Loveday 31 Astoria, Queens

Astoria is a popular residential neighborhood north of Long Island City in Queens, New York. Its a few train stops out of Manhattan on the N and Q train lines, but I rarely make it to that side of town because the retail landscape hasn’t drawn me in. Largely made up of auto-body repair shops, local distributors, business services and food establishments, I was surprised when a friend invited me vintage shopping there, and found the most special shop nestled between blocks around the 31st Street stop.

Here are some notable reports on the real estate front:

  • Does a 2 Bed Condo at $489K sound like a good price? Street Easy has a great neighborhood highlight on Astoria–see the neighborhood and residential availabilities here on Streeteasy
  • Want to see what developers are doing with small lots? See the specific project listing by clicking on this Yimby Link
  • And lastly, Hallet’s Point. It’s the largest development in Queens, at a $1.5 Billion cost, 2000 apartments and new retail. Its faced some setbacks from the phasing out of the 421-A program. See the drama here on Curbed.

To satisfy my fashion  craving that weekend, I focused on the accessories and found the most fun gold jewelry I could get myhands on; from studs with gold accents, necklaces with vintage pendants, as well as gold rings and bracelets. As an aside, my rule is one ring either on the ring or middle finger for most occasions; and three rings dispersed between hands (displayed above) when you really want to make a statement. I wouldn’t generally recommend any variations from that rule!

See a more detailed  post on the fashion end, from my friend at One Creates Oneself  here.

An Urban Exploration (Detroit Pt. 1)

St. Agnes Church, Detroit


Having read, discussed and studied the story of Detroit over the years in grad school, taking the time to go and visit for myself had always been on my bucket list.

Specifically, when you think of Detroit, you think of all the negative media images of blight and abandoned real estate; and I wanted to find a way to see the ‘destruction’ with a guide who knew where to go and what to see.

Fortunately, Detroit now has a mini-urban exploration industry, geared towards tourists and photographers, taking them around some of the most run down institutions in the area. There are all sorts of blighted property types; libraries, churches, schools, warehouses, factories, residential…whatever it is, you can find one that’s completely stripped and abandoned in Detroit.

Detroit Public Library; John S. Gray Branch.

John S. Gray LibraryTake for instance, this public library in the heart of the city. Constructed over 100 years ago in 1913, funded by John Gray who was the former CEO of Ford Motor Co. and served on the city’s Library board. The building has beautiful architectural features and a sturdy brick façade. However, after nearly 20 years of disrepair, this structure is sadly part of the blight that is gripping the city, with its interior stripped of everything but THE BOOKS! Go figure…Detroit Library Interior

Historic Site Owned by City of Detroit. Fate: Likely acquisition for Public/Private community use.


St. Agnes Church

I was not surprised to find a Roman Catholic church on our list of abandoned sites to tour. As a matter of fact, due to the state of the church overall, their falling parishioner participation and recent consolidation of parishes throughout the country, the likelihood that some of their properties would fall by the wayside is very high. Particularly properties in locations like these, whose continued care would likely have no financial upside. Nevertheless, the interior was majestic (image at the top of the post) and worth the exploration. Here are some other notable images:

It was a haunting experience… This site is owned by the city of Detroit. Fate: DEMOLITION


Hutchins Intermediate School.

This property happens to be FOR SALE. It was my intent to do a quick analysis on its potential value; but having limited knowledge of Detroit, I had a difficult time figuring the highest and best use of 30,000 sf of space in the middle of a depressed residential neighborhood on the north side of Detroit. Average value in that neighborhood is $39/sf. I will call the broker and post an update soon!

Hutchins School for saleThe school had been fully vacant and unsupervised since 2013, yet every part of it has been completely stripped. Here’s one of my favorite shots from this location.School HallsBased on similar municipal property sales, average value is: $390,000 Fate: sale to private investor


Fischer Auto Plant.

This was BY FAR my favorite location. The property is vast at over 500,000 sf, 5 stories, and has been abandoned since 1994. At this time, the City of Detroit is shopping the site to potential investors for uses that do not include nightlife (as proposed by Dmitri Hegemann, Berlin nightclub owner).

Fisher Plant 5th Floor

The photos cannot begin to explain the feeling of being in such a vast and beautiful decaying space. It is a grand, artistic, somber and reflective space. One of the last structures from the height of the auto industry, putting its decline into perspective.

And like every potential development or rehab, one of this size has to be supported by local demand for its potential use. Perhaps an Ikea Furniture location..? Ideal for all the downtown Detroit “hipsters” everyone seems to be so concerned about. Perfect size, and the lot is large enough to accommodate parking. The existing Ikea location is about 35 minutes drive from the Central Business District. Just a thought, and before you judge, Ikea had $37 B. in revenue last year, and is contributing jobs to the local economy. All this equals revenue for Detroit, should the company decide to invest in that location.

FOR SALE. Fate: likely acquisition by private investor, pending approval of USE by Detroit Gov.


Industrial Smoke

Union Theatre-UPDATE

990 Stuvesant, Union NJ (2)Having completed my research for the week on the property, I can now present some of my analysis on the site. First, I’d like to thank the broker who took the time to provide neighborhood demographics and full property report. Super Helpful, and I hope some of the work I’ve done will help one of their potential investors. Here goes:

Sales Price: $740,000.00.  Based on the fact that this property requires extensive renovation capital (upwards of $70/Sq Ft to demo, remediation of major structural issues along with tenant improvements), I would require a 5-10% discount on the purchase price, offering between $660,000 and at most $705,000 to purchase.

While I love the idea of a theater in Union, this use is not sustainable here. First, there is NO PARKING on the site. Major drawback for theater goers  having to spend the afternoon looking for parking. Second, the location is in the heart of the central business district, where there is major foot traffic during business hours, why not have your business maximize on this? A conversion to retail would cost upwards of $70/SF so almost another $Million to convert. We are looking at a total investment of about $1,700,000.

Investment Strategy: If you borrowed 65% of the total investment, your equity partners would put up the additional 35% (about $580,000), 15 yr Commercial loan at 5%? I think its doable. The biggest contingency on this deal would be our ability to secure a retail tenant at NO LESS than $20/PSF in rent. The comps in the area range greatly from $10 per sq. ft to up to $30 per sq. ft. Feels risky…but, if achievable, you’re looking at a 15% cash on cash return at the beginning of the 2nd year of occupancy and a 20% IRR (internal rate of return)….music to my ears….

If you are interested or have comments, leave a reply or send me a message and i’ll share my spreadsheet and additional assumptions.

In Remembrance

This post is in remembrance of my grandmother, Yamonmon, who passed away while visiting her home country in Haiti on Saturday April 5th, 2014. She was my inspiration in many ways, but most importantly she helped me contextualize my surroundings and develop my individuality by teaching me where I was from and providing an example of expression of creativity. See, my grandmother was first of all a seamstress–she made many of my earliest (and most memorable outfits), she taught me how to sew and how to cook. She taught me how to find value in my own individuality, knowing that there will always be others out in the world who want to outshine you. Competition shouldn’t faze you…there is only one you, and no one can compete with that. Thank you Yamonmon. I love you and will miss you more than you know.Image