Since the former home of 93-year-old Gertel’s Bakery was demolished in 2007, the sliver of Lower East Side real estate known as 53 Hester St. has become a stalled-out eyesore blocked off by a dilapidated plywood fence. The Lo-Down has learned however, that a new chapter is opening in the story at 53 Hester St.: a condo building that never got off the ground under the previous owners may indeed be moving forward.
City land and court records show that the developer of the condo building next door at 55 Hester St. paid $3.2 million for the long, narrow lot in late January, following a lengthy legal proceeding that resulted in a foreclosure decree in New York Supreme Court. Three weeks after the deed was signed, the new owner, an entity called Hester Alliance Properties LLC led by partner Chen Wu and headquartered at 12 Monroe St., applied to the city’s building and zoning departments for permission to combine the two properties into one zoning lot.
No changes are planned for the existing building at 55 Hester St., an 11-story building with 27 apartments that was completed in 2010. That project was developed by an entity called 88 Hester Construction LLC, headed by Wu and partner Yang Zhi Lu, according to city building department documents. The application, which is pending, cites plans for a new 10-story building at 53 Hester, which measures 23 feet wide by 100 feet deep. The team behind 55 Hester also developed a seven-story residential building at 2 Allen St.
The previous owner, J.P. Hester, Inc., had run into trouble on several fronts: in addition to falling behind on mortgage payments, according to court records, its proposed development never made it off the drawing board. City inspectors slapped violation notices and fines on the project beginning with the 2007 demolition of the bakery building and ending with a still-active stop-work order a year ago. J.P. Hester, Inc., a partnership owned by Shanglin C.H. “Julie” Chou and Kong Shun “Peter” Wang, at one time had planned to build an 11-story condo building with 10 apartments, designed by architect Michael Kang. Chou and Wang acquired the building for $2.9 million in April 2007, according to property records.
The building on the other side of the vacant lot, a five-story walk-up with commercial spaces on the ground floor, sold for $2.2 million in February 2012.