Last week co-living company Common opened its 27th residence and its 10th in Brooklyn in a landmarked Clinton Hill townhouse. A grand brick and limestone Colonial Revival built in 1909 by well-known Brooklyn architect John J. Petit, 417 Grand Avenue fell on hard times and was the site of a drug raid in 2014 before its most recent sale for $3.5 million in 2017 to developers Stuyvesant Group.
Common and Stuyvesant Group — the same developer who beautifully restored and updated Amzi Hill’s 22 Arlington Place — spent more than a year renovating the space into two units with 11 and 12 bedrooms each. They restored the facade and retained part of the grand entry, stair and front parlor with wood-burning fireplace as well as a second fireplace that is now in a bedroom.
Rents start at about $1,600 for a fully furnished room with a 12-month lease and include utilities, basic supplies such as toilet paper, weekly cleaning of common spaces, and events such as yoga classes and game nights. “Our ultimate goal is to make living in big cities less lonely and more convenient,” said Cait Gury, associate director of interior design and visual content, at a party in April to show off the new space.
Finishes and furnishings include Caesarstone counters and vertical subway tile in the kitchens, and a mix of high and low furnishings in the common areas from such firms as McGee & Co, CB2 and Restoration Hardware. Common areas in the cellar hold a lounge and laundry, and there is a backyard patio and roof deck.
Most of the spaces in the house have been modernized, and some original cupboards in a kitchen and paneling in a rear parlor did not survive. By moving some original paneling, the partners were able to preserve the original details in the front parlor and create a bedroom next door.
Common, which now has about 150 employees, opened its first co-living space in 2015 at 1162 Pacific Street in Crown Heights. Staff members do not live on site but are on call via Common’s app.
The firm rents its properties for 10 to 15 years from developers such as Stuyvesant Group, which owns 417 Grand Avenue. This month the first building in its co-living program aimed at families, a joint venture with Tishman Speyer called Kin, will open in Long Island City.
To avoid running afoul of New York City laws that prohibit renting by the room, Common rents by the suite, according to a company spokeswoman. The average renter’s age is 29, and the shortest lease is six months, although at 417 Grand Avenue the options are nine and 12 months.
“Architecture and design plays a huge role in eliminating friction points” between roommates, said architect Sophie Wilkinson, Common’s head of design and construction. To that end, the kitchens have two dishwashers and two refrigerators. Bathrooms are shared by three or fewer people.
Interspersed among glowing reviews on Yelp are complaints of supplies such as toilet paper running out and lack of privacy, mostly because of company showings to prospective tenants.
Coworking and co-living are making a noticeable impact on real estate in Brooklyn, where there are a myriad of coworking spaces. A London firm called The Collective is developing co-living buildings at the site of the former Slave Theater in Bed Stuy and former parking lots in Bushwick.
Fully rented at a minimum of $1,600 a month per room, Common’s latest building at 417 Grand Avenue would gross $36,800 a month or $441,600 a year.
[Photos by Cate Corcoran unless otherwise noted]
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