Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Green Solar Building On Bergen Catching Serious Shade?

This building at 443 Bergen Street in Park Slope certainly catches the eye! Most obvious with this passive green home are the 27 solar panels on the face of the building which are intended to provide 6200 Kw of clean energy. But, does anyone in the neighborhood want them? Have they actually been approved? The building has been more or less stalled for two years now, mired in complaints (cranky neighbors possibly), violations, and currently under a partial stop work order. The last permit I can find that mentions the panels was disapproved on New Year's Eve, 2012.

You would have to conclude that despite the builder's altruistic intentions, the city and the neighbors are saying thanks but no thanks! The building doesn't look that bad, despite the questionable lack of windows. It has a Scandinavian style sleekness. However, the reflection from those panels seems a bit much. The lesson? If you are going solar, until a better material is available, you probably want to keep the panels on the roof.

Passive House Condos On Bergen Nearly Finished (Brownstoner, 4/2014)
Park Slope's Slim And Super Green Condo Features Solar Façade (6sqft, 7/2014)

Monday, February 23, 2015

595 Baltic In Boerum Hill Builds Foundation, "Transformer Building" Still Planned

Rendering from Adam America

Dubbed the "Transformer Building" by Curbed way back in Oct 2013, this rarely mentioned 66,000sf, 69 unit future rental is finally getting going. I'm not sure what took so long, but the good news is that the funky design from two years ago remains. Developer Adam America, who seems to be fond of charcoal and burnt orange is the developer, and like-minded is the architect, ND Architecture. Seems from the action today that the site is simultaneously being excavated while re-bar is being placed for a foundation. This rental, still indicated for 2016 completion will feature part-time doorman, roof deck, lounge, gym and parking.

Barclays Center Green Roof Gets Framed, B2 Modular Tower Still Largely Dormant

Travels took me to Barclays Center and Park Slope today. Pictured above is work on the large steel frame for the green roof that will eventually cover and for local residents, hopefully muffle the noise from the arena. While there are reports that progress on the roof is behind schedule, three cranes are currently active and the massive frame is taking shape.

On the backside of Barclays Center, the future 23 story modular tower is more or less in the same shape it was as far back as August of last year. Forest City and construction company Skanska have traded lawsuits and blame each other for leaks and the slow pace of construction. A close look at the currently 10 story "tower" does show that these modules do not seem like a seamless fit. Who is to blame and what finish work takes place after initial placement is anyone's guess.

Barclays Center Announces Green Roof (NYDN, 4/2014)
Curbed File on B2 a.k.a. 421 Dean Street

Friday, February 20, 2015

Could This Be The Healthiest Block In NYC?

If you have been sitting on your duff all winter, it would be best to avoid the stretch on Third Avenue in Manhattan between East 83rd and East 84th Streets, or you may find yourself riddled with guilt! This, people, is perhaps the healthiest block in all of NYC! The dress code is largely spandex, the physiques unusually trim, seems everyone in this neighborhood is obsessed with fitness.

You can spin at SoulCycle, if you can get a reservation.

Not your speed? Try sweating it out at The Bikram Yoga studio just above it.

Is that a stretch? Then an array of workout flavors at the esteemed Exceed Physical Culture across the street...

With all that working out, you are bound to build up a thirst! So, for your convenience, there are not one, but two super healthy, organic, veganny juice shops a couple of doors apart. Seems that the hood just cant get enough as there is another juice shop just another half block away.

Finally, the block just wouldn't be complete without a large salad shop...

How healthy is this area? A Krispy Kreme opened a half block away in 2007 and only lasted a few months! So, if fitness is your thing, or you want to be shamed into your workout gear, this might be the block for you. Otherwise, you can just hit the 27,000sf Equinox, yoga studio, and juice shop on the next block!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's Open! Whole Foods Is Now On The Upper East Side And The Transformation Continues...

The scaffolding is off revealing a somewhat unexpected stone wall on East 87th Street and the store is open! hundreds, probably thousands came to check out the glimmering new home of organic and specialty foods. The 200 free tote bags were gone in a matter of seconds. The store was fully stocked and intentionally overstaffed to see that all that came, shoppers and gawkers alike, were directed to the organic, grass fed, free range eggs of their choice.

The 39,000 square foot store has tackled the challenge of a somewhat irregular rectangular space fronting Third Avenue and occupying the entire east side of the block from 87th to 88th. The first floor is primarily ready to eat meals, a mezzanine on the second floor provides café space, and the third floor contains the bulk of the grocery, meat, fish, and dairy sections. The aisles are larger than your average NYC supermarket, yet with overflow crowds a few bottlenecks arose which is typical of every Manhattan shopping experience. Like the Second Avenue Subway promises to lessen congestion from the Lexington Avenue line, perhaps this Whole Foods will help to lessen the traffic of nearby Fairway and make for a better shopping experience at both.

The new store has many implications, both from a shopping and real estate perspective.

From a shopping perspective, Whole Foods brings are greater variety and definitely fills the void for people looking for organic produce and a wide variety of specialty foods. The store should also puts pressure on local grocery stores to keep competitive on price, which is good for all of us. While stores like D'ag on 83rd and Lex have clearly upped their game since the arrival of Fairway a few years ago, this may spell doom for Food Emporium on 83rd and Third, like it did for the chain on 86th and Second. That space has been subject to rumors of a possible Trader Joe's in the future. Time will tell as to how this all shakes out.

As compelling are the implications the new Whole Foods has for Upper East Side real estate. In many ways, the arrival of the chain says that the neighborhood has arrived! Aside from that obvious observation, it should be noted that the store replaces and cleans up a previous eyesore. There were previously an array of small stores that included a café, a Janovics, and some sort of ambulatory care clinic. The retail on the block looked shabby and beat down. Now, it looks upscale and sleek. Further, the store marks another milestone in the evolution of 86th Street from what was once an intimidating and grungy street to a higher end shopping corridor. The Lucida on 86th and Lex replaced retail like a puppy mill and dilapidated donut store with a luxury condo, H+M, Sephora, and Barnes and Noble superstore. The Brompton, one block east, brought the architecture of Robert A.M. Stern, AT+T and Athletica to a replace V.I.M store and photo shop (which I actually miss). 86th Street sure has changed! Whole Foods is another building block in this slow but steady transformation.

Major events on East 86th from the way back machine:
Brompton Condo Topped, Bricks Too (AFB, Oct 2007)
East 86th Street: A Transformation Continues, But Space Available (AFB, Feb 2009)
Lucida Ready To Get Its Retail On; H+M Opens Tomorrow! (AFB, May 2009)
Fairway Market Opens On East 86th Street (AFB, July 2011)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

13 Of The Oldest Bars On The Upper East Side

Tracking down the oldest bar on the Upper East Side is no easy task! State records are incomplete. Most of the oldest bars in NYC have no record of the original liquor license date. Prohibition erased history, shuttered bars and provided a gap in history and a new starting date for record keeping; that being 1933. Despite all of these obstacles, I have assembled a sure to be incomplete list of the oldest watering holes on the Upper East Side. I am not including private clubs, like Harmonie Club, first licensed in 1933. What fun is it if you can't step back in time and wet your whistle at some of the oldest and best watering holes for yourself without a membership?

1. Heidelberg Restaurant- 1936
It seems when you are talking old Germantown Era Yorkville, no discussion is complete without mentioning the good old Heidelberg. Where else in New York can you drink fine (high octane) German import draft out of a 2 liter boot served by a barmaid in traditional dirndl? Easy answer- nowhere!

2. Subway Inn- 1937 (honorable mention)
Ok, it's gone, really gone, and that in itself is very, very sad. But like a phoenix it is rising from the ashes! Subway Inn has taken every gritty booth, fixture, the neon sign, etc and is currently building a complete replica just two blocks away. While the new Subway Inn will sure to be missing decades of tar stain, its reemergence is eagerly awaited.

3. Reif's Tavern- 1942
Want to see what a bar looked like in the 1940's? This would probably be your place. In the family for generations, and a stalwart survivor of the Great 2nd Avenue Subway Plague, Reif's is a neighborhood favorite. Just off Second Avenue on 92nd Street, many would have no clue it even exists, but the loyal and eclectic regulars swear by this NYC classic. Extra credit for tons of wood paneling.

Legenday Tommy Rowles (courtesy NY Foodchain)

4- Bemelman's- 1947
Situated on the street level of the Carlyle Hotel. I initially considered excluding hotel bars, but this bar screams old school New York. Named in honor of the creator of the children's book series Madeline and artist for the likes of The New Yorker, Ludwig Bemelman's artwork whimsically adorns the entire establishment with scenes from Central Park, the zoo, and Madeline herself. According to the hotel's website, rather than be paid for his work, the artist took 18 months of lodging for he and his family in exchange for his work.

(Courtesy ModBetty Flikr)

5. Donohue's Steak House- 1950
As the gold leaf script sign in the window attests, this Irish classic and true survivor on Lex has been here since 1950. Little has changed. While branded a steak house, the real attraction is the long Art Deco Bar and well preserved relics like the wooden phone booth in the corner. There are leather booths in the back for standard uncomplicated fare like steak, chops, and fish fillets. If Manhattans and Cosmos are your thing, this bar will take you back to a more romantic time. Village Voice claims this establishment will take you back to the "Mad Men era."

6. Phil Hughes- 1958
A simple red brick exterior and small sign above the door make you question whether this is a bar or a social club. It is the type of place where you might glance in and figure you better not go inside for fear of getting your ass kicked. But have some courage and you will find a warm, though somewhat worn, neighborhood pub with great specials and a diverse local crowd. Trends come and go, Phil Hughes, isn't going anywhere!

(courtesy) Carlow East, during Seahawks game

7. Carlow East- 1962, formerly McGraff and O'Neil's dating back to 1940's
Oh, Carlow, what can I say? A good, old fashioned, neighborhood Irish Pub! It's been around since 1962, but Pubs have stood in this spot since the 1940's or earlier. Real long bar, pool table in back, and thanks in part to an allegiance to the Seattle Seahawks, plenty of TVs and tons of customers on football Sundays. Known to Seattle folk as the "Hawk Bar", Carlow offers much more. When the birds are not nesting here you get a good neighborhood crowd and a clean, timeless New York setting.

Courtesy Dorrian's Red Hand

8. Dorrian's Red Hand- 1960, formerly McGarrigle's Red Hand
Alright, I'll admit it, I used to hang out here in the old "Preppie Murder" days in the 1980's. There are many related stories, but what impresses me with this pub is its staying power. This bar is a rock, and clearly immune to the Great Second Avenue Subway Plague. Nice corner space with well worn bar, dining area and enclosed wrap around extension, this is a bar where you can come to party, or come to have a quiet conversation. The mix of crowd spans all ages with one common bond, the bar itself.

Courtesy Barstoolsports.com
9- Brady's- 1962
In many ways similar to Phil Hughes, but slightly less intimidating. Small corner bar that has stood the test of time. Respectfully changes its name to "Manning's" whenever the NY Giants are in the Super Bowl. That, I like!

10- Dangerfield's- 1969
More comedy club than bar, but with a pricey 2 drink minimum they sure want you to drink! If you are looking for throwback New York, this venue is a must! Dim lighting, red velvet, table lamp shades covered with years of graffiti, and quality comedy acts. Hasn't changed in the 30 years I've been going there. In this case, I give Rodney Dangerfield mad respect!

11- Finnegan's Wake- 1972
Standard Irish fare. This bar seems like it has been here forever, and if you are younger than I am, for you it has been. Did you here that a tree fell from across the street a couple weeks back and hit the bartender from Finnegan's in front of the pub. He survived, lucky guy!

(Courtesy Barhappy.com)
12- Rathbone's- 1974
Another neighborhood stalwart- everyone I know who goes there has been going there forever! Named for and by the founder, British actor Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in 14 films during the 1930's and 1940's. Otherwise by all other appearances an Irish Pub. The Guinness flows and Irish Flags and green checked table clothes adorn this establishment. Another homey feeling pub good for both drink and food that the regulars swear by.

Trinity Pub with old picture fr 1940's inset

13- Trinity Pub- 1995, dates back to "Schubert Hall", 1940's (honorable mention)
This small and intimate Pub on 84th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is about to turn 20, but gets an honorable mention with lineage dating back to at least the early 1940's as Germantown's Schubert Hall. Also know as "Sidestreets" in the 70's and 80's. Despite renovation the space bears a striking resemblance to the way it looked 70 years ago although the bartenders are a tad younger. A great local, size is conducive to conversation.

That's all folks! If you have pubs to add to the list just shoot me a message on Twitter @AFineBlogger.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Running Commentary Is Back

As many of you have probably noticed, the blog is, more or less, back in full swing. There are many reasons that it slowed down in the first place. First and foremost is that I transitioned from running my own business to working for a large (and very desirable) company. The internet and the relationship of large corporations to it has been constantly evolving. At first, large corporations, particularly in real estate, were very weary of associated individual contractors, posting to the internet and social media without direct oversight. Now, it is clear, that such oversight, with social media so ubiquitous, is virtually impossible. You have to be self policing, and if you do something that is non-compliant or unforgivable, they show you the door. So, we have made the adjustment, and moved on to the next phase, one in which I feel far more comfortable posting freely.

One of the best things about a blog is that for better or for worse, it is a record of your perceptions and predictions. My proudest moments as a blogger were during the financial crisis and the slow but ensuing recovery of the New York City real estate market. With my financial market background and intense interest in the Fed and its inner workings, I think I did my best work during the financial crisis. You can find my running commentary of events under the label of "Economy" of the right side of my blog, or on this link. So, in order to provide A Fine Blog viewers with the best insight I can, the running commentary is back! From here on, when the thought comes to me, or a crisis arises, you will always find my thoughts on the blog, and I hope you find them helpful.

As for the current market, it is hard to find one in some time when the near term and immediate outlook for the New York City market has been this good. Inventory is low. New inventory is coming on line, but not nearly as quickly as demand. The economy, both in NYC and nationally is on solid footing. New York City is creating jobs. Wall Street bonuses are back on the rise, and let us not forget that the vesting stock that the street has been doling out since 2010 has begun to mature. Finally, despite the strong economic news of late, mortgage interest rates are still near record lows, sitting around 4%.

I'm always looking for risk factors, and they are out there. European economies continue to struggle. Greece may be the first chip to fall in what could eventually be an abandonment of the Euro. The Ruble has collapsed, giving buyers from Russia less buying power. The adversarial political relationship with Russia has also put a dent in that demand. China's economy is slowing, yet demand from that market for US properties seems unrelenting.

So, there are risk factors, but in general, we have a whole lot of reasons to believe that the NYC market should continue to appreciate in the near and intermediate term. Of course, you always have to buy wisely. You also have to consider your tolerance for risk and the amount of time you are willing to hold a property. The closer to the core of Manhattan you get, the more conservative the investment, and likely the lower return in a good market, and less risk of loss in a bad market. The further you go from the core, far out Brooklyn, untapped areas of Queens, for instance, the greater opportunity for big appreciation, and bigger losses in a down market.

My favorite market right now is the Upper East Side focusing on the areas that benefit from the building of the Second Avenue Subway, due to open in two years. The area benefits from a convenient location, plenty of retained culture, and attractive pricing relative to the rest of Manhattan south of 96th Street. In case you missed it, I posted a handy map to deduce the specific areas that should benefit the most from new subway stations. It is these areas that have also suffered the most during the years-long construction that frankly has been both a headache and a nuisance. There is still plenty of opportunity to capitalize on, but as we draw nearer to the subway actually happening, the interest in the area is increasing by the day.

That's it for now, come back for more running commentary as time rolls on.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lots Cleared For 1711 First Ave + Extell's 1681-1689 Third Avenue

No better than a little winter snooze for the hard charging development on the Upper East Side, but from the looks of it, it spring will see a ton of construction, not seen in some time in the area. Two more substantial site have been cleared. First is Anbau Enterprise's 1711 First Avenue. As you can see, the site of the future 210,000sf, 34 story condo designed by SHoP Architects is ready for some springtime action.

89th and First Avenue (A Fine)

Inside lot at 89th and First Avenue (A Fine)

Rendering of 1711 First Avenue (from Anbaunyc)
A tad further uptown, Extell has cleared six five story walk-ups on Third Avenue for all but 25' of the block front between 94th and 95th Street. Formerly 1681-1689 Third will be the site of a 190,000sf residential tower of 23 stories and 260 feet. The Architect is Beyer Blinder and Belle. Given the size of the lot, I am somewhat surprised that Extell could not somehow wrangle a larger building. But the permits are in, and this too should start rolling when the ground finally thaws.

94th and 95th on Third Ave (A Fine)

Inside the Extell Lot, looking south from 95th (A Fine)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Wraps Are Coming Off 1110 Park Avenue, Rendering And Reality Match!

Reality (L), Rendering (R)

Closer look at the top (A Fine)

On my favorite stretch of Park Avenue in Carnegie Hill the wrapping is nearly off Toll Brothers' 1110 Park Avenue. The high end condo fits seamlessly into it's environment, clad in all Indiana limestone and sporting a Parisian flair. With classic and simple lines, it is no surprise that the renderings and reality are a near perfect match. Using a different architect (Barry Rice), the building bares a strong resemblance to Toll's "The Touraine" down on 65th and Lex. That building, by architect Lucien Lagrange, was a contender for A Fine Blog's "Building of the Year" back in 2012. If it's not broke, why fix it would be the working logic. Heather Weed Niehoff from VOA Associates (formerly of Lucien Lagrange) is the architect responsible for the remarkable façade.

Prices start in the mid-$3000's, which is just a tad higher to other nearby new developments at the $3000psf price point like 60 East 86th and 151 East 78th, but you would figure the Park Avenue address would command this premium.  Amenities include fitness center, 24 hour concierge, and a wine cellar with tasting room with wood burning fireplace. The units themselves are designed by the esteemed Christopher Peacock and the plethora of high end features is too great to mention without getting insanely jealous. There are 9 units total in the 15 story building including a 7000sf penthouse listed at $35M with 5 bedrooms and 5 1/2 baths. At least one of these recently marketed residences is already listed as "in contract."

From the archives:
1110 Park Avenue (VOA Blog- great renderings!)
1110 Park Avenue (Curbed File)
Architecture Review (The Real Deal, Oct 2013)
A Peak Under The Wraps of 1110 Park (AFB, April 2014)