Kent state

New waterfront Williamsburg rental well positioned, though competition may come from condo owners looking for renters

Mar.March 30, 2011 02:46 PM
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To the transformation of Williamsburg’s waterfront, add one more luxury residential building: 175 Kent Avenue.

The 113-unit rental — which was developed by the Chetrit Group and is being marketed by aptsandlofts.com — officially launches this month.

And if the new and nearby rentals that it’s following to market offer any sort of indication, the developers of 175 Kent may be breathing a sigh of relief.

Indeed, JMH Development’s 184 Kent Avenue, which opened in early 2010, leased up in less than a year, and 34 Berry, which is a little further inland, opened last April, and was fully leased by Labor Day, according to Bob Scaglion, senior managing director of residential marketing for Rose Associates, which handles leasing at both buildings.

Also, according to David Maundrell, president of aptsandlofts.com, as of press time 175 Kent had 550 appointments set up with potential renters who won a video game that the building has posted on its website, called Tour De Burg, to promote the project to prospective renters and generate publicity. Winners get their name put on a “preferred list,” and will be invited to the building for the first open house, which is slated for April 5.

Maundrell noted that the building — which the real estate website Curbed pointed out had listings on the market as early as January, despite its official launch this month — is debuting at a good time. He said there are no new rentals currently being rolled out in Williamsburg, or at least “nothing with the amenity package we have.”

He also said the delays at the project, where construction started in 2008, were completely unintentional.

Sofia Song, the vice president of research for the real estate listings website StreetEasy, said 175 Kent does, indeed, have a lot going for it. And she backed up Maundrell’s claim that the rental is the most buzzworthy new project of its kind in the immediate area.

She said the Wythe Confectionery at 390 Wythe Avenue, a former candy factory, would start leasing soon for May 1 occupancy, but noted that it’s located much farther south, is much smaller, and doesn’t have the same level of amenities that 175 Kent has.

Like last year’s debut buildings, the seven-story, 118,000-square-foot metal-and-glass 175 Kent, which is on the site of a former concrete plant, features finishes and amenities more typical of a condo.

Still, Maundrell insisted last month that it’s always been planned as a rental.

“We have been involved with this project for three years, and it was always a rental program,” he said — though he did add that about six months ago, the developers briefly “explored” the idea of turning the building into a condo.

The Williamsburg condo market has been, for the last couple of years, dealing with one of the most massive recession migraines in the city. The Real Deal reported last month that the glut of condo inventory in the neighborhood has just recently started to burn off.

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175 Kent Avenue

The biggest condos in the area are, of course, the dueling projects Northside Piers (Toll Brothers’ 450-unit, two-tower condo that is currently selling briskly after a rocky debut in 2008) and the 562-unit Edge (Douglaston Development’s two-tower condo project).

Because of the large number of competing units in those two projects, sources say opening a new rental is still a safer bet than opening a condo, at least in the immediate waterfront area. However, as Song noted, these buildings could represent competition to rental buildings in the area because some buy condos and then rent them out.

“Many condo owners who purchase in these buildings choose to rent their residences out, so there will be competition from this,” Song said.

Perhaps to counteract that competition, 175 Kent is still offering concessions to get renters in the door.

According to Maundrell, the project is offering a free month of rent and no broker’s fee on its studio, one- and two-bedroom units. Apartment sizes in the building range from 510 square feet to 1,060 square feet, while prices start at $2,343 to $5,250.

Maundrell said 175 Kent’s pricing is about typical for the area, a point that Rose’s Scaglion agreed with.

The building, like nearly all in Williamsburg, is aggressively targeting tenants in their mid-20s to mid-30s, leading with the kitschy website.

Scaglion said he’s “sure 175 is going to do very well.”

“People [are] looking for doorman, amenities-filled apartments,” he said. “And they want a concentration of people so they can get to know their neighbors.”

He also said that about 50 percent of 184 Kent and 34 Berry were filled with former Manhattanites. Maundrell said he expects 175 Kent to draw from Manhattan, as well as Long Island City and Brooklyn.

The building includes 5,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, with an additional 18,000 square feet in the cellar. But none of it has been rented yet.

The building’s common amenities include a two-level gym, a concierge on duty from 6 a.m. to midnight, a 14,000-square-foot landscaped rooftop with a dining area, and a putting green.

Meanwhile, apartments have LG stainless-steel appliances; Bosch washer/dryers; individual PTAC heating/cooling units; video intercoms; and EcoFlush toilets. The building also has parking for 140 vehicles, according to Maundrell, who said spots will go for $200 a month.

Scaglion said a building in the size and price range of the new crop of Williamsburg rentals needs to lease between 30 and 40 units a month to stay on a successful track.

If it does less, it is likely priced too high; if it leases more, it’s probably priced too low. Whether the new north Williamsburg building is able to hit the sweet spot remains to be seen.


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