Most developers building market-rate apartments in the South Bronx have set their sights on Port Morris, a relatively narrow industrial strip that wraps around the southern tip of the borough. But Treetop Development just paid $6 million for a site several blocks north, at 121-129 East 144th Street in Mott Haven.
The Teaneck, N.J.-based firm is planning a sizable residential project on the lot, which sits on the northeastern corner of East 144th Street and Gerard Avenue. It’s only a block east of the Major Deegan Expressway and the Harlem River, and the Grand Concourse-149th Street stop on the 4 train is a five-minute walk away.
Treetop hasn’t hammered out the exact details of their project yet. But it will include affordable apartments, to take advantage of a floor area bonus offered by the area’s inclusionary zoning. If they choose to rent 20 percent of their units at below-market rates, the developers can build 22,770 square feet of extra residential space.
With the affordable units, a new building could span up to 91,100 square feet. An entirely market-rate project could grow as large as 68,326 square feet. The larger option works out to a purchase price of $66 per buildable square foot, or $88 per buildable square foot without the inclusionary housing bonus. Those numbers are in line with other recent sales in the area, except for two particularly large sites at 198 East 135th Street and 288 Walton Avenue, which both sold for $44 a buildable square foot.
They’ve tapped Woods Bagot Architects to design the project. Permits will be filed in the next six to nine months.
This project is possible because the city rezoned this swath of the Bronx waterfront in 2009. Although the old zoning only allowed heavy industrial uses, the new rules encourage medium-density residential buildings with a light industrial or commercial component. New developments here can reach up to 120-feet-tall, and the city requires parking for 20 percent of the apartments on a site this size.
The developers aren’t too concerned about the disappearance of 421-a, because they’re not sure whether they’ll take advantage of the property tax exemption. Jason Gold, a broker at Ariel Property Advisors who worked on Treetop’s deal, said that sites will probably trade for a little less this year thanks to concern about the tax program’s future.
However, he added, “Even with the 421-a scare, we feel very confident about development sites and mixed-use projects [in Mott Haven].” He attributed the area’s uptick in construction to large firms like Related—which developed a new mall at the Bronx Terminal Market site in 2009—and Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners down in Port Morris. “You get more investors coming when they see a larger institutional firm already established in the location.”
Both private developers and the city are working on large, mixed-use projects nearby. The city housing agency, HPD, recently tore down a long-abandoned, Neo-Gothic school down the block and issued an RFP to build affordable apartments and community facilities in its place. Monadnock and Signature Urban Properties are developing a three-building complex just north of here on 149th Street. And developer Harshad Patel is building a 13-story market-rate rental and a hotel next door to Monadnock’s big project.