The LIC Partnership held their annual real estate breakfast this morning. Like last year’s event, it was a full house shortly after the doors opened, despite moving to a larger venue. It’s still the place to be for anyone involved in Long Island City real estate. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that something had changed over the course of the year, and if I had to pinpoint why, I would have to say that it felt like the cat had been let out of the bag. In other words, the growth in LIC over the last 12 months, has been so great, and the coverage and awareness of that growth so well documented, that the gathering itself was almost a fait accompli. I imagine it’s how the inhabitants of Haight Ashbury felt about the difference between 1966, when they were creating their own universe, and 1967, when the Summer of Love brought throngs of lost teenagers streaming in, followed by George Harrison, followed by Time magazine. Sure, there were 13 more years1 of hedonistic debauchery to come, but everyone knew about it and it became institutionalized.
Nevertheless, there were still a few nuggets to be gleaned from the breakfast, and I have diligently gathered and curated them for you. Before getting to what the experts had to share, I will give you an observation of my own: three out of the five panelists were women, versus all five being men last year. Now that’s a change worth noting!
Cathy Dove, of the Cornell-Technion Campus, stated that construction should begin on Roosevelt Island in early 2015, and be open for classes in the Fall of 2017. Also, they have come to recognize that the best additional mode of transportation for them for accessibility anywhere, is by ferry. Now for another interjection by me: If that is the case, then the LIC waterfront will be the biggest beneficiary, as everyone knows that being dropped off in Manhattan by ferry leaves you nowhere. Because of this, I would not be surprised to see a northern LIC ferry stop, say right by the LIC Flea, by the time Cornell-Technion opens.
Arvind Bajaj of Madison Marquette, a manager and developer of retail and mixed-use properties across the country, talked about why they bought the Center Building for $84 million back in December 2012. The firm’s success in the early days of South Beach and Santa Monica, drove them to find the next area that was going to explode. LIC’s proximity to Midtown, and the buildings easy access to public transportation(unlike say, Greenpoint), is basically Real Estate 101: Location, Location, Location. Plus, being able to buy it for under $200 a square foot and over 80% leased by a government agency was icing on the cake. Then Arvind threw in another interesting fact about the building: it is called the Center Building because it’s at the geographic center of the five boroughs!
If Arvind’s articulate analysis was enlightening, informative, and polished like the patina of a real estate veteran with an MBA, then Erhan Bahceci’s, the owner of Food Cellar, was more of a heartfelt nature. Erhan talked about his arrival from Turkey and his rise from the bottom of the grocery business to being the owner of a large, and soon to be two, market. He mentioned how the first four years of Food Cellar’s existence were so bad, and how the last two were so good. How they will shortly be opening a store dedicated to housewares around the corner from their current location, because they sell so many of them currently that they have run out of space to expand the section. Though I couldn’t help but be reminded of Borat by Erhan’s accent and blunt declarations, sometimes simplicity can yield the most intuitive statements, as when he stated that his running of the local grocery has allowed him to meet so many people in the neighborhood, and all they keep telling him is:
“People love being here, they want to buy, but can’t.”
That pretty much sums up the current state of the residential market in Long Island City. Hello developers, are you listening?
Though there wasn’t a lot of new information disbursed this morning, fear not because LICtalk will be releasing its LIC real estate State of The Union in the next few weeks. Stay tuned…
- up until the Reagan revolution in 1980 [↩]