By Al Barbarino
The LeFrak Organization is throwing a curve ball at Rego Park, Queens.The former LeFrak Tower, a commercial office building at 97-45 Queens Boulevard with a signature arched façade, is being repositioned as a luxury apartment rental building, aptly named The Contour.
CEO Richard LeFrak has hinted in the past that it would no longer develop in New York City, citing the rising costs of construction, and more recently opting to build in New Jersey, amid the shadows of its massive Newport development.
But new zoning changes last year allowed the developer to convert the 13-floor, 142-foot building into Rego Park’s most luxurious rental property, making this the company’s first new Queens rental development in more than 38 years.
“I’m thrilled that we could introduce a rental product with modern design and top-of-the-line finishes to the Rego Park community,” LeFrak said. “We have a longstanding history in Queens’ residential market, and we’re proud to add The Contour’s new luxury inventory to the King & Queens leasing portfolio,” he added, citing the company’s Brooklyn and Queens residential arm. The property sits just outside the R and M subways stops at 63 Dr – Rego Park.
Its new white façade, towering over the bodegas and mom-and-pop shops in its vicinity, is no less conspicuous than the words “LeFrak” emblazoned high upon its west-facing side. It features studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments with unique layouts, oak-parquet floors, high ceilings, walk-in closets and oversized windows, ranging in price from $1,550 to $2,785 per month.
“People are talking about it because it really has a Manhattan feel to it,” said Ruth Jadidian, the director of leasing with Kings & Queens. “And no one has ever lived here.”
The art deco marble lobby was retained, while a roof deck was added, equipped with barbeques, a lounge, and 360-degree views that to the West reveal panoramic Manhattan views. Jadidian said 33 of the 108 units have been signed into contract since marketing efforts began around June.
While the company has held several broker open houses, and mailers are being sent to competing buildings in Queens, much of the demand has come from simple word-of-mouth.
“People in the neighborhood watched the transformation of this the building and that’s really been a key to getting the word out,” she said.
Units feature Euro-style kitchens with Whirlpool stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, custom cabinetry and porcelain tile floors; intercoms are equipped with video monitoring; and each unit has a washer and dryer – something no other rental building in Queens can attest to, Jadidian said.
Just down the street is the Rego Center, a shopping mall located at Junction Boulevard and 62nd Drive that opened in 2010, home to stores like Cosco, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Old Navy, Sears and an Aldi supermarket.
“People used to go down to Forest Hills to do their shopping, now everyone is coming up here,” Jadidian said. “Things have changed quite a bit.”
The LeFrak Organization is one of the largest private building firms in the world. It was founded over 100 years ago and is best known for major development projects like Battery Park City in Manhattan, LeFrak City in Queens, and the massive 600-acre, mixed-use Newport development on the Jersey City waterfront.
LeFrak City, the centerpiece of Samuel J. Lefrak’s real estate empire and one of the largest housing communities in Queens, was built on 40-acres of land in Corona, Queens, in the 1960’s.
With 20 buildings at 18-stories each, its 5,000 apartments house roughly 15,000 people. The LeFrak Organization broke ground on the project in 1960, finishing by 1969, and offering air-conditioned apartments at $40 a room a month, or $120 for a one-bedroom apartment.
* A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2012, print edition of Real Estate Weekly.