NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A seven-floor structure in uptown Manhattan has been billed as the first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in New York City – widely called the nation’s apartment capital.

Called the Stack, the building at 4857 Broadway in Inwood claims to show that while stackable apartments can save builders time and money, modular doesn’t have to mean monotonous. Its chunky front embraces its building-block roots, but the apartments’ interiors defy their boxy components with varied floor plans and stylish fixtures and finishes.

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Modular construction — assembling a building from prefabricated sections instead of building from scratch on-site — has been around for decades, but interest has grown recently around the country and in its biggest city. The world’s tallest modular building, a 32-story apartment tower, is rising in Brooklyn.

Advocates say modular building can trim costs and timetables — module factories don’t have to worry about bad weather — and make construction more consistent. Still, the technique presents special challenges (say, driving a 750-square-foot box over the George Washington Bridge), and not all projects have proven speedy. Some have faced pushback from labor interests, not to mention an image problem: The method is sometimes perceived as cheap and, well, cookie-cutter.

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“`Pre-fab’ and `modular’ have somewhat of a stigma associated with it, in some people’s minds, whether it’s appropriate or not,” developer Jeffrey M. Brown said. But “this approach can really produce cool buildings.”

Rents in the Stack start at just short of $1,600 for studios, about $2,200 for one-bedrooms, $2,630 for two-bedrooms, and about $3,700 for three-bedrooms.

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