Even for the fabulously wealthy in New York, a private lap pool in the basement is a rare amenity.
How many Manhattan townhouses have such a swanky hangout? Possibly a few dozen. Four are currently on the market.
These four historic houses, all from the 19th century, have been renovated with spacious interiors, green inner courtyards and the highlight: an indoor swimming pool.
It is no coincidence that all of the houses expanded by the pool are sold by hedge funds, private equity firms or investment heavyweights.
For the rest of us, there’s more than a dozen in Manhattan as summer winds down free public outdoor pools, open until September 10th. Expect crowds, no privacy. The Parks Department’s website states: “There is often a queue at the entrance to our pools. We promise it’s worth the wait!”
However, buyers of the 25-foot-wide Greek Revival mansion needn’t wait 109 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, which has been on the market sporadically for around six years. It’s asking for $21.95 million.
The residence has the luxuries one would expect of such a home – an elevator, a wood-burning fireplace, hook-up for a second washer/dryer – and a gym and sauna alongside a “magnificent glass-enclosed lap pool with skylight”. ”
The pool itself is a remarkable design, says Compass realtor Rachel Glazer. “You can see people swimming — it’s like looking into a goldfish bowl,” she said. Currently there are tenants who “pay a six-figure amount per month”.
on the upper west side, 45 W. 70. St. will be performed by Anne Prosser of Brown Harris Stevens. This is $14.9 million, compared to $17.5 million two years ago.
The pool was added about a decade ago, says Sandra Piedrabuena, who is selling the home with her husband Russell Abrams. They considered a resistance pool—the swimming equivalent of a treadmill—but decided on a larger lap pool instead.
The family planned to stay in town, but COVID-19 turned their lives upside down. They have since moved to Miami.
“It was a difficult construction,” Piedrabuena said of the 33-foot pool. “It’s a big job and it involves dust and noise.”
But it also made for good memories. The family’s three school-age children learned to swim in the pool. The family would throw parties and “we would invite everyone — kids, neighbors, classmates,” Piedrabuena said.
“I think the house needs to find a buyer who likes swimming or has a keen interest in a pool,” she said. “It’s no hassle in maintenance and brings a lot of joy to the family.”
lies further up 45 W. 95. St. for $10 million, listed by Amanda Conte of Compass.
Potential buyers would be drawn to the 25-foot pool, she says. Adjacent to the pool room is a home gym and a technical room with a dehumidification system.
Affected by COVID, “people want more space and more job opportunities in their homes,” she said. “The pool is a bonus if you have small children” – and not only for fun, but also for exercise and physical therapy.
In Lenox Hill is the Neo-Romanesque townhouse 45 E. 74th St. is up for sale for $26.5 million, also with a small gym and steam room. For sunbathing there is a roof terrace with a lift that makes the ascent easier.
Maintaining such pools is usually easy, according to pool experts. Indoor pools require little more than cleaning and, unlike their outdoor pools, do not accumulate leaves or debris.
However, they bring other maintenance aspects with them. Pool experts warn that wood, sheetrock, or carpet—anything that can absorb moisture—can be damaged. Therefore, dehumidification is essential – with a dehumidification system in a nearby engine room if not in a garden or on a roof.
Private pools are most often found on terraces or penthouses in new builds, says David Plotkin, president of Steelways, Inc.of Newburgh, which manufactures steel basins as well as bridges, tanks, caissons and barges and is based in a shipyard on the Hudson River.
“It’s rare for a swimming pool to be built into an existing building,” he said. “For a basement pool, you can use concrete or steel. Concrete is cheaper.” However, when a pool is higher up, “you need a steel structural support” to support the enormous weight of the water.
At least the prospective buyers of these four listed homes, or those close by, wouldn’t have to deal with the headache of an installation.
The city’s building department does not have basement pools that do not require a separate permit. But in recent years at least two pools have been added in existing townhouses, a spokesman says — one each on the Upper East and Upper West Sides.
There’s also the infamous 48-50 W. 69th St. Pool where neighbors were plagued by noise, vibration, dust and fumes from excavation for a 60 foot pool and other underground spaces.
The owners, who combined two side-by-side townhouses, dug 38 feet deep into the famous hard bedrock known as the Manhattan Shale. Permits for the project, which could cost an estimated $100 million, were granted six years ago and remain active. The DOB website lists almost 50 complaints.
Basement or basement pools in Manhattan are “very difficult to build,” said architect Bill Simmons of aquatechnical, the pool division of Lothrop Associates Architects in White Plains. The logistics are daunting, requiring tight workspaces and little room to manoeuvre.
On a small city construction site on a one-way street, “you can’t back up a concrete truck,” Simmons said.
In a row house in Manhattan, “there’s a lot of manual digging to be done with small equipment — wheelbarrows and shovels — which, of course, is very labor intensive,” he said.
Placing a pool in rocks is good for the pool, he said. “It won’t crack or shift.” But it’s bad for the neighbors who are suffering from the construction work. “Removing rock not only makes you a lot of enemies, it also costs a lot of money, although cost doesn’t seem to be an issue with these projects,” Simmons said.
However, there are many complex design considerations. “You have a very big, warm bath in the basement all the time,” Simmons said. “They need all that partitioning around the pool.” The plumbing should be accessible so that it can be serviced or checked. “It’s all doable, but the architects have to know what they’re doing.”
Simmons has also seen such projects abandoned. Sometimes people decide, “This is a lot more project than they can do,” he said.
“What surprises me is that people create these really fancy spaces that don’t get used that often. How much time are you going to spend in your bathing suit in the basement?”