Long Island City Needs To Strike A Fine Balance As Unique, Mixed-Use Community
Although Long Island City has undergone a massive transformation in the last few years, it still has a lot of room to grow. Developers, builders and brokers are all for encouraging this growth, but they’re also determined to preserve the qualities that made LIC such a draw in the first place.
Charney Construction principal Sam Charney (far left) told the Thursday morning crowd at Bisnow's LIC event the demographic flooding to LIC isn’t what he expected. Originally planning to build around Millennials priced out of Manhattan, he’s seen LIC become an emerging market for families. LIC’s smaller units, he says, offer these younger families a chance to get an affordable investment, while still getting the space they need.
“Our one-bedroom and two-bedroom units are flying off the shelves,” he said. MNS Management CEO Andrew Barrocas (far right) said his firm is catering more to the family market with their new developments, and is now expecting an even bigger increase in demand for larger spaces.
ModernSpaces CEO Eric Benaim (left) said Millennials are still present in LIC—particularly those who grew up in Flushing, as LIC presents a good halfway point between Manhattan and their parents—and believes LIC might even see a boom of college students once Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus is complete, as LIC has the only bridge connected to the island.
“One of our capital partners lived on the Upper East Side, and found that it was easier to get from his Midtown office to Crescent Club Plaza, our LIC development, than to his apartment,” he said.
A self-proclaimed “big proponent of micro-units,” Sam and his LIC development, the Jackson, has smaller units, increasing density to lower the absolute price point. Matthew says he invests in co-living provider Ollie, and believes people are willing to deal with smaller sizes if the quality and affordability are still there.
If this affordability is preserved—and the economy remains strong—Andrew (second from right, left of Eastern Consolidated senior director Chad Sinsheimer) said he has no fears of an oversupply in LIC.
Matthew said he’s been in NYC for multiple cycles and “we’ve never not been in a housing shortage” and telling the audience that many of the expected units haven’t been financed yet, and it will be some time before they are with the loss of 421-a.
Although prices may take a slight drop, Eric adds, the simple math of dividing the estimated 22,000 units in the pipeline between affordable units, senior housing, currently unfinanced projects and projects slated years from now, LIC will have no problems consistently filling up the steady flow of new supply.
The neighborhood could also be boosted by retail, which Joe says is focused on more interesting concepts than those found in Brooklyn or Manhattan. One example is providing online retailers—such as Net-A-Porter—with brick-and-mortar locations or warehouses to show off their wares.
Retail development must be done in moderation, RXR Realty EVP Seth Pinsky (far left) says, as LIC’s major attraction is the different atmospheres between its submarkets. Homogenizing them, World-Wide Holdings director of development Rachel Loeb (second from left) adds, would kill the cool factor.
A zoning fanatic, Herrick Feinstein partner Mitchell Korbey (far right) says retail also needs to be kept in check to preserve LIC’s status as a truly mixed-use community. All of the asset classes, including industrial, are necessary for LIC’s success, Seth said. After all, industrial centers provide jobs.
“We do all this work about affordable housing, when we need to do more on the income side,” he said.
Maintaining this asset class balance can be incredibly difficult, Criterion Group LLC CEO Shibber Khan (second from right) said. Finding the best stacking of the different asset classes in a tower or trying to receive tax benefits and incentives for expensive mixed-use projects from the city can be long, arduous processes.
What LIC needs the most, Rachel said, is safety infrastructure like lighting. Although LIC has some of the safest districts in the city, LIC Partnership president Elizabeth Luskin (second from left), says the "atmosphere" of safety is still missing, and infrastructure changes like signage and lighting could work wonders in making pedestrians willing to make the short treks to LIC’s museums and comedy clubs.
Walkability will be key to commercial properties, Brickman CIO Steve Klein (far left) said, and more office development is needed to balance out the flow of residential buildings, and it will need to be easily accessible.