ugg slippers review ‘Zombie’ properties on Staten Island get a life
Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma HammelWork has resumed on The Pointe at 155 Bay St. The apartment building with its glass balconies and its skyline views at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Nicholas Street may look more like a lost opportunity than the promise it once held as part of the North Shore’s rebirth.
Called “The View,” it was slated for 40 luxury condominiums, the kind typically found on the other side of the Verrazano Narrows and the Goethals bridges, but instead it sits empty, about 95 percent complete, marked by graffiti, broken windows and rust slowly settling in.
But its fortunes may be changing: The View is on the market now, though it was left with an outstanding balance of nearly $15 million when high profile developer Leib Puretz fell into foreclosure on properties stretching from the North Shore to the South.
“Its location is the key asset,” said Robert A. Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, who is selling the note on behalf of an unnamed lender. “It’s in very good shape and presents a great opportunity to be a rental building or a condominium. We’re looking for buyers who want to pick up the loan and step into the lender’s shoes.”
That has already been the case with $37 million in loans scooped off the discount rack for planned high rises in St. George, and also for an outlet mall in Charleston, by buyers who still see the potential that Puretz envisioned when he arrived here eight years ago carrying a hefty portfolio and big dreams.
Neighborhood residents are hopeful that new ownership means an influx of people who will contribute to the North Shore’s up and coming hipster vibe which finds expression in trendy restaurants, renovated storefronts, a minor league ballpark, a theater that attracts marquis names and a redeveloped home port on its way, all within walking distance of the ferry.
Staten Island Advance/Hilton FloresMike Behar of the upscale Oznico clothing store on Water Street in Stapleton said, “We’re becoming more in tune with global Staten Island than just downtown Staten Island and building an urban sense of community that’s been lost. Housing is a key component to that.” (Staten Island Advance/Hilton Flores)
“We need more of a critical mass in the neighborhood,” said Theo Dorian, president of the St. George Civic Association. “We need a diversity of residents. The retail climate is tough. It is very, very difficult for it to establish itself here. If there are more residents, there is more demand for those businesses.”
Bay Street may be the starting point.
Meadow Partners a real estate investor and asset manager that recently acquired a retail and office block on London’s couture Kensington High Street received a $24 million loan in October to refinance and complete The Pointe at 155 Bay St. and The Pearl at 130 Bay Street Landing.
A spring opening is projected for The Pointe, a six story building where a handful of residents moved in before Puretz defaulted on a $20 million loan in 2009, according to Meadow Partners’ spokesman George Cahn, who offered the first details of what to expect there since news of the loan was announced in the fall.
The mix of one bedroom and two bedroom condos with prices starting in the $300,000s will be sold by The Marketing Directors, which has handled similar buildings on Park Avenue, the Financial District, Tribeca, Hoboken and Jersey City, and which counts Ironstate Development the New Jersey firm remaking the former Stapleton home port among its clients.
Cahn could provide no details on The Pearl, a former dry cocoa warehouse that Puretz was retrofitting into 110 units, but Ben Caref, president of the Bay Street Landing Homeowners Association, said there has been activity on the site ever since Meadow Partners took over.
“There has been near constant work happening in the last six to eight weeks,” said Caref, who anticipates a meeting with Meadow Partners in the weeks ahead. “They have been in and out multiple times to review the work. It’s a good sign.”
City Councilwoman Debi Rose (D North Shore) said the purchase of the Bay Street buildings is just “one of many soon to come projects that will significantly contribute to the vibrancy of St. George.”
“After much anticipation, my office, as well as Bay Street Landing, is appreciative of the efforts that are being put forth to ensure that this development will be fully occupied and secure. It is reassuring that the landlord has a 15 year commitment to the success of this complex with careful attention being given to the upkeep of the building and the surrounding area.”
Puretz was the face behind a number of high profile projects across the Island, but rarely appeared in person when his ambitious proposals went before the community.
“I’m not emotionally attached to Staten Island,” he told the Advance in 2008, the only time he agreed to speak to the paper. “I just saw an opportunity to develop buildings here. It’s a business opportunity. Would you rather live in St. George and see the water, or sit in Dumbo [in Brooklyn] and breathe the air from the BQE?”
Delays in obtaining city approvals followed by the credit market bust jeopardized his projects. The toppling of the housing market squashed them and he foreclosed on more than $80 million in signature projects.
Among them was the Staten Island Hotel in Graniteville, now slated to become a luxury assisted living facility called the Esplanade. The touted September/October opening went by the boards.
And loans were also purchased in July by a still unidentified buyer for Liberty Towers, where Puretz proposed a 16 story, 164 unit condominium on Stuyvesant Place in St. George, and for Waterfront Commons, where he planned a 400,000 square foot outdoor shopping mall with 60 stores, a 14 screen movie theater, restaurants and underground parking in Charleston.
“Puretz had a good vision, I was rooting for him,” said Michael Behar, chairman of the Downtown Staten Island Council and owner of Oznico, a clothing store on Water Street in Stapleton that carries brands like Uggs, Ralph Lauren, Diesel, North Face and G Star.
“He established a level of pricing that was too high for the community,” he said. “If his pricing was more realistic, he would have sold out before the market turned.”
Behar hopes that is something developers new to the neighborhood will take into account.
“The young professionals, the artists, the hipsters, they’re already here,” he said. “We’re becoming more in tune with global Staten Island than just downtown Staten Island and building an urban sense of community that’s been lost. Housing is a key component to that.”