Several years ago, F&T Group, a Queens-based development firm, began scouting sites for a new luxury tower.
The company — best known for constructing Flushing Mall and Queens Crossing, a mixed-use complex in downtown Flushing — had several Manhattan projects under its belt, including a skinny glass building in Chelsea and a condo conversion in Murray Hill.
This time around, Dean Yep, the firm’s vice president, recommended purchasing a lot further downtown, on the corner of Third Avenue and 14th Street. “I grew up in the Lower East Side, on Avenue B near Tompkins Square Park,” he said. “I knew the area very well.”
In May 2008, construction began on 123 Third, a 19-story, 47-unit condominium tower with oversized windows and lots of soundproofing.
“It’s a busy corner,” said Yep, who developed the project in conjunction with Orange Management, a firm responsible for seven condo projects in SoHo, Chinatown, and TriBeCa, including 22 Renwick Street. “Our recommendation to the engineer and architect was to build so there’s no noise.”
Panels installed along the façade drown out street noise even on the lowest floors, which sit above a retail space leased by Capital One Bank, which was recently sold to the Related Companies and BLDG Management.
Sales began last Labor Day weekend, and only three apartments, all penthouse duplexes with large balconies and two to three bedrooms, remain on the market. A fourth penthouse recently went into contract, Yep said.
“Each unit has its own personality,” said Henry Hershkowitz, a broker at Corcoran and the building’s sales director.
With its 1,000 s/f balcony, 15A is perfect for entertaining, he explained. 15B has less outdoor space, but is “cozy yet extravagant.” Construction is still underway on a top floor duplex with a solarium, and another was recently completed.
Thanks to height restrictions elsewhere in the area, all of the penthouses, which range in price from $3.6 to $5.25 million, according to Streeteasy, share magnificent views of the East River and the Financial District skyline. “The rest of the East Village is capped at eight stories,” Hershkowitz said. “The zoning boundary is at our property line.”
Indeed, as far as neighborhood boundaries are concerned, the building is at a crossroads; it serves as an anchor for the eastern corner of Union Square — once the site of a two-story building housing a porn shop — and as a gateway for a portion of the East Village still undergoing gentrification.
On the stretch of 14th Street running from the western corner of Union Square up to 123 Third, retail space is particularly valuable; after all, the block is home to powerhouses like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Forever 21, Best Buy, and several Duane Reades.
A Five Napkin Burger opening soon on 14th Street and Third Avenue, just across the street from 123 Third, is one of few food-related businesses on the block that isn’t part of a major chain. (Five outposts are currently up and running, in Manhattan, Queens, Miami, and Boston.)
“Once you pass Second Avenue, retail rents are cut in half,” Yep said. Eastern 14th Street is lined with small businesses like hair salons, drycleaners, and locksmith shops, as well as several fast food franchises.
This area, Yep and Bradfield hope, is on the verge of a high-end retail renaissance. In the meantime, to evoke the upscale vibe of the neighborhood’s western end, the development team brought on board Eren Chen, the architect responsible for 15 Union Square West, a former Tiffany’s building converted to condos.
At both buildings, Chen offset modern details with the occasional intricate one. At 15 Union Square West, he preserved the building’s original cast-iron arched windows, wrapping them in a glass exterior.
Across the park, he broke up 123 Third’s glass walls with a row of small, metal-framed windows that run just above each unit’s white oak floors, and installed poliform kitchens with countertops imported from Portugal.
The design — at once sleek and homey — allowed for a variety of staging options. “Some [units] are filled with antiques, some are retro-modern,” said Hershkowitz.
“The simplicity of the modern design appealed to buyers,” he added, many of them young professionals signing a contract for the first time, some with help from their parents.
But like storefronts near First and Second Avenue, units at 123 Third are priced at a relative bargain, thanks to the building’s location just on the cusp of a bustling hot spot.
According to StreetEasy, a one-bedroom on the seventh floor sold for $650,000. Others were purchased in the $705,000 to $985,000 range, and two-bedrooms were sold upwards of $1.4 million.
“They’re not only for the hedge fund managers,” joked Andrew Bradfield, head of Orange Management, the building’s co-developer. “They’re for someone who works at a hedge fund.”