Pricey ‘car condos’ are latest real estate rage

A Manhattan garage operator is betting that city dwellers in the COVID-19 age are driving more and would pay a premium for a personal place to put their cars.

Centerpark converted an Upper East Side garage into a condominium — but instead of apartments, it’s selling 23 parking spaces and hired a luxury real estate broker to market them for sale to the public for as much as $350,000 each.

“So many people have said, ‘I’m not going to get on the subway again for a very, very long time,’ ” said Kirsten Jordan, the Douglas Elliman Real Estate broker who’s marketing the units. “There are others saying, ‘I’m paying $60 to get from the Upper East Side to Tribeca — because Ubers are so expensive. It might make sense to buy’” a spot.

The pandemic has transformed where New Yorkers live, how they work and how they get around. As of mid-July, weekday subway ridership had plummeted 54% from the pre-COVID-19 days, according to the Partnership for New York City. The number of city-bound travelers on the suburban commuter rails was down more than half.

New vehicle registrations in Manhattan jumped 27% in 2020 to 55,748, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. They’re on course to top that total this year, with 37,735 new registrations recorded through July 29.

That has increased demand for parking, according to Centerpark Chief Executive Officer Gregg Reuben. The outdoor dining restaurant sheds that have sprouted up along roadways, combined with new bike lanes, have eliminated as many as 10,000 street spaces, he said. And garages that offer monthly rentals are raising prices.

“It’s simply going to become more challenging to own a car in Manhattan,” said Reuben, who estimates that at least three of the firm’s other 17 Manhattan rental garages could go condo. “People are looking for convenience and security, and there are others who see this strictly as an investment opportunity.”

Most of Manhattan’s for-sale garage spaces are open only to residents of the properties they’re affiliated with, according to Jonathan Miller, president of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. And they’re rising in value: The average per-square-foot price of spots at condo and co-op buildings has soared 51% in the past year.

At one new condo project, 378 West End Ave., nine parking spaces open only to owners of the buildings’ priciest apartments are listed for sale at $550,000 each, filings show.

At Centerpark’s garage at 301 E. 69th St., buyers would get 185 square feet of space between painted lines — enough for a car plus additional room to hang items like golf clubs or strollers along the wall. A few contracts, at a pre-sale price of $199,000, are pending. Owners must pay property taxes — projected at $3,720 annually — and common charges, just as they would on a residential condo.

“It’s about as close to having your own driveway in Manhattan as you can get,” Reuben said.