Developer Henry Justin of HJ Development is ready to rock and roll, again.
The 56-year-old developer of 211 East 51st Street is finishing the construction of a new 1,000-square-foot rehearsal and recording studio with state-of-the-art audio design in the Fashion District. The cost to build the studio: about $50,000.
“I’ve earned enough security and comfort and money to afford myself this pursuit at this moment,” Justin said.
But Justin is not pursuing a new hobby; he’s going back to his roots.
A former songwriter, Justin has co-written more than a dozen recorded songs, including the 1977 hit “Get Up and Dance” on a record of the same name, performed by the Memphis Horns (and sung by the Doobie Brothers on the Dinah Shore show), and “Feelings of Love,” later sung by keyboardist Theodore Wender’s 1980s rock band 3-D, which played with bands like the Cars and the Ramones and appeared on Saturday Night Live.
“He’s a natural,” said Wender, his former songwriting partner, who has since been writing music for TV and commercials with 3-D lead vocalist Ric Zivic. “I’m very excited about writing again with
Henry. It’ll be really exciting. He always used to come up with great ideas.”
Justin is reconfiguring 1,000 square feet on the sixth floor of a building he owns at 261 West 35th Street. Wender is supplying the electronics, including his collection of vintage keyboards.
The studio will be used by Justin and Wender and both of their sons. Justin’s son plays guitar, and Wender’s son is a DJ.
“Henry’s son, Jonathan, was very involved in construction and design of the new studio, and my son, Daniel, was instrumental in the audio design,” Wender said. They will get “an opportunity to rehearse and record.”
Although Justin has been building
condos like the Cass Gilbert at 130 West 30th Street, the Heywood at 263 Ninth Avenue, the Parkwood at 31 East 28th Street and 211 East 51st Street (to be completed next month), he still jams every night at home on the piano or on his electric guitar.
“Real estate is very stressful and strenuous. [Music is] a tremendous outlet for me,” he said. “It’s a place for me to energize myself, to keep in touch with the talent and ability I have. Now, I’m revisiting the idea of writing music again.”
After graduating from Great Neck South High School on Long Island, Justin moved to New York City.
“I started from scratch with [Wender], who had a group,” which eventually evolved into 3-D, Justin said. “We wrote tunes together. I played a little harmonica for them at times.”
Justin attended the School of Visual Arts for one year, dropped out, bought a camera and made some cash traveling around, shooting low-budget films on subjects including the Lebanese Civil War and female boxer Cathy “Cat” Davis.
In 1976, Justin turned to investing in real estate with his father’s company, Justin Management, owner and operator of commercial properties.
“Real estate sort of jumped up in the ’70s,” Justin said. He got married in 1983 and was looking for a more lucrative career. “I only came into the business on a full-time basis in the early ’80s.”
In 2000, he opened his own outfit, focusing on developing luxury condominium conversions like the one at 211 East 51st Street, rather than just buying buildings.
Besides playing music for fun, Justin has kept himself immersed in the art world. In 2000, he founded the Center for Figurative Painting, an exhibition space for postwar American figurative painters. The center, now closed, had a permanent collection of more than 100 paintings.
Wender is hopeful that his pursuit with Justin will be fruitful.
“We’re going to write music together again for enjoyment. If you love what you do, it translates into magic,” he said.