New Construction Rises in City After a Five-Year Lull

By Amy Zimmer on June 4, 2013 7:15am 

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 New residential building permits are at a peak since 2008, according to NYU's Furman Center.
New construction is on the rise
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NEW YORK CITY — Shovels broke ground for the first building of Long Island City's Packard Square back in 2008 but, like construction projects across the country, the huge development faltered for years as the economy tanked.

Now it's coming back.

The foundation for the fourth and final building, completed just a few weeks ago, will soon bring 120 apartments. Another 88 other new luxury rentals in a different Packard Square building already underway that's expected to hit the market in the fall.

Though these units will make small dent in the dearth of apartments on the market, they will be joined by a slew of other new residential projects starting up again across the city after a five-year lull in development.

"There was such a gap in new development," said Jodi Stasse, managing director of new developments at Citi Habitats, which is marketing the Packard Square complex which boasts of rooftop terraces with great Manhattan views, and where studios are expected to start at $1,750. 

"[Now] there's a good pipeline of much needed great inventory."

The number of residential units authorized by building permits in the first quarter of this year — more than 3,800 across the city — reached its highest point since late 2008, according to a report released Monday by NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

It marks the fourth quarter in a row where more than 2,000 permits have been authorized, and it's a huge leap from the year before when roughly 630 permits were authorized in the first quarter. 

The majority of these potential new homes — three-quarters of them — would be concentrated in Queens and Brooklyn, the Furman Center report said.

"This is the most water we've had in the desert for the last four years," said Douglas Elliman's Brian Meier, who noted that besides new construction, there's been a flurry of activity for conversions from rentals to condos.

"It's still not enough," he said.

He is working on several condo conversion projects that are coming to market this year, including a 40-unit project at 35-41 Clarkson Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, which recently released 14 of its units, priced between $200,000 and $400,000.

Within one night, all of the apartments at the Clarkson Avenue building were snatched up at their asking prices. Each had back-up buyers, said Meier, who is also working on the condo conversion at the Meadowood at Gateway in East New York, a complex of 19 buildings with 1,100-units.

"Brooklyn is seeing a lot of development right now," Meier said. "The entry points are a lot easier [for developers] to get into and there's availability."

In Manhattan, several condo conversions are underway, too, as developers are taking advantage of the sellers' market, but these are mostly high-end boutique projects, like an18-unit building on Mulberry Street in NoLIita that Meier is working on or Philip House's tasteful renovation of a pre-war on the Upper East Side where prices start at $3.6 million. Then there's the grand overhaul of the Art Deco Walker Tower, where apartments in Chelsea's former Verizon building are asking upwards of $55 million.

There is also a spate of ultra-luxe new projects going up, including the pre-war-like buildings at 135 E. 79th St. where a penthouse is on the market for $50 million, and at 200 E. 79th St.

At 150 Charles St., an eco-friendly building in the West Village which will have 40,000 square feet of lush green common space, an unprecedented $700 million worth of sales was completed in less than two months, said Horacio LeDon, senior managing director of Douglas Elliman.

Some apartments in that building, where construction just started, fetched an eye-popping $7,000 a square foot.

"Part of it was that a giant needed awakening," LeDon said of the high-end market. "It was five years of a time out, if you will.

"Everyone was able to get together and look at game film: what worked, what didn't and what needed to get addressed."

He added: "There's no real limit to what the high-high end can get so long as it's the best."

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