Astoria is better known for its food scene and bargain walkup apartments than flashy high-rises. But in recent years, a handful of luxury buildings — both rental and condo — have sprung up on and near 21st Street, a thoroughfare that leads directly to the Queensboro Bridge.
In 2005, Criterion Group built Astoria NW, a rental tower with balconies, a roof deck, and washers and dryers in every unit. About 10 new developments surround the building, including a handful of glass and steel condos lining nearby 31st Avenue.
“It’s like Chelsea’s Sixth Avenue corridor fifteen years ago,” said Cliff Finn, president of new development marketing at Citi Habitats. “There was nothing. Now there are high-rise buildings.”
The latest addition to the 2st Street corridor is Thirty-Fifty, a boutique rental building also developed by Criterion. The development has a doorman and offers one-bedrooms ranging in rent from $2,230 a month to $2,840 a month for those with a balcony and terrace.
From a resort-style roof deck — which boasts lounge chairs, a bar, and even an outdoor shower — two half-constructed Criterion buildings are visible in the distance, close to the East River on the corner of Broadway and Vernon. When completed later this year, the developments will offer a total of 300 units.
“People don’t expect this style of product in this area,” said Finn, who directs leasing at Thirty Fifty.
A 10-minute walk from the nearest stop on the N and Q trains, and a good distance from the bars and restaurants lining Broadway and 30thAvenue, 21st Street may seem an unlikely hot spot for Manhattan-style luxury housing. But it’s where much of Astoria’s available land happened to be concentrated, Finn explained.
The location does have its perks: with the Queensboro Bridge so close by, 21st Street is one of the easiest places in the neighborhood to catch a cab to Manhattan. There’s an acclaimed Italian restaurant, Vesta Trattoria & Wine Bar, on the block, as well as a supermarket. Astoria’s scenic waterfront parks are a short walk to the west, and LaGuardia Airport is a fifteen minute drive.
And unlike glossy developments elsewhere in the outer boroughs, bargain-hunting Manhattanites aren’t typically the target resident for Astoria’s luxury buildings.
Eric Benaim, whose Long Island City-based brokerage firm, Modern Spaces, recently opened an office in Astoria, has seen a handful of apartment hunters stream in from the eastern reaches of Queens in order to be closer to Manhattan.
“Occasionally we see people from Brooklyn,” he said. And brokers at Modern Spaces have worked with buyers priced out of waterfront condominiums in Long Island City.
As Brokers Weekly reported last month, condo prices have been on the rise throughout Queens. According to data released by REBNY, average prices across the borough increased by six percent over the last year, reaching $450,000.
Demand for condos has been particularly high in Astoria, where a development boom is only beginning. “Most of the buildings being built are condos,” Benaim said.
In addition to the Manhattan-style high-rises along 21st Avenue, a handful of smaller, boutique condo projects are scattered throughout the neighborhood. In this sense, Benaim said, Astoria has come to resemble Williamsburg. “There are also a bunch of high-rises close to the water,” he added.
Though less prevalent than condos, the neighborhood’s high-end rental developments are also popular.
In addition to longtime residents of Queens looking to upgrade, Thirty-Fifty has attracted transplants from cities like Atlanta, who are happy to trade in long commutes by car for a reliable subway system.
“Manhattanites are jaded and need to have everything by their door — Duane Reade, a drycleaners, all within a block,” Finn joked.
Not so for out-of-towners, who have no problem passing up the conveniences of, say, Chelsea’s Sixth Avenue corridor for a bargain in Queens.
Average rental prices in Astoria are $50 per s/f, according to Benaim. And condos sell for $500 to $550 per s/f. Brokers at Modern Spaces have watched units at Edge31, a boutique building at 23-32 31st Drive, fly off he shelves.
The development, which offers 12 one-bedrooms priced around $550 per s/f, is 90% sold.
“The finishes are very high-end for the area, equivalent to a nice condo in Long Island City or Williamsburg,” Benaim said. In addition, the Modern Spaces team oversaw a handful of deals at the Astorian, a condo building on 30th Avenue just of 21st Street that is now completely sold.
Finn has seen similar success for his marketing efforts at Thirty-Fifty. Less than a month after opening, the building is already over 60% leased.
“January is a very active month,” Finn of Citi Habitats explained. “It’s a common relocation time for people in higher-end positions.”