Cushman & Wakefield has set an initial deadline of Wednesday, June 28 for bids for Astoria Cove, an 8.7-acre waterfront development site in Astoria, Queens. The Alma Realty Partners-led partnership could reportedly see bids of as much as $350m for the site, which has approvals for 2.2 million square feet of mixed-use development. Cushman officials declined to discuss pricing.
There’s been substantial investor interest in the site, particularly with the revival of the 421a tax program. “The sellers made the property available for sale in anticipation of the new 421a agreement being passed, kind of a soft launch – once the official word came down from Albany, we launched a full-blown marketing effort, and saw a substantial increase in activity,” said Robert M. Shapiro, executive managing director at Cushman & Wakefield.
Affordable New York, the latest iteration of the 421a guidelines, extends incentives to developers that require a minimum proportion new projects to quality for affordable housing. One-quarter of the site’s projected 1,700 residential units are required to qualify as affordable housing, Shapiro noted.
“This development [opportunity] is extremely significant, as it is the largest residential development site in New York City with approved plans available for sale today,” Shapiro said. “We have a broad range of local, national, and international developers along with equity funds that are looking at it very closely. We have seen substantial interest from Chinese foreign capital.”
Astoria Cove has been approved for approximately 1.7 million residential square feet, nearly 110,000 square feet of retail, roughly 62,250 square feet earmarked for a school, and 300,000 square feet of parking. “It is a complex development opportunity, but we are well-versed in [dealing with]sophisticated developers,” said Shapiro. “This is definitely not your typical 50,000-square-foot development site.”
Assembled more than 10 years ago, the site has 520 linear feet of waterfront shoreline with views up the East River, the RFK and Hell Gate Bridges, and across the Astoria peninsula to the Manhattan skyline. Only two properties exceeding two million square feet of buildable potential have been sold since 2009. And only one, Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory, benefited from a waterfront location. “There is a very real possibility of Cushman arranging the financing,” said Shapiro. “Our team has had conversations with multiple groups about construction financing options.”
The Astoria Cove site is adjacent to The Durst Organization’s planned $1.5 billion, 2,400-unit Halletts Point development. The Halletts Point development will be home to about 2,400 rental residences, along with a mix of retail, a waterfront esplanade, parklands, and renovated playgrounds. The development is The Durst Organization’s first-ever major project outside of Manhattan.
In recent years, more than 25 institutional investors and developers have been responsible for a combination of more than $16.7bn in investments associated with about 15.8m square feet of commercial and residential projects either recently completed or planned in Astoria and Long Island City. Since 2010, total annual dollar volume of private and public investment pledged to the Astoria neighborhood has increased 487%, while property values have climbed 59% on a price-per-square-foot basis.