2008-08-27 / Features

Astoria Skyline Keeps Growing


From a Queens perspective, Manhattan looks like the land of the tall and mighty skyscraper— just look at any photo taken from the Astoria waterfront.

But the skyline of Astoria is changing. A new 15-story mixed-use property has risen from what once was a parking lot—184 units of affordable housing for senior adults is in its final phases of construction at 25-03 29th St., near the off-ramp to the Triborough Bridge.

According to the Department of Buildings, an 80-unit, 20- story residential tower is going up at 31st Avenue and the East River waterfront. Newtown Property Holdings LLC is constructing a 10-story building between 31st and 30th Streets, next to Newtown Plaza. And a new building is being erected at the corner of 21st Street and 27th Avenue (a former Exxon station). One Astoria Square LLC will be 14 stories consisting of 115 units, according to Department of Buildings application records. 19-80 Steinway St. will be a 4-story, 72 units and 20,000 sq. ft. retail with 200 parking spaces on the ground floor.

Astoria is one of the most populous community districts in the city with a vacancy rate among rental units under 3 percent, according to data from the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy. The number of new building permits and projects submitted for approval to the New York State Attorney General's office has increased significantly during the past three years.

More people are coming to Astoria to live. Development activity in Astoria is being spurred by demand and economics, and whether these units are condo or rental, both are priced cheaper than Manhattan. Taller buildings mean that a developer can take advantage of some zoning incentives for property designated as a community facility. In addition, contextual grievances can increase the as-of right floor to a building's height when looking at the height of other buildings in the near vicinity. This can help the developer build more, which in essence lowers the acquisition cost of the property.

Developers are facing higher financing costs and greater economic risk. The area is continuing to gain momentum because there is real demand for rentals. Young professional people will opt to be tenants, rather than owners.

Of course, based on these economics, we will most likely see other development on some of the larger parcels in the area. Two developments that may see some height are: 8-13 Astoria Blvd., the former site of Giant Laundry and a Chinese restaurant. The property was purchased by Reality House, earlier this year. Reality house is in the planning stages of building a 130-bed facility and opening a supervised counseling outpatient program for treating chemical dependence.

On 26th Road, Superstud, a manufacturer of building products, will be moving to their new state of the art headquarters in Edison, N.J. The Pot Cove site, which consists of WWII-era buildings, has an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. A residential hi-rise condo, such as the 23-story Shore Towers Condominium at 25-40 Shore Blvd., will be built on the site.

Could a hotel be next? The proximity of LaGuardia Airport could be the driving force for hotel development, 20th Avenue could be a likely target, with its many large factory sites. Late last year, LIC Bridge Properties LLC bought 46-01 20th Ave., an industrial building on a 25,000- square-foot-plus lot, for storage.

Migration to Astoria will also create a greater demand for more retail to support the growing needs of the community. Proximity to Manhattan, coupled with affordability as compared to Manhattan, are probably the biggest factors that will bring more residents to the area. It is interesting to see the horizontal growth being spurred not only by demand for more affordable apartments, but also by a requirement to address community needs. Then of course there is the sheer beauty by demand for more affordable apartments, but also by a requirement to address community needs. Then of course there is the sheer beauty of the Astoria waterfront. Compared to Manhattan, Astoria has the better view.

Lynne Davis is Massey Knakal Realty Services director of sales.

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