One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, the Lower East Side is in the midst of a transformative gentrification. From its former identify as a low income immigrant neighborhood of largely Irish, Italian, Jewish and recently Dominican descent, new demographics are emerging as the landscape changes from overcrowded tenements to a mixed residential landscape of rent regulated and market rate apartments alongside rising new luxury condominium developments. Against a gritty backdrop of graffiti, after hour’s bars, and pawn shops, amid a counterculture of artists and musicians, there co-exists an expanding culture of contemporary art galleries, hip performance spaces, music venues, trendy boutiques and culinary destinations. At the same time, a new evolving housing stock with high end finishes and escalating square foot prices to match, is appealing to upscale purchasers including young families and empty nesters from the surrounding suburbs of Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey.
A recent industry event titled “L.E.S. is More” moderated by Compass President Leonard Steinberg attracted a standing room only audience of real estate professionals who filled the Landmark Sunshine Theater to hear a panel of developers discuss the area’s latest four residential projects. Together these new developments will bring more than 200 luxury product options to the neighborhood pushing prices well past a previous $1,300 psf threshold to more than $2,000 psf. Along with these high end residences, these developers are bringing much needed amenities and services to the area.
The most ambitious of the new projects, the site of the failed Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, is Essex Crossing, a mixed use development that will transform six acres of land that had been vacant for more than 50 years. Majority equity stakeholder Goldman Sachs has committed $200M to the mega project that will be built in three phases. When completed by 2024, the complex will comprise 9 residential buildings with 1000 units—900 affordable and market rate rentals and 100 condos, in addition to 250,000 sf of office space, 600,000 sf of retail stores, a 1/3 acre public park and 12,000 sf organic farm. An underground shopping promenade called “Market Line,” slated to open 2019, will offer two shopping levels spanning 3 city blocks where Trader Joe’s will be joined by 150 small scale food and retail shops in addition to a bowling alley and movie theater. There is talk of space for the city to build a new school. The development is projected to cost $1.1B.
Essex Crossing’s Phase 1 is 242 Broome Street at the corner of Ludlow which broke ground last July. Developer Charles Bendit is building 14 stories with 55 residences, of which 11 will be affordable. The building will house a new museum which we’re told has already been identified but as of this writing has not yet been announced. Commercial and retail space will occupy the building’s first four stories. Offering 1-3 bedroom apartments, the residences will have 10’ ceilings, Calacatta marble finishes and radiant heated floors. Amenities include a rooftop terrace, bike storage, gym, and children’s playroom; prices range from $1.275-$7M. Completion is expected early 2018.
Adjacent to Katz’s Deli, Ben Shaoul (who bought the deli’s air rights) began construction last August on 196 Orchard Street, an 11 story development with 94 units ranging from studios to four bedrooms. At the building’s base, Equinox Club and Spa will occupy 30,000 sf on 2 stories. An additional 20,000 sf is available for retail. Other amenities include a bike room and a 4,100 sf common roof terrace equipped with two outdoor kitchens. Apartment features include 9’-12’ ceilings, oversized casement style windows, exposed architectural concrete ceilings, and wide plank flooring. An apartment availability list shows asking prices ranging from $1,085M for a 551 sf one bedroom to $4.2M for a 1,555 sf three bedroom home.
At the site of the former Streit's matzo factory whose history dates back nearly 90 years, a boutique 7 story condominium with 45 units of primarily one and two bedrooms is being developed at 150 Rivington with an expected occupancy in summer 2018. Developer Arthur Stern explained that while they tried to preserve a piece of the 4 separate 1880’s tenements that made up the factory, it wasn’t feasible to use any of the original structure. Instead there are floor to ceiling glass windows, steel and opaque glass sliding doors, 9'2" ceilings, and 5" white oak floors. The building will have 13,000 sf of ground floor retail, fitness center, and a rooftop landscaped terrace with outdoor kitchen. Prices range from $1.030 for a 543 sf one bedroom to $3.8 for a 1,464 three bedroom PH with 12’9” ceilings and 803 sf terrace.
Another boutique development at 287 East Houston Street is being built by Jose Antonio Grabowsky of Brazil who is collaborating on his first project in New York with Andres Hogg. Their product is a 11 stories of 28 units, many with terraces and 10’2” ceilings; prices range from $1.395 for a one bedroom of 750 sf to a 2 bedroom penthouse of 1,193 sf with a 140 sf terrace for $2.950, and these go up to $5M.
Visits to these new condo showrooms reveal variations on a theme of clean, modern styles with open living spaces. In addition to offering high end conveniences, developers are capitalizing on air and light and also bringing essential services for fitness and recreation to individual building communities, contributing to a vibrantly dynamic changing neighborhood. Price points seem to be resonating most with retirees, empty nesters and couples of all ages looking to get more for their money than is available in other downtown areas. My wonderful father-in-law Dave, who lived during the 30’s at 27 Pitt Street with 10 family members in a three room tenement apartment where the fire escape was their terrace, would be smiling from ear to ear.