Extell swaps office for resi in East Harlem

415,000-square-foot project aiming for 543 apartments

Extell’s Gary Barnett and illustration of building (Extell Development, Getty)
Extell’s Gary Barnett and illustration of building (Extell Development, Getty)

Gary Barnett’s Extell Development has other plans for an East Harlem site at 180 East 125th Street. Instead of moving ahead on an office project in a troubled commercial office environment, his firm is pivoting to a project that will add 543 apartments to the neighborhood instead.

The 15-story building will span 415,000 square feet, pending the approval of a zoning bonus for locating a grocery store at the building as part of the city’s FRESH foods program. The building would also include 24,500 square feet of commercial space. The building would also include 24,500 square feet of commercial space.

The development would rise on the eastern half of the block between 124th and 125th Streets bounded by Lexington and Third Avenues.

Extell acquired the 42,500-square-foot parcel in 2014, spending $39 million on the land and $21 million to buy out the lease of a supermarket, an act which drew community opposition.

Barnett cheered plans for an office development in August 2020 and tapped Cushman & Wakefield to market the property, but the work-from-home phenomenon has not waned for the Extell boss to maintain such enthusiasm.

Foundation work on the residential project is estimated to begin in March, with a completion date of April 2025, according to the developer’s zoning application, which indicates 30 percent of apartments would be affordable under the 421a tax abatement.

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A representative from Extell did not respond to a request for comment.

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Extell bought the west side of the block — a 36,000-square-foot parcel that belonged to the Postal Service — in 2014 for $10 million, and refinanced both properties in 2016 with $65 million from Apollo Global Management. JP Morgan Chase took over the loan in 2021.

The residential project would leave the western parcel untouched and Extell would develop the site “in coordination with the MTA” after it acquires the fee title to build a Second Avenue Subway terminal at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, according to the zoning application.

Extell and the Durst Organization have spent hundreds of millions buying up land near the future terminus of the Q line train.

City Council member Diana Ayala declined to comment on the project. The Department of City Planning has referred Extell’s zoning request to the local community board, which has until March 22 to review the application.

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