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Staten Island’s Turning Point?

A view of URL Staten Island, a new residential and retail complex rising in the Stapleton neighborhood, from the Stapleton platform of the Staten Island Railway. URL overlooks Upper New York Bay. Credit Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times

A view of URL Staten Island, a new residential and retail complex rising in the Stapleton neighborhood, from the Stapleton platform of the Staten Island Railway. URL overlooks Upper New York Bay. Credit Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times

C.J. Hughes at The New York Times features Ironstate Development in a report about the revitalization of Staten Island. 

A wide bay may separate Staten Island from the rest of the city. But in terms of real estate, differences between the borough and other enclaves seem to be lifting like a morning fog.

New rentals and condominiums, some with perks like a pet spa or rooftop beehives, are rewriting the island’s skyline. Big-city cool is popping up in a place not always noted for it: Small-batch espresso will soon flow at a coffee shop; a jug band played kazoos at a recently opened brewery; and stores selling brand-name skinny-leg pants are on their way. And a fresh crop of renters and buyers, unable to afford pricier precincts and unfazed by stereotypes about how the place can seem insular, bland or run-down, are setting sail for the island.

 Rising on a desolate stretch of waterfront is URL Staten Island, short for “Urban Ready Life,” a $250 million mixed-use project with about 900 rental apartments in a series of buildings resembling factories, with bands of windows and flat roofs, the better to house bee hives.

The first phase, with 571 studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, will open this fall. Interiors will feature stone counters and bamboo floors, plus stacked washers and dryers. Studios will likely start around $1,600 a month, and two-bedrooms at $2,800, said David Barry, the president of Ironstate Development, the developer.

The site will contain 35,000 square feet of retail space, more than half of which is now leased. Among the future tenants are a pizzeria, a store dedicated to specialty olive oils and Lola Star, a Coney Island clothing shop that is soon to open a branch in that other rising outpost, the Rockaways. Coffeed, a chain that brewed its first cup in Long Island City, Queens, will also be there.

National chain stores, such as those that dot Staten Island’s strip malls, are not welcome at URL. “This place has its own special character,” Mr. Barry said. “The stores should reflect that.”

URL will also have a 5,000-square-foot plot planted with vegetables that can be purchased from an on-site farm stand. Or, for a fee, residents will be able to request that its kale, spinach, rainbow chard and mizuna be prepared by a chef who will do double duty as the head farmer, said Mr. Barry, who was sifting through résumés for the post as he spoke.

READ FULL ARTICLE AT THE NEW YORK TIMES

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Ironstate Plans Four Hotels


Ironstate Development, developer of the W Hoboken, plans hotels in New York, New Jersey, and Morocco.

Primarily a developer of multi-family residential projects, Ironstate’s success with the W Hoboken has been the catalyst for the new projects. The firm is pursuing developments in Harrison, NY; at Kennedy International Airport in Queens, NY; Long Branch, NJ; and with a Morocco-based partner, the W Marrakesh.

News of Ironstate’s plans were first reported in The New York Times.

Read the article in Hotel Business.


Meet The New Jersey Olympic Wrestler Who Might Partner With Andre Balazs

New Jersey is certainly keeping up with the out-of-Manhattan hotel trend, and that’s in addition to the glamorific Bungalow Hotel that opened back in 2009. Not to mention the ever-buzzier W Hoboken. But that’s not even the point. At the center of this all is a single man by the name of David Barry, president of Hoboken-based real estate development company Ironstate Developments (which worked on both of those properties.) And boy does he set his sights high!

In addition to two upcoming New Jersey projects, Barry is in the midst of a W Marrakech (as in, North Africa), and, most interestingly, a joint venture with Andre Balazs on a Terminal 5 hotel at JFK airport.

Barry was interviewed by the New York Times last week, and though most of the interview focused on his residential properties, Barry’s allusion to being in the “request for proposal” phase along with Balazs definitely stuck in our brain. The Terminal 5 project began getting some buzz in February, but at that time Balazs and Ironstate were listed as separate prospective developers.

Considering the W Hoboken’s undeniably growing appeal, the potential partnership could prove a match made in heaven.

It might seem a bit of a stretch to jump from North Jersey condos to a Standard Hotel-esque boutique experiment in one of the world’s busiest airports. But for Barry, it’s all about the benjamins:

Long Branch once had a glorious history, and then there was that traumatic event of the pier burning down in 1987. It was a really distressed town after that. The mayor’s platform has been the redevelopment and revitalization of Long Branch. There may be somebody who will say, “Oh, gosh, I really miss that tattoo parlor.” But when I talk to a typical person who lived in Long Branch, they say, “We couldn’t even come to this beach years ago because it was so burnt out.” At its low point, 10 to 12 years ago, the town sold $50,000 a year in daily beach passes. Last year it broke $1 million.

Did we mention in his spare time, Barry leads the 2012 USA Olympic wrestling team? Yeah, sure, now you’re interested.

Read the full article from HotelChatter.


Stapleton Homeport Has Year-Round Potential, Developer Says


While many Staten Islanders have been more than a little skeptical about announcements regarding construction at the Stapleton Homeport, the developer behind the project says plans to turn the area into a year-round destination is not far off. NY1’s Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

It’s hard to imagine now, but the quaint beachfront area in Long Branch, New Jersey wasn’t always so. Back in 1987, a fire on the pier left the town in complete disrepair, keeping tourists and locals from the shore and the surrounding area. All that changed five years ago, when a redevelopment plan — headed by Ironstate Development transformed the space into what is now known as Pier Village.

“There was a history of people kind of presenting things that didn’t get done after that,” said David Barry of Ironstate Development .

It’s a story that’s not unlike what happened for years at the Staten Island Homeport. Plan after plan of the sprawling 36 acre waterfront property has fallen by the wayside since the Navy set sail in the mid 1990s. But officials insist the latest proposal — a partnership between Ironstate and the city’s economic development corporation — will prevail where the others failed.

Rental apartments, tons of retail space and waterfront access are what Barry says made Pier Village a success. He says that model served as inspiration for plans for the Homeport.

“They’re both waterfront sites, so I think that’s a similarity. I also think they’re both sites that need a creative approach,” said Barry. “They need somebody with credibility and creativity to make these things, to reach their true potential.”

Of course, the two sites do have some obvious differences. To start, Pier Village is much more seasonally popular, attracting lots of beach goers when the weather gets nice. As a result, some tenants have been geared toward those busy summer months: Something that won’t happen at the Homeport.

“People like the warm weather, but Staten Island is a place with a lot of population that needs things to do 12 months a year. I don’t see a seasonal aspect to that. I see it as something that’s going to work all year round, and that’s how we’re approaching it,” Barry said.

Barry says his firm will work to attract a mix of mom and pop shops and national chains, which can draw customers all year long.

See the full article and video from NY1.


Homeport Site In Stapleton Awaits Launch Of Construction


Construction should soon begin on the long-awaited redevelopment of Staten Island’s Stapleton Homeport, and the site’s developer expects to being the overlooked borough to the attention of young professionals. Borough reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

By: Amanda Farinacci

These five buildings at the Stapleton Homeport will soon cease to exist. City offices have moved out, most of the necessary permits are in hand and within a few months, the land that was once owned by the United States Navy will be bustling with construction activity.

“The first step once we close on the property will be to demolish the buildings. That would probably be 30 to 60 days after we close on the property,” says developer David Barry of Ironstate Development.

Plan after plan for the sprawling 36-acre waterfront property has fallen by the wayside since the Navy set sail in the mid-1990s.

The latest proposal seems ready to go. It will feature about 800 units of housing, retail space and a waterfront esplanade in a partnership between the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Ironstate Development.

“Staten Island is a great location for them geographically. We want to make something with a real sense of place,” says Barry.

A recent study found a decrease in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living in the borough. Barry says he believes the site will finally give young professionals an alternative to moving to Manhattan or Brooklyn.

“We really want to provide an option for somebody that wants their independence, wants some excitement, but has a reason to be in this area,” says Barry.

Officials expect to close on the property this fall. Soon after, construction will begin on the first phase of the plan — some 400 housing units and 35,000-square-feet of retail space.

“We just want really strong tenants that understand what it’s going to take to be successful here, because at the end of the day that’s really what it’s going to take to make this place a success,” says Barry.

Ironstate says it will start trying to attract tenants from mom-and-pop shops to established Staten Island restaurants come the fall.

You can also watch the full video at NY1.


Status Island: Why Stapleton Could be NYC’s Next Great Neighborhood


NICHOLAS FEVELO FOR NEWS

By Jason Sheftell

For the past 50 years, Staten ­Island has sat quietly in the background as the forgotten borough, watching other New York neighborhoods skyrocket in possibility and real estate value. Finally, due to city investment, committed developers, the right mix of urban growth ingredients and one of the prettiest streets in New York, a Staten Island neighborhood is making a bid to become the next great place to live in the five boroughs.

Stapleton, a sleepy North Shore waterfront hamlet with small-town roots and big-city feel, has all it takes to attract artists, downtown types who like the water, and young locals taking advantage of the proximity to lower Manhattan. It has a housing infrastructure where perfectly restored historic homes on still-bucolic streets go for $359,000.

Even if we’re five years too early, this neighborhood could be the safest real estate bet going, presenting the top housing value of anywhere within eyesight of Manhattan. It’s cheaper than Red Hook, has an easier commute than Clinton Hill and beats Sunnyside on rent and house prices by almost 50%. Before you think I’m crazy, take a look at what you’ll find in this neighborhood on the verge of reinvention.

Harrison St.
Tucked behind Broad St. near Tompkins St., Harrison St. is undoubtedly the most attractive residential block that you have never heard of or stepped foot on. Built by wealthy merchants through the 1800s, the street is filled with single-family homes of varying architecture and a few brick apartment houses standing tall behind dogwood and cherry trees, which swirl pink petals in the air in springtime when the wind picks up. All have front lawns and backyards. From the top of a few, you can see the Wall Street skyline and harbor.

Real estate developer and broker Frank Rizzo owns Cornerstone Realty Partners, a company committed to the North Shore. He recently bought two homes on the street that he refurbished.

A British woman who often entertained owned both houses, which are next to each other. She used the double-wide backyard, commercial kitchen and parlor room with a bay window for weekend parties and weeknight art salons.

“Hardly anyone moves away. It is different from anything else around, and it competes architecturally with the top streets in Brooklyn or Manhattan. It kills them when it comes to value and price.”

One of the three-bedroom homes refurbished by Rizzo sold within three weeks on the market to an artist and college professor moving from Brooklyn. It was listed for $359,000. The other home was just put on the market for $349,000. Both could be undervalued. Apartment rentals go for $1,200 for a one-bedroom basement apartment and $2,500 for three bedrooms on or near the street.

Harrison St. is now inhabited by artists who left Manhattan for a better lifestyle, Albanian families who all seem to be related, and other Staten Islanders who keep to themselves. One house, a Greek Revival mansion, has an iron gate and a sculpture garden with a bronze-cast winged horse. A Queen Anne down the street looks regal. A towering home with restored brick has a mansard roof in perfect condition. Three Federal-style brick houses bookend the street.

Nicoko Jerome, 73, has lived here for more than 70 years. He sits on his porch watching the world go by. If he sees a morsel of garbage, he picks it up. He’s even been known to pretty the flowers in someone else’s yard.

“It’s what you do when you live here all your life,” says Jerome, a former bricklayer. “The next block over isn’t like this. They don’t care like we do. You should have seen this street in the ’40s. It was more beautiful then.”

Tulips and cacti line front steps across the street at the home of Jeffrey Kolafinski. His parlor room is open and white, like an art gallery. The marble fireplace mantels are original to the home. The kitchen, built and designed by Kolafinski, has views of the garden and nooks filled with heirlooms. He moved here in 1989 after visiting friends and falling more in love with the street each time he came.

“This street, this house — it’s a historic treasure,” says the former East Villager, who has worked for the block’s pre­servation. “A woman came by once and knocked on my door. She was very old and she was very sweet. She said she was born in this house. We had tea. It was like seeing a real ghost. Leaving Manhattan was the best thing I ever did. I could never have this house or life there.”

Bay St. Retail Corridor
Broker and developer Rizzo drives Bay St. every day, checking “for rent” and “for sale” signs. Right now, music bars, a tattoo parlor, Chinese takeout shops, 99-cent shops and tired storefronts characterize the street. A Harley-Davidson dealership kicks off the stretch. A 100-unit rental building is in construction near an abandoned 1950s movie theater that cries out for rebirth as an art film house.

“Couldn’t you see this coming alive?” asks Rizzo, who with investors owns a few small buildings on the street that he plans to convert to rentals. “A wine shop over there, a pet shop here, and apartments above it all. This place could hop.”

Nearby Tappen Park looks more Missouri town center than New York green space. A fountain and brick park building meet near intersecting pathways leading to a stone edifice that houses the Staten Island Savings Bank. A public library is getting a multimillion-dollar renovation. Retail opportunity surrounds the green, where a popular Mexican restaurant, liquor store and beauty parlor hold sway.

Just two blocks from the harbor, this park and retail corridor has the potential to become as crucial to Stapleton as Bedford Ave. is to Williamsburg, Franklin St. is to Greenpoint, and Vernon Blvd. is to Long Island City.

HomePort
Spearheaded by Ironstate Development, the ­Hoboken-based company responsible for waterfront successes Port Liberte in ­Jersey City, Pier Village in Long Branch, N.J., and Shipyard in ­Hoboken, Homeport Phase 1 will be an 800-unit-plus rental complex with more up to 40,000 square feet of retail space on the Stapleton coastline. Taking over land occupied by a naval base, the City will create a waterfront esplanade and roadways with over $33 million allocated through the NYC Economic Development Corp. Phase 1 should be completed in 2013.

An investment secured by the Staten Island borough president will improve Stapleton’s Staten Island Railway station, where residents can get to the ferry in four minutes. The commute from the new development will be less than 30 minutes from the front door to the Manhattan ferry terminal. David Barry, who runs Ironstate with brother Michael, is gung-ho about adding something iconic to the New York waterfront and rebuilding the neighborhood image.

“A few things amazed us about the area right off the bat,” says Barry, whose interest in the North Shore was piqued when Staten Island visitors to Long Branch kept telling him there was nothing like it on their home turf. “Little to no access to the waterfront, not a lot of great retail, and no desirable housing geared to the area’s young population. When we met with the borough president [James Molinaro], that concerned him, too, as they want to keep their young population at home as well as attract people from all over the city.”

The opportunity was up Ironstate’s alley. In Hoboken and Long Branch, the company has used retail and housing to jump-start derelict city sections.

“Stapleton has everything you need for urban revitalization,” says Barry. “Bay St. was once a huge retail stretch. The little park is beautiful, transportation to the ferry and lower Manhattan is minutes away, and it has the urban fabric and affordable housing to further development. The municipal leadership is also strong. It’s the perfect storm for neighborhood growth.”

City officials are equally excited about Staten Island’s future, and have been securing millions in waterfront investment.

“The city’s contribution to the Stapleton Waterfront Development is an investment in the future of Staten Island,” says NYC Economic Development Corp. president Seth W. Pinsky. “This project will be a catalyst for the further revitalization of the immediate neighborhood and other surrounding North Shore communities.”

The Sri Lankan effect
There is a quirk, too. Staten Island is home to the largest Sri Lankan community in the Western Hemisphere. More than 5,000 Sri Lankan immigrants live in the area, giving it a colorful ethnic mix focused on food, culture and education.

Lakruwana Wijesinghe recently opened the newest restaurant on Bay St., after owning Manhattan’s first Sri Lankan eatery, which he launched in the 1990s. Named Lakruwana after his first name, the restaurant’s dining experience mimics a meal in a Sri Lankan home. Jayantha, his wife, runs the kitchen.

Everything in the restaurant was imported from Sri Lanka, including bamboo walls, wooden chairs and menus served in traditional wooden masks. Some meals, like the popular native dish lamprie, are served on banana leaves. The experience is as fine a neighborhood gem as a meal in Chinatown or having Polish food in Ridgewood. They even sell home goods like bowls and statues.

“A few families came here, one after the other,” says Wijesinghe. “Now we have a big community who help each other. I hope this restaurant is a little bit of paradise.”

So what’s holding the neighborhood back? Reputation and neighborhood stereotypes are the main obstacles to Stapleton’s success. Most people who criticize the area have never seen it, and might enjoy the ferry ride, local beaches, affordable housing prices and sea air.

Also, the notion that the North Shore is too far is absurd for anyone working near Wall St. Stapleton is closer to the Financial District than are Harlem, central Brooklyn or Astoria.

One of the mansions on St. Pauls Ave. leading to Van Duzer St. has become a primary location for the HBO hit “Boardwalk Empire.” Loft buildings are being converted to living spaces. Wine and coffee shops in Stapleton Heights attract an easygoing island crowd living in St. George. Bay Street’s reputation as dangerous could end soon, returning the area to historic prominence and a time when it was home to five working breweries.

Public schools need improvement, but that could happen as the area upgrades. Public housing projects slightly inland are less tough than they seem, with streets branching out to Victorian homes. Crime is normally relegated to certain thoroughfares. Still, such stereotypes present a problem for rapid improvement.

“People say New York is so diverse, and yet most of the people who live in the city don’t even see Staten Island as part of New York,” says Cornerstone’s Rizzo. “It makes no sense. This is a great part of New York with amazing streets and lifestyle. Yeah, we have some hodgepodge building, and our esthetic isn’t as pretty as Brooklyn, but I’m trying to change that. It’s a challenge, but the people who come here now are going to get a big bargain on price. There is no reason we shouldn’t compete with Long Island City or Williamsburg. Soon we will.”

YOU SHOULD KNOW
When you head to Stapleton, here are a few things to do and see.

Getting there: Take the Staten Island ferry to the Staten Island Railway. Get off at Stapleton, the second stop, five minutes from the ferry terminal.

Lakruwana: Delicious Sri Lankan food in an authentic setting. 668 Bay St. lakruwana.com.

Cornerstone Realty: Frank Rizzo still has a Harrison St. property for sale for $349,000. Call (718) 447-8100.

The Streets: Harrison St. is the gem. Enjoy the architecture. Don’t litter or make noise. Vanderbilt Ave. is named for island-born Cornelius.

Read the full article from The Best Places to Live in NY by the NY Daily News.


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