In Long Island City, A Family-Owned Firm Brings A New Type Of Flexible Space With A Personal Touch
In 1916, the Orsenigo Co., a high-end furniture manufacturer, decided to locate its manufacturing facilities in Long Island City in a building from developer Gus Sandblom. Over the following 100 years, the property at 33-02 Skillman Ave. lived many different lives, including as an automobile manufacturer and a space where crinkle cups — the cups found under chocolates in boxes of candy — were made. At one time, it was the tallest building in LIC.
Today, the property lives on as The Rawson, a fully renovated, 104K SF building offering abundant natural light, impressive Manhattan views and a host of flexible spaces at some of the most competitive prices in the area. All of this was the vision of First Pioneer Properties, a multigenerational family-owned real estate management company.
Suresh Sani, president of First Pioneer Properties, has a personal connection to the property. His family purchased it in 1984 shortly after buying the nearby 34-09 Queens Blvd. to use as extra warehouse/shipping space for the its garment importing business, which it owned before pivoting to real estate and forming First Pioneer.
“The purchase of 33-02 Skillman Ave. underscored my family’s commitment to Long Island City,” Sani said. “The family still owns both properties and considers these real estate assets multigenerational and, therefore, plan to own these buildings for at least another 38 years.”
In 2016, First Pioneer was approached by a large development firm that wanted to renovate 33-02 Skillman Ave. into an office building, something that was happening to many of LIC’s iconic industrial buildings at the time. The building's prime location — a short subway ride from Grand Central and Hudson Yards with close proximity to the 7 train, Queensboro Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and LaGuardia Airport — make it the ideal place for businesses looking to escape the high prices of Manhattan real estate.
The deal seemed like a solid move, except for the fact that the developer had an arrangement to sell the property in seven to 10 years. Sani said that didn't sit right with him, since his family believes in holding on to its properties.
“We decided the right move would be to renovate it ourselves,” he said. “While there is no shortage of vacant space in LIC, few buildings offer high-quality, flexible space with great light and air. Especially in smaller sizes. The Rawson has spaces as small as 3K SF and can offer a full-floor identity for 17K SF tenants.”
The company spent $15M on the renovation, which includes an updated facade, a new attended lobby, new windows, high-speed internet, new HVAC systems, modern bathrooms, and oversized passenger and freight elevators.
The penthouse and roof are 17K SF and 7,500 SF, respectively, offering the opportunity for a private rooftop terrace and potential private entrance with a separate lobby and elevator. Floors two through four are 17K SF each, with the opportunity to create a contiguous block of 51K SF and to create a private entrance, lobby and elevator as well. The street level is more than 15,500 SF, with a private entrance and access to 3,600 SF on the lower level.
First Pioneer Properties Head of Leasing William Becker, through its subsidiary First Pioneer Realty, is leading the leasing for The Rawson. One of the things that truly sets the property apart is the flexibility it offers, he said.
"It could be used for office space, light industrial, an art gallery, an event space, a ghost kitchen or even as home to a brewery," he said.
He added that the other thing that sets it apart is its price — at $29 per SF for a full floor, few buildings in the area can compete.
“This is the perfect opportunity for a small business to secure amazing space at a great price,” he said. “The unobstructed views from the building, especially from the roof deck, are breathtaking.”
Becker added that the building also qualifies for several NYC economic incentive programs including the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program, the Energy Cost Savings Program and the Commercial Expansion Program.
Sani said that First Pioneer is truly invested in the building and the neighborhood, and will continue to invest in and improve the property for decades to come.
“We take a tenant-first perspective to the ownership and management of our properties,” Sani said. “We recognize that tenants are what ultimately drive the success of our properties. We view them as a vital part of the building, not just a source of income.”
He said that tenants have direct contact with their landlord through an ownership-related entity. Whether they are facing unprecedented challenges, like the ones brought on by the pandemic, or if they are looking to expand, they have a direct point of contact.
“Our headquarters are only one block away from The Rawson,” Sani said. “It will always get a high level of attention.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and First Pioneer Properties. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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