Staten Island’s time as the forgotten borough may soon be coming to an end, and that’s just fine with at least one of its residents.
“I think, personally, that it’s really great,” said Jovi Villavicencio, who lives just a few blocks away from the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry.
Villavicencio, who works as an executive assistant at Columbia University, was referring to a slew of tourist attractions coming to the borough such as the New York Wheel, Lighthouse Point and Empire Outlets.
She has a sunny outlook on Staten Island over the coming years. Villavicencio, who’s lived in the area for the past two years, said that she hopes the borough would more closely resemble Manhattan.
“I hope that it would be more urbanized, sort of what Manhattan feels like. Hopefully, we get more restaurants and more stores. I’m guessing there’ll be more people. And there’ll be more convenience. You won’t have everything so far,” she said.
“The thing is, businesses are few. There’s like a handful of restaurants around. I feel like that’s not enough. I’m hoping that there would be more people and then more restaurants open up. I hope that they would be open later and there would be more options for take-out.”
While stronger interest in Staten Island may come with side-effects such as higher prices for renting or buying homes, Villavicencio said that she’s not worried. “It does not, no. I’m fine with my rent,” she said.
Nonetheless, there are indications that Staten Island residents who are looking to sell may turn a hefty profit. Property prices are already going up in the borough even though the New York Wheel and other projects are still years away from completion.
According to the Real Estate Board of New York, home sale prices in the Staten Island rose by 35 percent year-over-year during the first quarter of this year, an increase that is much higher than the rest of the city. During the quarter, home sale prices in New York City rose to $911,000 increased by just one percent higher than the figure from the previous period.
The first quarter figures continue the upward movement of prices in the borough from the previous year. According to a report from real estate listing data firm PropertyShark, the median price of homes in Staten Island was at $400,000, which was three percent higher than the figure from the previous year.
According to Lester Petracca, the president and CEO of real estate development firm Triangle Equities, this trend is likely to accelerate once Staten Island’s new attractions are built.
“I think the north shore of Staten Island will absolutely increase in value, definitely,” he said.
Petracca’s firm is currently building Lighthouse Point, a $200 million mixed-use development that sits on a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The project broke ground last week and is currently on Phase I, which involves the construction of a 12-story residential building with 112 units. During this part of the process, Triangle will rehabilitate four historic sites, which will give way to 23,000 s/f of restaurant, office and hospitality space. The space will be built along with a 145,000 s/f hotel that contains 174 rooms.
Last February, shared workspace provider Regus signed on as an anchor tenant for Lighthouse Point, taking 30,000 s/f of the 65,000 s/f of the dedicated retail and office space in the property. According to Petracca, the project has been in the works since 2006. However, it was held up because of the “tremendous” number of permits required.
“It’s because of the number of approvals that are required. There’s just a tremendous number,” he said.
“We had to go through MTA approval. DOT controlled the land so we had to go through DOT. We had to go through City Planning then we had to go through the Public Design Commission, the Building Department. It’s quite extensive.”
Once it’s built, Petracca claims that the project, along with the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets, would give the local economy a boost.
“There’ll be hundreds of permanent jobs. There’ll be amenities – restaurants and retail for the community. So I think it will have a very positive impact. I think it will spur other development, other growth in the area. I think it will, you know, kind of be a kick-off to further residential development in Staten Island,” he said.
Michael Slattery, REBNY’s senior vice president for research, said that the projects will heighten economic activity in Staten Island. However, its reach is very limited.
“I don’t see it spreading further south. I mean, not as a result of those activities,” he said.
“I suspect property prices in the vicinity of those activities will rise. How far that spreads out, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to think that property prices outside of the vicinity are going to be affected too significantly. I think what you’ll see is that it’s more of a local situation than it is a borough-wide situation.”
In spite of what may be localized economic development in Staten Island, the area is longer be a good destination.
“I think you always want to buy before it becomes public information. I think once they become known, property owners incorporate those, the anticipated benefits, into the value of the site. How much you can increase prices based upon anticipated activity is one thing, but certainly, knowing that they are coming that certainly influences the value of the site,” Slattery said.