Two luxury high-rises are on the horizon for a small strip of Yorkville that has been home to mostly low-rise buildings and mom-and-pop restaurants for decades. But for now, a handful of the tenement-style buildings—located on the east side of Second Avenue between 80th and 81st streets—stand empty, waiting for construction to begin.
Three eateries that rented space in the now-empty buildings were relocated or closed during the summer. Pig Heaven, which was at 1540 Second Ave. for 30 years, has since relocated to Third Avenue. Irish pub Johnny Foxes closed, and Cascabel Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant that had been at the corner of 80th and Second, moved several doors up to 1556 Second.
Both Cascabel’s old and new locations are owned by Icon Realty Management, a residential developer that also has bought all but three buildings on the east side of Second Avenue over the past seven years, according to city records. Icon also purchased air rights to other properties on the block, and another building just around the corner—on 80th just east of Second.
With the purchased buildings now empty, Icon plans to develop six of the buildings into a luxury residential tower, according to people familiar with the matter. For now, however, no permits have been filed.
Icon recently built 985 Park Ave. between 83rd and 84th streets and work is nearly complete on 222 E. 81st St. between Second and Third avenues—both residential buildings. And plans are well under way for Icon’s next development—1562 Second—which will stand less than a block away from the empty assemblage of buildings, on the northeast corner of 81st and Second. Permit applications already have been filed for a 14-story building to replace two current structures.
Nikolai Fedak, founder of pro-development website New York Yimby, said 1562 Second will feature 11 floor-through apartments plus a duplex averaging 3,400 square feet each and the ground floor will have 2,192 square feet of retail space. It hasn’t been decided whether they will be condos or rentals, according to Mr. Fedak, who has seen Icon’s plans for 1562 Second.
“These buildings can increase density,” Mr. Fedak said of Icon’s projects. “Granted, the units aren't going to be affordable, but they can reduce demands on other neighborhoods. They may have a domino effect on affordability for other neighborhoods,” he said. He added that replacing some of the structures with larger, more-attractive buildings “is a good thing.”
But until work begins on either of Icon’s planned residential towers on 80th or 81st streets, eight current buildings stand empty, an issue that bothers some businesses on the block.
“We’re suffering,” says Haider Imam, manager of Wine Emporium, a liquor store on the west side of Second across from the empty buildings. “We’re losing about $2,000 a day because we don’t have people coming in from those empty buildings. And how long is it going to take them to build those high-rises?”
Cascabel owner David Chiong thinks restaurants that were previously in the area actually helped his business and he looks forward to tenants attracted by new buildings.
“I always think competition is healthy,” he said. “When you have a block filled with restaurants it brings people to you, and you become part of a rotation.”
But meanwhile, “Business has fallen off a bit because of it and will continue to when construction [of the new buildings] starts. I can just imagine the outdoor space being covered in dust,” Mr. Chiong said.
Residential brokers in the area expect property prices to rise when service on the Second Avenue subway begins. The first phase, which includes a stop at 86th and Second, is scheduled for December 2016.
“All of these one-bedroom condos will be over a million,” predicted Antonio del Rosario, a broker with Citi Habitats, thanks to the subway edging closer.
Jay Gilbert, a retail broker with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, said businesses are increasingly interested in the area as well.
“Relative to two or three years ago, interest has spiked, because we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, referring to the subway tunnel.
215 East 80th Street, #2D
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in a full-service building
-Property Plus: The dining area that could be used as a third bedroom and the master bedroom has a walk-in closet.
-Property Minus: The apartment is on the second floor.
Listing Agent: Dorothy Somekh of Halstead, 212-381-2265
Thursday, December 18, 2014