Harlem condos to court first-time buyers with 88 small apartments

Project marks Rubicon Property’s, Bohemia Realty’s entrée into new developments
By Leigh Kamping-Carder | November 20, 2012 01:30PM

An 88-unit condominium conversion in Central Harlem is set to hit the market in early December, with a block of small units aimed at first-time homebuyers, The Real Deal has learned.

The project, at 48-54 West 138th Street, is composed of 44 studios and 44 one-bedrooms spanning less than 400 square feet on average and priced at an average of $246,000 per unit. About 30 apartments at the longtime rental building are currently vacant, and about half of those will hit the market through an on-site sales office in the next few weeks; the other half will be readied for sale shortly after. As tenants move out of the building, units that are currently renter-occupied will be renovated and placed on the market.

G4 Development Group has hired Rubicon Property and Harlem brokerage Bohemia Realty Group — both newcomers to the new development game — to market the project.

On a square foot basis, prices for the units are comparable to — if not slightly higher than —similar properties in the area, said Rubicon CEO Jason Haber, but because the apartments are so small, the unit prices are lower than other studios and one-bedrooms nearby.

“Most of the options for the market in that area are all rental, so we’re giving a really quality condo product at a really attractive price,” Haber said.

The six-story building, between Lenox and Fifth avenues, dates back to 1940, and the developers aimed to preserve prewar details in the hallways and lobby. The property also features an outdoor terrace on the ground floor.

“What we’re very proud of is that we’ve maintained the original Art Deco detail in the building and exposed a lot of the brick, while adding all the modern touches and conveniences,” said Jason Behfarin, a principal with G4 Development.

During the renovation process, the construction crew accidentally stumbled on interior brick walls and steel beams and decided to leave both exposed, giving the building an “industrial-meets-Art Deco feeling,” said Sarah Saltzberg, co-founder of Bohemia Realty.

The developer bought 48-54 West 138th Street for $8.3 million in August from an LLC, public records show. Behfarin said it was an “opportune” time to convert the building because of a lack of this type of product in the area and a newfound demand for it.

G4 Development is affiliated with lender G4 Capital Partners and owns a portfolio of U.S. retail and residential properties valued at $100 million, according to the company. Along with Behfarin, G4’s principals include Louis Silverman and Robyn Sorid, who are also working on the West 138th Street project.

Silverman is perhaps best known for his real estate plays in Williamsburg, where he bought up swaths of industrial waterfront property that was later rezoned residential; a portion of his holdings later became the site for the Edge condos. Silverman also built the Broadway Riverview, a 14-unit condo in Williamsburg, in the early 2000s.

G4 Development hired Bohemia Realty because of its familiarity with Harlem, whereas Haber lends expertise marketing to potential buyers outside the neighborhood, Behfarin said.

Saltzberg co-founded Bohemia Realty in February with Jon Goddell, and the firm now has 35 agents, she said. Both brokers came from City Connections, where they specialized in Upper Manhattan rentals. They had a close relationship with the former owner of 48-54 West 138th Street and brokerage numerous deals in the building, Saltzberg said.

She also had some experience marketing smaller new developments in Harlem, such as the Parc Standard and the Lantern condos, but was less familiar with conversions, she said.

Likewise, this is the first new development for Rubicon, although Haber had experience with new developments when he was an agent at Douglas Elliman. He said he is preparing his agents to man the sales desk, and is anticipating a “run” on the apartments.

“This is going to be a floodgate,” he said.