LES developers bet on history to draw future residents

Panelists say Equinox, Ludlow House signal the neighborhood's evolution

From left: Leonard Steinberg, Nikolai Fedak, Arthur Stern, Ben Shaoul, Charles Bendit, Andres Hogg and José Antonio Grabowsky
From left: Leonard Steinberg, Nikolai Fedak, Arthur Stern, Ben Shaoul, Charles Bendit, Andres Hogg and José Antonio Grabowsky

For decades, Katz’s Delicatessen and Russ & Daughters have drawn hungry New Yorkers to the Lower East Side. Now a group of developers is betting big that they’ll gobble up hundreds of new apartments in the neighborhood.

Speaking about the neighborhood’s trendy transformation at the Sunshine Cinema on Wednesday, developers credited the Lower East Side’s history and grit — and its shops and museums — as a draw for potential residents.

From left: Nikolai Fedak, Andres Hogg, José Antonio Grabowsky, Arthur Stern, Charles Bendit, Ben Shaoul and Leonard Steinberg

The event, hosted by Ben Shaoul’s Magnum Real Estate [TRDataCustom] and moderated by Compass president Leonard Steinberg, featured a who’s-who of builders in the neighborhood.

Ben Shaoul

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Panelists included Shaoul, who’s developing 94 condos at 196 Orchard Street; Charles Bendit, co-founder of Taconic Investment Partners, which is developing 242 Broome Street, a 55-unit condo that’s part of the $1.1 billion Essex Crossing project; Arthur Stern, CEO of Cogswell Lee Development, the firm behind the condo conversion at the former Streitz matzo factory; Nikolai Fedak, founder of pro-development blog New York YIMBY; and Jose Antonio Grabowskky, head of real estate investments for Brazil-based Vinci Partners and Andres Hogg of HOGG Holdings, which are co-developing 287 East Houston Street.

Developers credited the neighborhood’s density as a big part of its appeal. “It’s not easy to assemble sites in this neighborhood,” said Bendit. “So it’s not like it’s going to Be Like Riverside Boulevard Where You Have Big Buildings Going Up All Over The Place. This is something that’s much more approachable. You feel like you’re part of a neighborhood.”

“There is a real grittiness and history,” added Stern, who’s developing a 45-unit condo at 150 Rivington Street. “People appreciate that. A lot of New York has become the opposite of that now.”

Steinberg pointed to the Equinox gym at the base of 196 Orchard and the newly-opened Ludlow House (an outpost of the hot-to-trot, members-only Soho House) as reason to believe that buyers will target the Lower East Side. “If anyone knows what Soho House did to the Meatpacking District, the future of this area is very bright,” he said. “It’s probably as cool as Williamsburg without the L train.”

Shaoul, meanwhile, dismissed talk that the overall glut of condos in the city’s pipeline will toss a wet blanket on the transforming Lower East Side.

“You have all this scare about about all these apartments coming. It’s not true,” he said. “Everything that’s been permitted won’t get built…People continue to move here… You have to look at what’s happening in each neighborhood and say, ‘OK, how many developments are actually happening in this neighborhood?’”