Grinnell, a luxury collaboration in upper Manhattan, might be the city’s best-kept secret—for now.
Filled with spacious homes, a strong sense of community and maintenance fees that are much lower than similar buildings, the property stands in a quiet corner of Washington Heights, at 800 Riverside Drive. It rarely has openings – but home hunters and other property conscious locals now have the best chance in years of becoming members of this exclusive, off-the-radar club.
In this 83-unit structure, where residents typically spend decades, there are now four unprecedented apartments for sale. When they trade in their hands, they’ll announce their first Grinnell sales since 2020, according to StreetEasy, when just two units were sold. In 2019, only three units have found new owners.
“I don’t remember when [four homes] said Bruce Robertson, 71, a longtime Grinnell resident. Robertson, also a broker at Compass, represents the six-room 8H unit, which was listed Saturday for $1.59 million — the first time it’s been up for sale in 45 years. Gen. Called a “hidden treasure” in its marketing description, this upstairs apartment includes three bedrooms, a 23-foot great room, a windowed kitchen with original glass-fronted cabinetry, and a formal dining room with views of the George Washington Bridge.
A day later, according to StreetEasy, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom spread — and Tony touches like a photo mold — is listed for $1 million with RE/MAX Sparrow Realty.
Among the other highlights: Unit GRI, an eight-room duplex, which is now asking for $1.99 million after listing for $2.2 million in April. It features three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Features include French doors, wood paneled dining room, original oak floors and cupboards, and mirrored mahogany doors. (Instead of a traditional listing, this home—represented by Hauseit—is for sale with owner assistance.)
There’s even a 2A – three-bedroom 1,800-square-foot unit with French doors, crown molding, and additional spaces including a library, foyer, maid’s room, and pantry. Listed in September for $1.35 million – represented by Keller Williams NYC’s Jamella Swift.
Occupying an entire triangle-shaped block between 157th and 158th Streets – Riverside Drive and Edward Morgan Place – Grinnell offers old New York homes. The smallest apartment has five rooms and measures 1,100 square feet; The largest contains more than 10 rooms and spans 2,700 square feet. Built in 1911 and designed by architects Schwartz & Gross, the richly historic setting has a Mediterranean-style façade, Porte-Cochere entrance to an inner courtyard – and other classic interior details including hardwood floors, leaded glass risers and 10 foot ceilings. Amenities include a gym, bike room, and rooftop terrace.
Aside from the sheer cheer and million-dollar asking prices, not many New Yorkers know that it’s a Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperative—meaning it’s part of the city’s affordable housing stock and subject to certain income restrictions for home purchases. It is one of the most successful co-ops of its kind, Robertson said, and has “successfully maintained the large infrastructure of Grinnell over the years.”
However, the Grinnell is an early 20th-century uptown apartment building fit for the savvy New York royalty who, with the right income requirements, could now act for a coveted bargain. Not surprisingly, the residents ended up in their places.
“People who buy in Grinnell don’t move because it’s a great place to live,” said Robertson, who is also a former board member of the building and has sold 10 units in the building over the years.
Robertson has lived in a two-bedroom, one-bath room with his wife, also a realtor, for the past 22 years. They found the apartment on a whim after getting quotes from an Upper East Side apartment and knew right away the building was special. Likes south-facing windows, bright light, solid construction, tall ceilings, hardwood floors, and quietness.
“Overall, it’s hard to summarize how Grinnell is so special and how that came to be. Mostly because it’s such a close-knit community of residents, so many families that have grown, and now they’re being replaced by young families, who care about each other,” said Robertson. “We don’t always agree on the problems with any 112-year-old historic building of its size and scope. But we work through them and take pride in a beautiful structure that feels like living in a castle, in a rustic area with great neighbors in other similar buildings.”
Other longtime residents agree that it is a building with a lovely soul.
Bruce Kanzi, 74, an assistant lecturer at the nearby City College of New York, moved to Grinnell in December 1977 and lived in Apartment 3B. He moved into 8F in March 1982, an eight-room, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, with his wife and three children, where he has lived ever since.
“There’s a sense of community, and we love our neighbors,” Kanzi said. He recalled fond memories of climbing the mulberry tree in front of the building and picking berries with his daughters, having summer lemonade stands with them — and crab festivals with the neighbours. “We would buy the bushels, cover the tables with paper bags and see who had the highest pile of crab shells,” he added.
But another reason people have stayed so long at Grinnell is the HDFC’s nickname. It is one of 1,100 HDFC co-operatives in the city, in which the residents are shareholders and collectively own the building. The case dates back to 1982 when residents succeeded in purchasing Grinnell from the city after a campaign that included the slogan, “Buildings for people, not for profit”. Aside from the well-proportioned interiors and like-minded community, part of the terms of the property includes a face tax, which also keeps residents in check. Funds from it go to the capital reserve of the building.
In addition to the income constraints, the estate tax reduction makes maintenance lower than other co-operatives of similar size and stature. By contrast, the four-room, 2,000-square-foot apartment at 116 Pinehurst Ave. It will cost you $1.58 million with $3,400 per month maintenance. Similarly, the three-bedroom, century-old Riviera co-op across West 157th Street from Grinnell is valued at $1.79 million with $2,174 per month in maintenance. Robertson’s $1.59 million list, for example, has $1,448 a month in maintenance. Both the GRI and 2A units have a monthly fee of $1,450, according to StreetEasy Deals.
Wayne Benjamin, 64, an architect who bought a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot coop in Grinnell in 1987 for just $85,000—about $228,000 today—has no plans to go anywhere. He enjoys cooking in his full kitchen and listening to music on his vinyl record player – or jazz on an old-fashioned FM radio with speakers. He also enjoys cross ventilation rare in New York City, since every room in the apartment has overhangs—so he can open the dining room windows that face the patio, and the living room French doors and windows across the atrium, which face on the street and enjoy the breezes year-round.
But in the end, they are the people.
“It comes down to what’s important,” Benjamin said of the roping that Grinell made him keep there. “There are things you have in common with other people — common interests and passions that you come together to address. This is what creates the sense of community that can make a building or neighborhood a wonderful, vibrant place to live.”
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