Sag Harbor Watchcase Factory debuts model unit, launches sales: PHOTOS

Contracts out on 19 of the project’s factory lofts, developers say
By Katherine Clarke | June 07, 2013 01:00PM

The ongoing restoration of Sag Harbor’s former Bulova Watchcase Factory is truly “the project that could” and required a team of “ultra marathoner” developers to oversee it, said James Lansill of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group yesterday at the unveiling of the development’s model unit.

Indeed, the condominium and townhouse project – which is set to complete construction within the next 18 months – has been in the works for more than seven years. Developer Cape Advisors purchased the property in 2006 and secured necessary approvals soon after. But the company was delayed by clashes with local organizations, such as the Group for the East End, which said construction of the complex would be in violation of state environmental laws. Soon after, the recession hit and the project struggled to find financing due to lack of comparable properties selling in the area.

“Everybody hung in there,” Lansill said. “Everyone was a believer.”

But Watchcase, as it has been dubbed, is back in action with construction in full swing. Once completed, the development will be comprised of 64 luxury condominiums, including 17 bungalow apartments and townhouses. The seven bungalows and nine townhouses sit on the perimeter of the site, above a 130-car underground parking garage. Residents will have access to a shared swimming pool, a fitness center and private gardens.

Having sat vacant for years – the building originally served as a cotton mill in the 1800s and later as a factory for making watchcases – the building was in “major disrepair, probably more disrepair than the developers knew [when they bought it],” said Nick Racanelli, head of the project’s construction team, yesterday. In fact, one member of the Cape Advisors team said it had probably been too dangerous to walk the building when they first purchased it – not that it stopped them.

“We’ve chosen to do more preservation than probably makes sense,” said Arthur Blee, director of design and construction at Cape Advisors, conducting a tour of the site. The team is repurposing over 20,000 of the factory’s original bricks, retaining most of its original masonry and even installing a replica of its original bracketed cornice to crown the building’s façade. In addition, some of the property’s most unique features, such as two three-story granite vaults used to store precious metals for the creation of watchcases, will be maintained. The vaults will be used as the kitchen spaces in several of the apartments, for instance.

Each of the units in the factory’s main building has a unique layout, the developers said, thanks to a maze of courtyards and buildings that made up the original property. The floors of the property were raised 14 inches, meaning that the mechanical systems could be tucked under the floors.

Inside the model apartment, the design of which was headed up by interior designer Steven Gambrel, the industrial architecture meets furniture and design flourishes inspired by reclaimed, raw materials.

“I didn’t want it to feel overly icy or angular,” Gambrel said of the space. “I had to work with this muscular architecture and give it a domestic quality. I tried to hit both notes.”

The residences in the main factory buildings are asking $1.05 million to $3.22 million, while the penthouses have price tags of $2.59 million to $10.2 million. The bungalows and townhouses will range in price from $1.08 million to $6.5 million.

Lansill said contracts are signed or out on about 19 of the 47 main residences. The townhouses have not yet come on the market. It was previously reported that a five-year-old waiting list for the units was up to 880 potential buyers.

The project will likely appeal to buyers who want a turn-key property with little upkeep, the developers said. While initially they anticipated the most demand to be from Wall Streeters looking for vacation pads, they’ve been seeing a predominance of interest from buyers over 50, said David Kronman of Cape.