A High-End Building That Seemed Ideal for Young Performers

For Shannon Guse and her children, Ignacio Rosado, 12, and Liliana Rosado, 11, it was the over-the-top amenities that clinched it. The children were adamant: They wanted to live at 400 West 61st Street, a new rental development in Lincoln Square that opened last year, even if it meant bunking in a closet.

“Iggy and Lili said, ‘We’ll take a studio. We don’t care. We’d sleep in a closet,’” said Ms. Guse, 41.

She hoped that wouldn’t be necessary. The children might be fine sharing a closet, but she, at least, wanted her own bedroom.

“I need to be able to shut the door — I have them 24/7,” said Ms. Guse, who home-schools her children, professional musicians and models. During the summers, if they are not working, the children stay with their father, Ms. Guse’s ex-husband, in Minnesota.

But even with one-bedrooms in the building starting at more than $5,000 a month (after concessions), Ms. Guse saw the appeal: The complex’s more than 100,000 square feet in amenities included a professional-grade recording studio, with a grand piano.

“That was huge,” said Ms. Guse, a mezzo-soprano who worked in college administration in Minnesota and now teaches voice and coaches other professional children, in addition to managing the careers of her own. “We used to rent studio space at least twice a week, and we also had to lug all our equipment there.”

She was renting space for the children to practice Latin ballroom dancing as well, in addition to ferrying them to rock-climbing and soccer. The new development, Waterline Square, would have room to accommodate all of those activities and any number of new ones, with an art studio, gardening studio, indoor skate park, billiard room, saltwater pool and squash court.

It all came at a cost, though. And while they wouldn’t have to share a studio, a two-bedroom was out of the question.

The family didn’t see that as an issue. Since moving to New York in 2012, after the children were offered contracts with modeling and talent agencies, they had always shared a one-bedroom. Most recently, they were on West End Avenue, where they had moved to be closer to the theater district when Iggy landed a role in the Broadway musical “School of Rock.” (Both children showed early musical aptitude, but especially Iggy, who used to collect small plaster busts of favorite composers when he was in preschool; Lili, who models and plays double bass, is now hoping to be a surgeon like her father.)

It was from their old apartment that they watched Waterline Square rise, which is how the children knew so much about it — and set their hearts on it. The family moved in last November, as soon as their unit was ready.

$8,051 | Lincoln Square

Discount: A rental concession brings down the monthly cost to $6,038.
Occupation: Ms. Guse teaches voice lessons, home-schools her children and manages their careers. She is also the executive director of Phenomenon Academy, an online school she is planning to start in September. The children are musicians and models; Iggy also acts.
Loft beds: They “make this feel more like a home,” said Ms. Guse, who likes the new space so much she often forgets that others might consider it cramped. “It’s funny when I have visitors from Minnesota,” she said. “They’re like, ‘How can you live like this?’”

The first one-bedroom they moved into, however, didn’t work out: The ceilings weren’t high enough to accommodate loft beds for the children. At the West End Avenue apartment, they had slept in bunk beds in an area off the foyer, but the new apartment lacked that sort of space, so the bunks would have had to go in the living room.

A second one-bedroom plus den, with higher ceilings and a 150-square-foot area off the entrance like the one in their old apartment, turned out to be a better fit. Ms. Guse’s father, a builder, traveled from Wisconsin to construct a double loft bed with a hangout area underneath.

They turned the large entryway closet into a recording studio, which proved fortuitous: The opening of most building amenities, scheduled for March, was pushed back because of the coronavirus.

The monthly rent is $8,051, with a rental concession of three free months, bringing it down to $6,038 a month, about $1,200 a month more than they paid for their previous apartment. There will also be an amenity fee when the amenities finally open. Ms. Guse said she justified the increase with the money saved on studio space, which was around $350 a week, and required taking UberXL to transport the equipment.

When they first moved to the city eight years ago, they lived in a cheaper, prewar building on West 70th Street. “Coming from the Midwest, I had sticker shock,” Ms. Guse said. “But the unit was very small and lacked even conveniences like in-unit laundry.”

At 975 square feet, their current space is considerably larger than their first one, or than their previous apartment. It has a living room big enough to hold their baby grand piano and Lili’s double bass, as well as a large, open kitchen where Lili likes to take breaks from schoolwork and try out recipes.

Since March, of course, the family’s busy life has come to a halt. After performances and auditions around the city shut down, along with the building’s lounge and media rooms, the children flew back to Minnesota.

“My kids were like, ‘Why would we stay here?’” Ms. Guse said. “I thought that since we only have this space, it would be better if they went back.”

When they left, Ms. Guse focused her efforts on starting an online school for other professional children, a project she has been working on for a while, after years of giving advice to other parents. The school would combine customized traditional curriculum with specialized courses taught by experts.

Now the children have returned — their father was working very long days — and are staying busy in the apartment, using the little recording studio, streaming their Manhattan School of Music classes and rehearsing for streamed performances.

“Being here right now is really weird,” Ms. Guse said. “Usually we have 16-hour days, just go go go. Now we barely leave the house.”

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