Watch out below!

(Photo supplied by Greenwich Association of Realtors)

I’ve been tracking the downward course of prices at Old Greenwich Gables, the 1990 (late 80’s?) condominium project Arthur Collins built on the old Electrolux site. I had thought that the decline was attributable to the slumping condo market as a whole but a visit there this morning with clients revealed another, more ominous cause: the place is falling down.

An entire brick facade on the top floor of one of the buildings is bulging and sagging; I have no idea why there’s no protective scaffolding shield to keep those bricks from landing on the heads of residents when the bricks fall, which seems likely to occur any day now. Regardless, as it’s the first sight to greet prospective buyers when they park, it’s no help in selling.

Then there are the steel exterior stairways, all weeping rust and staining what was once white paint. Again, not a confidence booster. Rotting trim and fascia boards add to the overall effect of entropy, and when the buyers discover that the complex is heated with electricity, it’s game over.

Which is a real shame. The Gables has all the pieces for a great complex: nice exterior layout, incredibly convenient location and a nifty community pool, as well as beautiful plantings and quiet walkways. All the pieces, but they’re falling to pieces, and homeowners equity is following that ruin down the drain.

Your opinion may differ, but my clients and I took it all in and left after sticking our noses in one of the two units we were planning on viewing. Next.

I blame the late Arthur Collins for this. He took some premium land and a decent architectural plan and then built as cheaply and as shoddily as he could. He did the same thing on his other projects in town: the Commons on the Post Road, Palmer Point and, I believe, Lyons Farm. Shabby buildings that lasted long enough for him to pocket his money and get out. Now he’s dead and the owners of the buildings he built are paying a whole new cost.

Isn’t it a pity.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “Watch out below!

  1. EOSr

    Check out this NYT article from 1994. The article refers to 1994 pricing of some of the Greenwich places you talked about.
    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/04/realestate/in-the-region-connecticut-in-the-aftermath-a-builder-picks-up-the-pieces.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    And on the current Collins LLC website, no mention of individuals in the Who We Are page, all very vague about “third generation” but a long list of projects on their portfolio page. It would be interesting to see how each is doing.
    http://www.collins-llc.com/portfolio.htm

  2. Anonymous

    What do the residents pay monthly/yearly to the association? Second question, isn’t this the complex that had a pretty large fire a couple of years ago that spread because there was no firewall between the units attic spaces?

    • Can’t dig up common charges/special assessments on the listing, although Town of Greenwich taxes seem to run between $3,000 to $6,000 depending on size. That tells you nothing about what the real costs is, though.
      Yes as to no firewall, if memory serves.
      Interesting side note: while prowling through listigs looking for common charges I saw that Unit 115, a 3 bedroom, was listed in January for $1.730 million, surely a record, and when it didn’t sell was raised to $1.910, or $821.50 per sq.ft. Owner is also its listing agent/broker, as is so often the case with screamingly overpriced real estate. Of course, I haven’t seen this unit so perhaps it’s an undiscovered jewel and those who refused to pay $1.73 for it before will now, properly chastened, be happy to pay $1.9. Perhaps.

  3. CatoRenasci

    The old Electrolux plant you say? I wonder what sort of environmental remediation was done at the site

  4. In Defense of ACollins

    From personal experience, I find that condo delapidation is USUALLY due to lack of preventative maintenance as a result of monetary decisions made by the homeowner/management team.
    Condo people need to know that their cost/association dues should be on an equal par with a homeowner. They always cheap-up on depositing into a reserve for repair/update. Like the Condos on Church street with the huge assessment to pay for years of neglect.
    That said, sagging brick is Bad, but rot and rust would have been eliminated by prime, paint, rot treat. Wood buildings need help.

  5. Gables is a fire trap. Both Anon and CF are on target. Location, location is important, but so is safety too.

  6. Riverside Chick

    77 Havemeyer Palmer Hill condos are well built, much better than Gables, less expensive too. Construction managers know what they are doing.

  7. db

    Took a look at a 2 bedroom at the Gables last week. Condo fees for a listing at around 650k were around 500 a month……high. The rust is evident throughout the complex and you can notice issues like doors not closing properly to get to stairs.
    The landscaping seems to be well kept, but with such high fees, electric heat and obvious neglect in maintenance, didn’t take long to toss as a place you would want to buy into.

    • And the listing sheet doesn’t show special assessments, an item that I would expect to be substantial, assuming the residents are planning on doing something about correcting the more serious maintenance/rebuilding items.

  8. Anon58

    Have to wonder if all the trains rumbling by throughout the day and night have contributed to the decay, especially if construction is shoddy.

  9. db

    For the Palmer Hill condos, I see the address as Stamford, but the school system as Greenwich. How does that work?

  10. Anonymous

    I have put a few clients in there as renters but would NEVER want to sell them a unit!!