via Adam Bonislawski/ New York Post
Everyone loves a water view, but, as the saying goes, God isn’t building any more beachfront property.
And so, as New York’s waterfront has emerged from its industrial past as a prime location for residential real estate, builders have steadily moved farther and farther afield in search of new spots for development.
Lately, they’ve made their way to Staten Island.
The city’s least populous borough, Staten Island has often been an afterthought in discussions of New York real estate. But with several hundred million dollars in commercial and residential development slated for the area, the island — and its Manhattan-facing north shore, in particular — is having a moment.
“It’s part of the larger story of outer borough waterfront development,” says David Barry, president of Ironstate Development, which is in the midst of converting The Homeport, a former US naval base in the north shore’s Stapleton neighborhood.
The mixed-use development, named URL [Urban Ready Living], will feature 30,000 square feet of retail along with 900 rental apartments — studios from $1,600; one-bedrooms from $2,000; two-bedrooms from $2,700 — which will start leasing next summer. In addition, the city is investing $32 million for road improvements and a new waterfront esplanade at the site. Ironstate is also planning similar projects in Jersey City and Stamford, Conn.
“You’ve seen it in Brooklyn and Queens and Jersey City, and now Staten Island,” Barry says. “We’re in a period of time where waterfronts are turning over from industrial to residential, commercial and recreational — Staten Island is part of that progression.”
The Homeport development sits two railway stops south of the borough’s St. George neighborhood, home to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and the emerging epicenter of the island’s waterfront development.
Indeed, the waterfront district is where Triangle Equities’ plans to develop Lighthouse Point, a $200 million mixed-use project. Commencing this fall, it will include roughly 100 rental units, 85,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space and a 160-room hotel.
Also in the area is Empire Outlets, a one-million-square-foot retail development by BFC Partners which recently won city council approval. Slated for completion in 2016, the project will include up to 125 outlet retailers as well as a 200-room hotel and 40,000 square feet of restaurant space.
And St. George is soon to be the home of the New York Wheel, a 630-foot-tall Ferris wheel that will be the tallest such structure in the world when it opens in 2016.
“We’re the last waterfront in the city to be developed,” says John Pitera, managing partner at Staten Island real estate firm Casandra Properties, leasing representative for Homeport and Empire Outlets.
“Prices are very reasonable, and projects like Homeport and Empire Outlets and the New York Wheel are huge draws for investors and residents.”
Casandra also handles leasing for The View, a 40-unit rental building from Madison Realty Capital at 224 Richmond Terrace, just north of the ferry terminal. The building finished leasing around eight months ago, Pitera says, with its one- and two-bedroom units going for between $1,700 and $3,800 a month.
The 224 Richmond Terrace site was originally owned by Staten Island developer Lieb Puretz, who launched a slew of residential projects for the St. George waterfront during last decade’s real estate boom, but had to sell in the aftermath of the 2008 crash.
Puretz might have been a bit too far ahead of his time, but more recent developments, like Meadow Partners’ Accolade building, are going great guns. The condo building in the gated Bay Street Landing complex is due to open this fall and officially launched sales last month, by which time it had already sold roughly 30 percent of its 101 units pre-construction. Prices for studios, one-, two- and three-bedrooms range from $325,000 to over $1 million.
With features like a fitness center, pet spa, children’s playroom and golf simulator, the development offers a “lifestyle package on par with buildings in Manhattan or Brooklyn,” says Jackie Urgo, president at The Marketing Directors, which is handling sales for the building.
And then, of course, there’s the matter of money. Prices in the building average around $330 per square foot, less than a quarter of the $1,364 per square foot Manhattan apartments averaged in the first quarter of 2014, according to numbers from appraiser Miller Samuel.
The promise of a bargain lured John Tully and his wife, Laura, to Staten Island. Currently renting a one-bedroom in Greenwich Village, the couple decided to buy a two-bedroom at the Accolade after surveying prices around the rest of the city.
“We love [Greenwich Village], but real estate prices in Manhattan have gotten pretty high,” Tully says, noting that Brooklyn prices have hit similarly stratospheric levels.
“Once we visited, we were pretty impressed,” he says. “The proximity to the ferry, the unobstructed waterfront views, the amenities — and most importantly we saw it as a good investment opportunity for our first [home] purchase as a married couple.”
It didn’t hurt, Tully adds, that his wife is originally from Staten Island. “So we knew the area well and were comfortable with the surroundings.”
Tully, who works in finance, says he’s reasonably comfortable with adding a ferry ride to his daily commute to Midtown. While it certainly won’t be as convenient as his current downtown situation, he expects he’ll be able to make it from the Accolade to his office in under an hour.
And Staten Island Ferry service — the lone mass transit link between the island and the rest of the city — is expanding. Last month ferries began running every half-hour on weekends until 2 a.m. Previously it had shifted to hourly service after 7 p.m. Beginning May 1, 2015, service is scheduled to increase to at least every half-hour around the clock, seven days a week.
Also expanding are local shopping options, notes Lester Petracca, president of Triangle Equities. In addition to lining up amenities such as restaurants and dinner theater aimed at ferry-going tourists, his firm’s Lighthouse Point project is currently targeting several supermarkets and drugstores as potential retail tenants.
For his part, Tully says he’s looking forward quaffing a few beers at Flagship Brewing Company, a Staten Island tap room and brewery that opened last month at 40 Minthorne St., a short walk from his new home.
He notes, though, that for him the appeal of Staten Island’s north shore is at least as much a matter of anticipation as it is the area’s current reality.
“It’s more the outlook of what’s to come than what’s already there,” Tully says.