It’s tough to walk anywhere on the Lower East Side these days without running into construction barricades and passing under scaffolding. Buildings are popping up from one end of the neighborhood to the other. By our count, there are at least six new luxury condo developers actively marketing apartments. Recently we stopped by the sales office for one high profile project: the condominiums on the former site of the Streit’s Matzo Factory. Here’s what we were told by the development team.
After 90 years on the Lower East Side, the Streit family sold four adjacent tenements last year to Cogswell Lee Development for $30.5 million. We met with Arthur Stern, the firm’s CEO; architect Charlie Kaplan of Gluck+; and Millie Perry of Stribling Associates, the brokerage handling sales at 150 Rivington St.
They’re obviously very much aware that the Streit’s Matzo Factory was a beloved institution on the Lower East Side and that many longtime residents feel strong emotional ties to the site. “The character of the Lower East Side is important to us,” said Stern. Members of the Streit family struggled with their own powerful emotions about the old neighborhood before deciding to sell. Stern explained, “we worked very closely with the family. We’re still in contact with them. We’re going to their opening up in Rockland County when they open their new matzo factory.” Stern suggested that the development team intended to, “preserve the character of what was there (photos of the factory will be hung in the new lobby), at the same time realizing that things change.”
The change will be stark. The new seven story building will be glassy, interspersed with specially designed cast panels. Kaplan, a principal of Gluck+, said, “the whole facade looks like it’s shimmering in the breeze… (adding a) vibrancy that we think really fits in with the neighborhood in an interesting and new way.”
“We have been studying this neighborhood for some time,” said Kaplan. “What you find is that there’s just an amazing mix of different kinds of buildings from different periods that’s exciting. It goes hand-in-hand with the kind of business establishments that are here, restaurants and bars and galleries. There’s a real mix of things down here. In designing the building, we really wanted to pick up on that kind of vibrancy and eclectic quality.”
There will be 45 apartments at 150 Rivington when the building opens in the first part of 2018. A ground floor commercial space covers just under 9,000 square feet. No commercial tenants have been lined up as of yet. Sales kicked off weeks ago for the apartments, which range in price from about $1 million to $4 million for penthouse units.
Stern called the response from prospective buyers “steady.”
“When you look at the overall real estate market,” he added, “it’s not 2014 (when the New York market experienced an unprecedented residential real estate boom). I don’t think anyone would try to pretend that it is. But the response to our product has been fantastic. We’re selling units. It may not have been at the pace of 2013 or 2014, but it’s at a pace we’re happy with.”
As mentioned above, 150 Rivington is competing for buyers with several other Lower East Side projects. The Broome Street condos in the big Essex Crossing project hit the market this week. Other developments in the immediate area include: 100 Norfolk St., 50 Clinton St., 196 Orchard St. and 287 East Houston St.
Are there concerns that the market is over-saturated? While Stern conceded that “the Lower East Side is certainly on everyone’s radar screen,” he added that the overall number of condo units becoming available in the neighborhood is still small. “When you look at a city this size,” he explained, “and you look at the overall demand, it’s not like we have a five year oversupply of condos coming to the Lower East Side. The interest is going to far outstrip the supply that is being produced.” [The six projects referenced in this story are adding about 250 condo units to the the neighborhood.]
Millie Perry said brokers are seeing a lot of potential buyers who either live downtown now, or are familiar with the area. There are some investors looking to snap up a condo unit or two, as well as parents of New York University students eyeing apartments for their kids. “From a perspective of locals understanding what change is happening in their world,” said Perry, interest has been strong from people who, “really love the Lower East Side for its authenticity, for its culture, for what it is. They’re not looking to change it. They’re just looking to immerse with it and find a home here.”
Twelve units at 150 Rivington St. are currently listed on StreetEasy. Five are under contract, including a 2 bed/2 bath apartment on the sixth floor for $2.260,000. The cheapest unit listed in a 543 square foot 1-bedroom for $1,030,000.