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RISMEDIA, Feb. 20, 2008-(MCT)-The hottest commodity in high-end apartments and condominiums in the Capital Region isn’t granite kitchen counter tops or elegant living-room fireplaces. It’s indoor parking.

Some credit The Lofts at Harmony Mills, which opened in 2006, with launching the trend. The Cohoes apartment development stuffed a parking garage into the ground floor of the former factory — and found the feature to be wildly popular with residents.

Many other projects since have followed suit — including The Conservatory apartments in downtown Troy, the proposed Capital Grande condo development in Albany and The Lofts at Bryn Mawr condos near the Albany-Loudonville border.

Exceptions to the rule were the pricey condos planned in the former Mooradian’s furniture building on River Street in Troy. Not coincidentally, observers say, the condo plan has been scrapped due to slow sales.

“A lot of people are not going to buy into new construction without having at least one indoor parking space,” said Michael Crisafulli of Crisafulli Associates, whose Bryn Mawr condos offer three-car garages. “It’s pretty crucial.”

To be sure, the Capital Region is dotted with apartment and condo complexes with traditional outdoor parking lots. But developers say that if you’re going to try to charge premium prices — like the $250,000 to $500,000 that NADC, the Brooklyn-based owner of Mooradian’s, was seeking — then indoor parking is a necessity.

In a region with long winters, the joys of indoor parking are easy to understand. No ice-covered cars in the morning. No back-breaking shoveling of wet heavy snow.

Tracy Metzger, owner of the TL Metzger & Associates realty firm in Albany, said many tenants of upscale condos and apartments are downsizing from single-family homes in the suburbs, where garages are de rigueur.

When potential buyers haven’t scraped away morning ice for decades, Metzger said, it’s not a practice they’re eager to begin.

Additionally, developers say many suburban buyers worry, perhaps unnecessarily, about increased potential for car theft when moving to an urban environment. Indoor parking reduces that fear.

But covered parking is a trend in suburban developments, too: When Adirondack Development Group built the Vly Pointe Condominiums along Route 7 in Niskayuna, for example, it took pains to ensure that each unit came with its own garage.

Uri Kaufman, the developer of Harmony Mills, where monthly rents range from $925 to $2,100, has described the decision to add indoor parking as a last-minute whim of sorts. But he says he’s glad he made the addition, as the parking has been a key to the project’s success.

Developers say indoor parking can be expensive to add, and often takes away sellable or rentable space.

But, said Deane Pfeil, co-owner of J.W. Pfeil & Co. Inc., whose Conservatory project in Troy has basement parking, “there’s no way we could rent luxury apartments without parking. People (at the Conservatory) can just drive in, park and go right up the elevator.”

Pfeil & Co. also built the Powers Park Lofts in the Lansingburgh section of Troy. That condo complex has parking adjacent to the building, but Pfeil said that was too far for some buyers and the company lost potential sales as a result.

“We live in the Northeast,” she said. “It wouldn’t be so important in Florida.”

Copyright © 2008, Albany Times Union, N.Y.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.