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Shaoul launching mid-market condos ahead of expected glut

Ben Shaoul Magnum Real Estate

From left: Ben Shaoul, 389 East 89th Street on the Upper East Side and 385 First Avenue near Gramercy Park

Ben Shaoul is kicking off sales at two mid-market condo projects this month in a bid to get ahead of the competition for condo inventory priced at less than $3 million.

The developer’s Magnum Real Estate Group is set to open sales at 389 East 89th Street, on the Upper East Side, and the Luminaire, at 385 First Avenue near Gramercy Park.

Shaoul bought the former rental towers in 2014 and commenced renovations with an eye to converting the properties into moderately-priced condos, according to Bloomberg.

Two-bedroom units at 389 East 89th Street start at nearly $1.6 million, while the cheapest three-bedroom apartment is listed at just under $2 million. The priciest residence at the 156-unit tower, a 1,860-square-foot penthouse, asks $5.25 million.

At the 103-unit Luminaire, two-bedrooms will range from $1.75 million to $2.73 million while one-bedrooms start at $950,000. The priciest unit at the building, a 1.982-square-foot three-bedroom with a 1,265-square-foot terrace, is listed at $4.95 million.

Shaoul told Bloomberg his business plan for the buildings is “velocity” – noting his intention to “sell the buildings out this year, be done this year, deliver this year” in an effort to get ahead of similarly-priced inventory coming to market in the next few years.

“This product is not available right now in the marketplace, so let’s get it delivered in 2016 before anyone comes around in 2017,” he said. [Bloomberg]Rey Mashayekhi

Modular building pioneer Capsys acquired by rival Whitley

From left: Nicholas Lembo, a rendering of 335 EAst 27th Street (credit: nArchitects) and Simon Dragan

From left: Nicholas Lembo, a rendering of 335 East 27th Street (credit: nArchitects) and Simon Dragan

Modular manufacturer Capsys may be shutting down its Brooklyn factory, but the company’s name will live on. Pennsylvania-based modular firm Whitley Manufacturing is buying Capsys and will keep using the brand, the two companies announced Monday.

Whitley, which specializes in low-rise commercial buildings, plans to use Capsys’ manufacturing techniques to build multi-story modular buildings for the New York City market at its factory in Leola, Pennsylvania. 

“Capsys is synonymous with modular construction in New York City, and its system will let us build taller—in a place where most of the space is vertical, that’s a really important feature,” said Simon Dragan, Whitley’s president.

Whitley is buying the “Capsys name, its proprietary building system, and other related intellectual property,” according to the announcement. Drew Welborn, a vice president at Whitley, told The Real Deal that the firm will keep the Capsys brand name, but it’s not clear yet whether Capsys’ 40-plus employees (as of last October) will get to keep their jobs.

TRD first reported in October that Capsys will shutter after its hunt for a new manufacturing space in New York City ended fruitless.

Capsys was founded in 1996 and has produced modules for developments such as the micro-apartment building 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan and the townhouse complex Atlantic Center in Fort Greene. It was the only modular manufacturer in New York City for almost a decade, and had been hunting for a new location since 2010, when it learned its long-term lease at the Brooklyn Navy Yard would not be renewed. The company is paying around $4 per square foot under its lease – far below average rates at the Yard.

Today, Forest City Ratner’s modular factory is Capsys’ neighbor at the Navy Yard.

“It was a hard decision to close the factory,” Capsys’ founder Nicholas Lembo said in a statement Monday, “but it was the right one.  In contrast, though, it was an easy choice to pass the torch to Whitley, who I know will produce Capsys units that our team would be proud of, and that will continue to demonstrate a smart alternative to traditional construction in New York City.”

Queens lawmaker calls for special architectural districts


Tony Avella

Queens state Senator Tony Avella wants to create special architectural districts throughout the state, which would still protect neighborhoods from non-contextual buildings without requiring historic landmark status.

Avella will introduce a bill during the new legislative session that would allow residents to petition for their neighborhoods to be protected by their local zoning authority, the Queens TimesLedger reported. Residents would detail the special design characteristics of their neighborhood and then there would be a public hearing for approval.

“When it comes to protecting the aesthetic integrity of these beautiful neighborhoods throughout New York, every day that passes threatens the existence of these valued communities,” Avella said in a statement. “There needs to be another way through which residents can protect the character of their neighborhoods outside of being granted historical status, which in New York City the L.P.C. has been reluctant to do.”

The Broadway-Flushing neighborhood — part of Avella’s district — has gone before the Landmarks Preservation Commission many times over the last decade, but has yet to win designation due to the many architectural styles throughout it, the Times Ledger reported.

Special architectural districts are more about keeping a neighborhood in sync architecturally while historic districts focus more on preservation.

The city Department of Buildings or its equivalent agency would enforce a neighborhood’s design limits. [TimesLedger and Curbed]Dusica Sue Malesevic

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