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Playing to the Audience

Developers find that amenities for tots can put parents in a buying mood.


Rendering courtesy of Alpha Vision  

Forget the pet spa: If developers want to lure buyers, it’s their kids they should be courting. Just ask Debra Malloy, a physical therapist who vowed not to be seduced by showy amenities while condo-shopping for her family. When she stopped by the sales office for Element, a project on the western edge of 59th Street, she laughed off extras like the wine cellar and cold storage. She ended up buying there, though, largely at the urging of her kids—who were impressed by the basketball half-court, the children’s swimming pool and the FAO Schwarz–branded playroom (pictured).

Until recently, buildings could be billed “child friendly” if they had a windowless room painted in Crayola hues and furnished with indestructible plastic playthings—a “perk” that loses its charm as the toys get grubby. But with condos flooding the market, many in family neighborhoods like the Upper East and West sides, developers must up the ante. And that they have. At Apollo Real Estate Advisors’ 10 West End Avenue—next to Element—little ones can amuse themselves in an abridged version of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s fall exhibit “Playworks,” with a “challenge course” for crawlers, an “imagination area,” and possibly some classes by museum staff. At 170 East End Avenue, architect Peter Marino is designing 12,000 square feet of amenities, more than half of which target kids up to age 16, including an art studio, a game center, and a wi-fi lounge. (According to one broker, a recent concert for buyers featuring Laurie Berkner, the preschool set’s Madonna, was the “event of the year.”) Extell Development’s Rushmore, at Riverside Boulevard and 64th Street, and a yet-unnamed tower on Lexington Avenue will feature a playspace co-designed by Kidville, which has two uptown locations. And at Brooklyn’s Court Street Lofts, developer Jane Gladstein has hired a “nanny concierge” who arranges everything from classes to playdates.

Malloy says she and her family intend to make the most of the facilities, but even if they don’t, they bring a “social aspect” to the building that she appreciates. “That I’m in a building catering to families and that [increases] the odds that my daughters will find playmates definitely appealed to me,” she says.

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