In a land known for over-the-top baronial manses and quaint Shingle Style cottages, there have been few, dare we utter the word, condominiums, east of the Shinnecock Canal, that is, or west of Montauk, where a preponderance of motels can relatively easily be converted into condos, and even more easily into co-ops.
But, given some recent developments most notably in Southampton Town, a condo trend is clearly afoot. City folk want country living, but they don’t necessarily want to deal with hedge trimming, roof repairs, and trash pickup. Isn’t that what supers are for?
The biggest news is Bishops Pond, which is under construction as we speak. Within 10 weeks of going on sale in April, the 40 units in the project’s first phase, ranging in price from $830,000 to $3 million, sold out, according to the listing agent, Mary Slattery of Corcoran.
The development boasts a whopping 77 units — villas (one story) and town houses — built on 13 acres surrounding a winding man-made pond. As a resort environment, it has the requisite clubhouse, pool, fitness center, billiards, tennis court, and, of course, concierge services. Never mind that it’s bordered by railroad tracks on the north; a prettily landscaped berm deletes that eyesore.
To give buyers an idea of what they would get, five models demonstrating each type of unit were decorated by Mabley Handler Interior Designs, a Water Mill firm run by Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler, a Bridgehampton husband-and-wife team. The designers used merchandise from Serena & Lily, a home goods and fashion shop that opened this summer in Wainscott. Because units were purchased “pre-construction,” buyers were able to customize options in such items as cabinets, countertops, tiles, and trims.
“It was one of the easiest approvals we’ve ever gone through,” Steven Dubb, vice president of the Beechwood Organization, said of the zoning process. Straddling the town but mostly in Southampton Village, the “condo community” is situated between Bishops Lane and McGee Street south of County Road 39A. Just “a big hole” used as storage for a dock building company in its last incarnation, it was “surrounded by a residential neighborhood” and its industrial use was “nonconforming,” according to Mr. Dubb. “We had nothing but support from the community, which is rare anywhere,” he said. Indeed.
“There’s a real need for this kind of community in Southampton,” said Ms. Slattery. Buyers are a mix of young families seeking summer getaways who “live predominately in the city, northern Long Island, or New Jersey . . . baby boomers and empty nesters who don’t want to deal with maintenance . . . and want a place they can leave on Monday morning or for the winter and not worry,” said Mr. Dubb. He was “pleasantly surprised that we have a lot of year-round Hamptons residents,” which will make for an active winter community.
The second phase, priced at between $1.5 million and $3 million, was released two weeks ago and is already 70 percent sold. What makes Bishops Pond so attractive? Though prices seem high for condos, compared to houses with similar square footage and amenities, they’re bargains. From 12-foot ceilings and white oak floors to stainless steel appliances and marble bathrooms “you wouldn’t know you’re not in a $5 million Sagaponack mansion,” said Mr. Dubb.
Another Southampton condo project has sold out in the last two weeks: Pond Crossing (seems that ponds sell) located near Stony Brook Southampton. Built in 2008, according to Matthew Breitenbach, a broker at Corcoran who sold the last units, the development suffered in the economic downturn but has recovered in the current local real estate upswing. According to Mr. Breitenbach’s mother, Susan Breitenbach, who shared the listing with her son the past year, it’s impossible to find a house “that’s done as well or tastefully” for the units’ prices of “a million or under.” Ms. Breitenbach, also at Corcoran, who is known as one of the area’s top brokers, said: “People think I only [work in] the $20 million market, but I do this too.” She and her son also show Bishops Pond.
Even Joe Farrell has gotten in on the act, having built six town houses with the aspirational name Polo Club in Southampton Village two years ago, and which some wags call “mini Farrells.”
Interest in condos has “created a whole other market that I enjoy dealing with,” said Mr. Breitenbach, who mentioned an invasion of “young finance guys” seeking investment opportunities on the South Fork for condos or hotels. Topping Rose and the Montauk Beach House allowed investors “to see this whole other market,” he said. He’s even heard that someone is “trying to do a hotel in Sag Harbor.”
By now most everyone has heard of what’s happening at the former Bulova watchcase factory in Sag Harbor. Condos there, which have been on the market a short time, are selling like proverbial hot cakes. Both Breitenbachs have sold units there. Ms. Breitenbach just sold one to a couple, one of whom can’t drive, so they required a village property.
And more condos are planned for Sag Harbor on West Water Street, if they get the proper approvals. Another developer has plans for the parcel on Pantigo Road in East Hampton that the Crystal Room and Cricket Caterers once occupied, and where a sign touting “Clam Pies” lured customers. Bob Levin admits he “has plans for something” there, and rumor has it that it is condos. But he won’t say till the approval process is finished, which he estimates at about six months.
In July Donna Karan, her daughter Gabby, and Gabby’s husband, Gianpaolo De Felice, bought the 10-room Enclave Inn in Bridgehampton from Michael Wudyka. They plan to renovate the motel, once owned by Martha Stewart’s daughter, Alexis Stewart, in Ms. Karan’s “signature style,” according to the Daily News. The question is: Will it remain an inn or be transformed into condos? Also in Bridgehampton, Continental Ventures Realty has broken ground on a development of 30 luxury condos on Barn Lane near Channing Daughters. Sales, at about $3 million, will get under way in February, according to a spokesman.
Will the trend continue? Probably not. There is a large demand for luxury condos, according to Mr. Breitenbach. “But inventory is limited.” And zoning is strict. He’s worked with investors who, having found a potential property to develop, back down. They “don’t want to go to war.”