LIC Real Estate: New Face of a Changing Borough
LIC Real Estate Development Continues - Just Across From Midtown
October 1, 2013 / NYC Real Estate / Gotham Buzz NYC.
I, like many in the borough, have been watching in near amazement at the rapid pace of real estate development in Long Island City. On September 18th of 2013, I attended the Grand Opening of 4545 Center Blvd, the fifth of the six TF Cornerstone buildings to go up along the Long Island City waterfront.
As you will see from the photos in the slide show at the end of the story, the apartments are beautiful. The new high rise is an airy, modern building with amenities, and apartments that have breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the Queensboro Bridge. I saw a studio and corner two-bedroom apartment, which rent for about $2,300 and $5,500 per month respectively – so it’s not only the views that are breathtaking, but the rents as well. Five of the six TF Cornerstone buildings along Center Blvd in LIC are rentals, and only the condominiums in The View [the only building TF Cornerstone named] were for sale.
Click here for a story about apts for sale / apartments for rent near Midtown Manhattan NYC, including a bit of the history of TF Cornerstone, Rockrose Real Estate and real estate development in the LIC neighborhood of Queens.
LIC Real Estate: New Face of a Changing Borough
LIC Real Estate Development Continues - Just Across From Midtown
October 1, 2013 / NYC Real Estate / Gotham Buzz. Almost exactly two years ago, in 2011, I attended a showing of a couple of Penthouses in The View. At the time I was shown the model of the entire building plan as first envisioned about a decade ago which you can see in the photo to your right.
Editors Note: Consider this a first DRAFT and please view the dates and dollars cited below as approximate [they're in the ballpark], as we have not had time to fact check a few of them.
In September of 2011 the 1495 – 1785 square feet penthouse apartments were selling for about $1,000 per square foot, or between $1.5 and $2 million. At the time of my visit in 2011, The View was 70% sold and as of this writing, they have only two units out of a total of 184 remaining to be sold [a 2 bedroom selling for $1,150K and a 3 bedroom selling for $1,449K]. So in spite of a dour economy, real estate sales in LIC appear to be healthy.
Long Island City Real Estate - An Update On LIC Development
The Long Island City neighborhood has undergone one of the most striking physical transformations in New York City in modern times. What follows herein, is designed to familiarize you with what has happened to the LIC real estate market over the past 15 to 25 years. Below are two photos taken from one of the Penthouses of The View.
The LIC Real Estate Market & Re-Zoning of 2001 - Overview
We’re going to start at the beginning, which is with the Citibank Building at Court Square in 1989 – 1990. Then we’re going to move north to Two Gotham Center and the MetLife Buildings at Queens Plaza, since the two areas are adjacent to each other. And then we’re going to end along the LIC waterfront where my visits to the East River LIC condos and apartments began.
One of the things worth noting is that in 2001, a full 37 blocks of the commercial area of Long Island City were rezoned. This effort paved the way for the new real estate developments which would soon manifest themselves in high-rise residential and office buildings springing up throughout Long Island City. As you can see from the map below, most of the re-zoning targeted the area along Jackson Avenue, and [I think] some for Hunters Point South and Center Blvd along the East River waterfront.
The city also re-zoned sections of Dutch Kills. Many property owners broke ground on new hotels in Dutch Kills LIC Queens to erect high-rise buildings before the new zoning laws took effect.
New York State Initiates LIC Real Estate Development
It was actually NYS that first initiated the real estate development along the Long Island City Queens waterfront. They worked with Queens West to create and execute a plan for the waterfront in the late 1990's. Phase I included the erection of the City Lights Building cooperative [for sale coops in LIC] and the two Avalon Buildings which were to be rentals. In the photo to your left stand the Avalon Riverview North and the City Lights Building [left and right respectively].
NYS also contributed to real estate development in Long Island City by opening up Gantry State Park in 1998. The historic gantries were preserved. The gantries were used to transfer payload containers [rail cars] between the ferries and the trains servicing Long Island. The first phase of the ten acre park was opened in 1998, and the second phase opened in 2009. When complete Gantry State Park and Hunters Point South Park will encompass 40 acres of waterfront space.
NYC Facilitates LIC Real Estate Development
NYC aided real estate development in Long Island City by pouring hundreds of millions of the city's capital improvements budget into the neighborhood. An $80 million effort included renovating the park just off the Queensboro Bridge, adding bike lanes and reconfiguring some of the traffic. The $80 million program also included beautifying / adding greenery along Jackson Avenue.
The city also initiated efforts to develop Hunters Point in a development now called Hunters Point South. Over the course of the Hunters Point South project, NYC will have invested over $66 million in capital improvements, including the development of the Hunters Point South Park which currently stands at 11 acres. The photo at right shows Hunters Point South Park in September of 2013.
It's worth noting that Hunters Point [and for that matter all of these LIC waterfront developments] are located on a flood plain. But that said they survived Sandy along with the rest of LIC. Hunters Point South is part landfill and was once home to a Daily News printing plant that failed shortly after completed, due to faulty foundations on the landfill. Hunters Point was given its name back in the 1800's at the nexus of the East River and Newtown Creek. And in 2013, after a century and a half of pollution, Newtown Creek has been designated an EPA Superfund site which will be remediated over the next couple of decades.
LIC Office Sales & Rentals – Jackson Avenue in LIC
It all began in the 1980’s with Citibank’s bold move to build the largest office building outside of Manhattan only one subway stop away from its main offices at 399 Park Avenue. By 1990 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill had completed the tower in the heart of the official boundaries of Long Island City. The Citibank building stood alone for fifteen years before the United Nations Federal Credit Union hired Tishman Construction Corporation to erect a building, which now stands across the street.
Citigroup started work on Two Court Square in 2009 / 2010, having signed CUNY Law School on to be one of its owner / tenants. CUNY Law School had been operating in Flushing, but purchased six floors at Two Court Square which opened in 2013. CUNY Law School began operations in Two Court Square in the Fall of 2013.
In 2008 the Rockrose announced plans to have Skidmore, Owings & Merrill erect a large office building within a block of Citibank. The new building, 10 Court Square, is expected to provide an increasing amount of office space rentals to the LIC real estate market.
It’s worth noting that the Citibank Tower is located only two blocks away from Queens Plaza [N, Q & 7 subways] and the same from the Court Square station subway stop [G & 7 subway], so you can get to this location via any number of different subways. Although the E subway line has a station in the subterranean level of this building. In the graphic to your right, you can see how centrally located the Queens Plaza / Jackson Avenue thoroughfare is.
Rockrose figured out a long time ago – likely following the bold move by Citibank to erect a tower in Long Island City beginning in 1989 – that the cost of developing real estate in Queens neighborhood of Long Island City was far, far less expensive than in Midtown. And that the price differential vis a vis East Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City office rentals or sales , would entice buyers and lessors across the East River to work and live.
Residential Rentals in LIC – Court Square & Queens Plaza
Rockrose Development Corporation began accumulating properties in Long Island City about 20 years ago. Rockrose has a total of four buildings planned in the LIC neighborhood near Queens Plaza including the Linc, a 50 story luxury building with 790 residential units renting for $1,900 for a studio and $3,400 for a two-bedroom. Foodcellar & Company is slated to open a 14,500 square foot store on the ground and subterranean floors of the building in late Spring / early Summer of 2014.
Just across the street, Rockrose has a second building going up with 975 residential rental apartments at 43-25 Hunter Street in Long Island City. And they have other units going up in the surrounding Queens Plaza neighborhood [see more below].
In total Rockrose alone will add about 2,500 residential units into the Long Island City market over the next few years. The building on your left was on its way up, just off Queens Plaza, in 2011 [photo details to follow]. And you can click on it to view a report about the East Side Access Project which will bring the LIRR into Grand Central Station, as well as Penn Station.
Office Sales & Rentals in LIC – Queens Plaza
In June of 2003 MetLife moved about 1,000 people into the renovated 400,000 square foot MetLife Building, which is owned by Brause Realty. Originally the building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North was called the Brewster Building, which once housed the carriages and autos. Since that time the MetLife Building has been one of the cornerstones of the area and the beginning of the neighborhood transformation. In 2011 Jet Blue subleased 200,000 square feet of the building and moved 200 employees into it making it their new headquarters. The MetLife Building is shown in the photo to your right - it's the center building of the photo [darker brown].
The next bold move came from Tishman Speyer which solicited investment help from a number of construction lenders and received a 99 year lease on the land which was once occupied by the Queens Plaza Municipal Parking Garage. They became the first to break ground on totally new developments in the Queens Plaza area. Tishman Speyer erected Two Gotham Center on Queens Plaza at 28th Street beginning in 2009 and finished the project in 2011.
The NYC Department of Health signed for a 20 year lease and they now occupy the nearly 670,000 square feet of office space, having consolidated their operations from numerous locations around the city. Tishman Speyer was said to have invested $326 million to develop the building, which they sold for $415 million to a Canadian REIT in late 2011 after completing the project. NYC committed over $40 million to upgrading the public space there and added bike lanes.
Rockrose is also very active in the area. They are developing a 410 apartment unit residential building at 23-10 Queens Plaza South, as well as the other residential buildings previously mentioned between the Citibank Tower and Queens Plaza, and office space in the same area.
At the time of this writing it is believed that the real estate developments in Long Island City over the past ten to fifteen years has brought some 30,000 people living and / or working into the area. Within the next five years, it is expected to attract another 20,000 residents or workers. FYI - these are hearsay NYC government estimates.
East River LIC Condominiums & Co-ops
Real estate development along the East River waterfront has probably been the most visible sign of the changes that have been sweeping Long Island City over nearly a couple of decades. The first bold move on the East River waterfront in Long Island City came when the City Lights At Queens Landing Cooperative erected the City Lights Building at Center Blvd and 48th Avenue in 1996 [see NYS & NYC sections above for additional background].
In the photo at left, looking toward Manhattan, you can see the City Lights Building at left [reddish brown] and the Avalon Riverview apartment rentals at right. These were the first two high-rise buildings to go up along the East River waterfront in LIC.
The 42 story City Lights building opened in 1997 with 522 units, as the sole tower overlooking the East River. At the time these were the only condos for sale along the East River waterfront in LIC. They currently go for between $400,000 for a studio to nearly $900,000 for a two-bedroom LIC condominium. And since then, only The View condominiums are for sale. All other East River waterfront apartments and condominiums in downtown LIC are rentals.
The Avalon Riverview & Avalon Riverview North - Rentals in LIC
The next residential real estate development in LIC along the East River was the Avalon Riverview in 2002. Studios begin at $2,400 and a three-bedroom goes for up to $4,300 per month. Avalon Communities liked their progress with the Avalon Riverview so much that they opened a second high-rise building, the Avalon Riverview North in 2008. It stands across the street from the City Lights Building and sort of evokes a twin towers look from the East River looking east. Both buildings are rentals.
Rockrose Development Corporation Spins Off TF Cornerstone
In the period between when the first and the second Avalon went up, TF Cornerstone jumped into the new building construction race. In 2001 the Rockrose Development Corporation [later spun out as TF Cornerstone in 2009 – more on this a bit later in this story] cut a deal to purchase some 21 acres of land once occupied by the Pepsi Bottling Company for $85 million.
In some senses, Pepsi realized the value of the Queens real estate where its perennial sign had stood since the middle of the 20th century [circa 1936], and retained ownership of 20 by 60 feet of the land surrounding the sign. Along with the vaulted Gantries and the age old sign ‘Long Island’; the ‘Pepsi’ sign has already become one of the iconic visuals of the LIC waterfront which lies in front of what is now ‘The View’. In the photo above right is the Pepsi-Cola sign which was first erected in 1936. It stands in front of The View and the sixth and last of the TF Cornerstone buildings to go up along Center Blvd and the East River waterfront in LIC. The last building will be apartment rentals.
Condominiums & Apartments in LIC - Elghanayan Bros, Rockrose & TFC
The Elghanayan Brothers, then Rockrose Corporation, made plans to develop six buildings along the LIC waterfront. As previously mentioned, only one – The View – would be comprised of condominiums for sale. The five other buildings would be comprised entirely of rental apartments in Long Island City.
In 2005 the first Rockrose apartment building at 4540 Center Blvd went up. This building contained 345 apartments for rent in the Long Island City neighborhood. The next building to go up was at 4630 Center Blvd that the Rockrose spinoff, TF Cornerstone, named ‘The View’. This condominium building contained 184 condos for sale, two of which are still on the market. In the photo above right, you're looking north on Center Blvd into the six buildings erected by TF Cornerstone starting in 2005.
Rockrose Spins Off TF Cornerstone in 2009
In between the construction of the first and second buildings, the three Elghanayan Brothers who collectively owned Rockrose, agreed to split the company. The two younger brothers, Thomas and Frederick, founded TF Cornerstone with two thirds of the assets of Rockrose. While Henry, the older brother, gained controlling interest in the remaining assets of Rockrose. According to the ‘Real Deal’ the brothers split up a collective total of 8,000 apartments, offices and properties.
The younger Elghanayan’s through their new company TF Cornerstone, started building quickly, erecting 4615 Center Blvd which contained 367 rental apartments and 46-40 Center Blvd which contained 345 rental apartments within the next three years. The most recent building completed is also the TF Cornerstone’s tallest, at 4545 Center Blvd which contains 820 rental apartments, of which 70% have already been rented at prices ranging from about $2,300 for a studio to about $4,800 for a 3 bedroom apartment. The sixth and final building will be opened in 2014 at 4610 Center Blvd and will add 525 rental apartments to the LIC market.
In the photo at right is Scott Walsh, who works for TF Cornerstone and who has been working on the LIC waterfront properties for about a decade.
Hunters Point South - Real Estate Development in LIC Queens
And the story doesn’t end here, as Hunters Point South Development is well underway. In late August of 2013, the city opened the new Hunters Point South Park. The new development includes housing, of which some is targeted to 'lower and middle income' families, the details of which has been the subject of some debate in this years NYC municipal elections.
The graphic to your left was created at the bequest of the NYC Economic Development Corporation which initiated the Hunters Point South Development. Click on it to read an earlier report.
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