 9 story building.

At the end of our tour (not included in the video above) was the communal space. The common area on the roof deck had a large dining table for entertaining, but lacked a real working oven there as well. Walking out onto the roof deck made the floor more impressive, but I could definitely live without it if it meant a lower rent.


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