Retail Amenities Still Sparse in LIC's Booming Court Square

By Jeanmarie Evelly on February 20, 2013 6:57am 

LONG ISLAND CITY — If they build it, will the amenities come?

A housing boom is coming to Court Square in the next few years with thousands of luxury apartment units planned for the Queens neighborhood, which developers and real estate agencies are touting as the next big thing. 

Now populated primarily by office workers, Court Square is poised to see an influx of full-time residential tenants.

But the area is still sparse when it comes to amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail shops, with a vibe that's more industrial than homey.

"In this particular neighborhood, past 10 o'clock, it's sort of a dead zone," said Hector Medina, 32, who works in the high-rise office tower Court Square Place and lives in Astoria.

One of the newest residential buildings in the area is 27 on 27th, a 142-unit luxury rental building at 42-17 27th St., where a 1-bedroom goes for around $2,500 a month.

"The one challenge with this building is the location, because the residential infrastructure is still coming along," said David Maundrell, president of aptsandlofts.com, which launched the building on Jan. 14.

But interest has been great, he said, with 14 of the units leased in the last month, during a time of year that's considered one of the slowest on the real estate calendar.

He said Court Square's other draws — namely, its proximity to six different train lines and cheaper prices than comparable buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn or the nearby Long Island City waterfront —  make it appealing in spite of its gritty surroundings.

"What people find when they're coming here is they're getting value. They're overlooking the negatives of the area," Maundrell said, adding that it's only a matter of time before more retail development blossoms.

"As these buildings open up over the next three or four years, the residential support will come, and that will really balance out the neighborhood."

Some of that residential support could come by way of Rockrose Development Corporation, which is building about 2,500 new housing units in the area over the next three to five years, but is also planning a number of retail projects, according to company president Justin Elghanayan.

The first will be a high-end 15,000-square-foot supermarket, to be built on the first floor of a planned 42-story residential tower called Linc LIC, at 43-10 Crescent St. The building's 709 luxury apartments are slated to open this spring, with the supermarket to follow after.

Rockrose is also leasing out a nearby garage space, at 43-15 Crescent St., to famed eatery M. Wells, which is planning to open a steakhouse there.

In addition, the company purchased a row of buildings along Jackson Avenue — located behind the site of another one of its residential projects, a 975-unit building planned for 43-25 Hunter St. — which are being reserved for retail tenants.

"Instead of knocking them down, we decided to preserve them and make them into funky retail spaces," Elghanayan said. "We're thinking about doing a beer hall, a music venue, some restaurants — and that’s just what we're doing."

Elghanayan predicts Court Square will draw retailers because it already has a steady customer base of office workers, not to mention visitors to nearby arts organizations like MoMA PS1, 5 Pointz and Sculpture Center.

"The retail is going to happen faster here than in other developing neighborhoods," he said. "This neighborhood's time has come, and everyone is sensing that."

Eric Benaim, CEO of the Long Island City real estate firm Modern Spaces and a Court Square resident himself, says the area already has plenty to offer in terms of living amenities, tucked in amidst its old warehouses and vacant lots.

"It has a little bit of grit, but it has a little bit of a neighborhood, and they go really well together," he said, pointing to establishments like the farm-fresh LIC Market, brunch favorite Sage General Store and the speakeasy-style Dutch Kills Bar, among others.

"I pretty much have everything I need over here," he said.

Modern Spaces' listings in the area include The Vista, a 15-story condominium development at 44-15 Purves St. that's slated to open this spring, and The Industry at 21-45 44th Dr., another luxury condo building that was named one of the top selling buildings in the city last year.

With the neighborhood's retail infrastructure still bare, Court Square has been popular with 20-somethings and single professionals, many of whom choose the area for it's close proximity to Manhattan.

But Benaim said he was "excitingly surprised" when two separate young families snatched up homes at The Industry last year.

"The market over here is getting stronger," he said. "Even for families."

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