The new urban condo wave

Demand for Long Island condominiums — especially those with a chic Manhattan feel and ample amenities — is on the upswing

Mar.March 01, 2016 11:00 AM
Watchcase in Sag Harbor

Watchcase in Sag Harbor

Older homeowners downsizing and younger couples moving from the city have fueled a recent surge in the number of Long Island condominium projects and their trend toward city-style designs and amenities, according to developers and brokers.

An analysis of attorney general filings for condo projects compiled by The Real Deal shows that 1,212 units have been approved or are pending in Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past two years. That compares to 1,483 units over the four-year period from 2010 through 2013, marking a big uptick in condo development.

“Demand is coming out of the city, and that market is used to condos or multi-unit residential versus single-family housing, so it’s a natural fit,” said Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, who prepares the Douglas Elliman Reports. “We’re also seeing in Long Island, and especially in the Hamptons, a higher-end condo product being built, and it’s being better received than at any time in the past.”

The shift toward more design-focused luxury condos is gaining steam as incoming residents want ample conveniences and top-tier amenities, Miller noted. During the original Long Island condo boom in the 1980s, the product was more generic and simple, he said, but “now, you’re seeing a more highly stylized product.”

 One such development is Watchcase, Sag Harbor, a conversion of a former watch case factory where no two of the project’s 63 condos are alike. It’s located in town, within walking distance of restaurants and shops as well as the Jitney to Manhattan. Move-ins began about a year ago.

“The urban aspect is pretty phenomenal,” said sales broker Cee Scott Brown, of the Corcoran Group. “Almost everyone has remarked how much it reminds them of city lofts or the Brooklyn experience because of the [exposed] brick.”

The factory apartments have anywhere from 10.5- to 14-foot ceilings and large windows with views of either the harbor or the pool area and Sag Harbor village. Amenities include a concierge, porter and live-in manager as well as a heated saltwater pool, a club room that can be rented for events, a gym and a keyed garden “like Gramercy Park” for residents and their guests.

The developers, Cape Advisors along with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, were even able to build an underground parking garage (each one-bedroom unit gets one space while two- and three-bedroom units get two spaces). There are also permits for guest parking.


Ritz-Carlton Residences in North Hills

Watchcase, Sag Harbor is about 70 percent sold with available units ranging from $1.3 million for one bedrooms to more than $10 million for up to five bedrooms, according to Brown. Sizes range from 1,099 to 4,834 square feet and the penthouses come with a fireplace and library, plus a terrace and fire pit on the roof.

“Nowhere else in the Hamptons do you get a fifth-floor bird’s-eye view,” Brown said.

Long Island’s condo market has continued to strengthen over the past year, according to the fourth quarter 2015 Elliman Report for Long Island, which excludes the Hamptons and the North Fork. The number of sales jumped 19.9 percent year over year, and the median sales price was up 3 percent to $255,000. Inventory dropped 12.4 percent in 2015, which has pushed down the region’s absorption rate — the time it takes to sell all inventory at the current rate of sales — from 7.5 months to 5.5 months, the fastest it’s been in more than six years, Miller said.

Steven Dubb, a principal of the Long Island-based residential development firm the Beechwood Organization, said one of the first condo communities to offer city-style living and amenities was Meadowbrook Pointe in Westbury, which is about 40 minutes from Manhattan on the Long Island Rail Road. Units there started selling just before the recession and sold out in 2015. Prices opened in the low- to mid-$700,000s and remained there through the downturn before rising to the $900,000s, Dubb said.

The age-restricted community, where at least one buyer in the household must be 55 or older, is centered around a large clubhouse with amenities that include billiards, a movie room, indoor and outdoor pools, an aerobics studio and gym and a sundry shop for basic groceries, coffee and sandwiches.

“As people get older they want to trade in their home for an easier lifestyle and don’t want to travel far to the gym, and they want a place to meet and hang with friends,” Dubb said.

The demand for style has shifted too, to floor plans with an open layout, higher ceilings and more windows, along with high-end trims and finishes, upgraded cabinets and appliances and stone countertops — not unlike the latest developments in New York City.

Citing the success of Meadowbrook Pointe, Beechwood developed and continues to build similar communities and has seen other developers trying to emulate its formula, according to Dubb. But unlike age-restricted condo projects, one of the company’s newest developments, Marina Pointe at East Rockaway on the South Shore, is geared mainly toward first-time homebuyers.

The project was built on a former marina. Boat slips are available, all apartments have ocean views and the LIRR is across the street. Sales for the development will begin this spring with expected move-ins to start in early 2017, Dubb noted.

The price range is $400,000 to $500,000, “which on Long Island is acceptable to the younger generation although that may seem high elsewhere in the country,” he said. There is currently a waitlist with more than 600 names for the development’s 84 units.

On the North Shore, another condo development, Roslyn Landing, will break ground in a few months, said Douglas Elliman broker Maria Babaev. The 78-unit development has six floor plans composed mostly of two to three bedrooms, and all units will have private elevators.


Meadowbrook Pointe in Westbury

“Most offer open spaces, with a combined living room and dining room, which is a very comfortable layout for family living and entertaining,” Babaev said, adding that the sizes vary from 2,800 to 3,700 square feet. The appliances are all “top-of-the-line” and the finishes are between modern and traditional, she said. Prices range from $1.38 million to $1.75 million.

The project is located in the heart of the village and owners will be able to walk to Roslyn’s restaurants, library, post office, shops and a nearby park.

Babaev noted that buyers are a mix of young families coming from New York City in search of better school districts, professionals who want simple living and some international buyers who do not spend all of their time on Long Island.

Arguably the most luxurious of the new condo developments on Long Island is the amenity-packed Ritz-Carlton Residences in North Hills, built by RXR Realty.

Prices run between $1.5 million and $3.5 million for two- and three-bedrooms, ranging from 1,550 to 2,100 square feet, and each unit comes with two parking spaces in a heated, underground garage. In addition to the top-line finishes and appliances, the development features hotel-style services including valet parking, attendants, a doorman and concierge. Owners can get plants watered, dogs walked, units cleaned and laundry done on an a la carte basis. Move-ins will begin this March.

“You’re 20 miles from the Midtown Tunnel, 60 miles from the Hamptons and within minutes of some of the North Shore’s best restaurants, entertainment and shopping,” said Joe Graziose, project executive and senior vice president of residential development for RXR.

The first buyers of the 240 residences have typically lived within seven miles of the property but no longer want to manage those homes. The next round brought young families from Manhattan, Graziose said. He noted that both groups were “looking for luxury.”

RXR has additional Long Island residential projects in the pipeline in Glen Cove, Hempstead and Huntington Station. The New York real estate firm is “developing infrastructure and assets to create downtown living” in those markets, according to Graziose.

“It looks like New York City on a small scale, but it’s affordable to young professionals and retirees,” he said.

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