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Developers Pitch Two 15-story Buildings at Superblock

Zoning board to vote on iStar proposal next month.

A rendition of iStar's development proposal for the Superblock property in Long Beach. (Credit: Joe Kellard)
A rendition of iStar's development proposal for the Superblock property in Long Beach. (Credit: Joe Kellard)

Developers on Thursday officially unveiled plans to build two 15-story buildings on the long-vacant Superblock property in Long Beach, which some residents called a welcomed sight, while others decried the development as too tall. 

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Manhattan-based iStar Financial, a publicly traded company that will finance and build the luxury highrises, said the development will consist of 522 rental apartments and 11,500 square feet of commercial space that would consist of six to eight retail shops and restaurants accessibly only from the boardwalk. The 6-acre, 700-foot-wide beachside property would also feature 937 parking spaces, both outside, on both sides of the towers, and in a parking structure at the north end of the property that is bound by East Broadway between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards.

Representatives of iStar, armed with several oversized boards of blueprints and colorful artists’ renditions of the development, presented their proposal that seeks a height and density variance to the Long Beach Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday. The 160-foot buildings are approximately 50 feet higher than is allowable at the property, which was rezoned in 2002 to allow for a 110-foot building, city attorney Corey Klein said.

In answer to questions about the economic viability of the development, Karl Frey, iStar’s executive vice president, indicated that it was highly unlikely the company would abandon the proposed development, suggesting it had the financial wherewithal to follow through on its $200 million investment to finish the project and not leave the property vacant.

“We’re an extremely well capitalized investor,” Fry said. “ … Here, we’re acting as our own developer.”

Peter Scherer, an East Walnut Street resident, was among the opponents of the proposal that expressed concern about the height of the towers, calling them “too big.” Scherer continued: “We don't want to see them finish a project that we have to live with forever.”

Others opposed the project on their belief that it will exacerbate parking and traffic problems in town. “You cannot ignore the parking,” said Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), a 34-year resident of the West End. "This is adding pain to an already distressed area.”

Many people who voiced support for the development believe that the towers, shops and restaurants are the best use for the property, which has remained vacant for 28 years, and that it would provide needed tax revenue. 

“I think this project sounds like a quality project that will benefit Long Beach,” said Karan Adamo, a Canals resident and local real estate agent, who noted that iStar’s targeted renters, retirees and young professionals, represent the growing demographics among new city residents.

Michael Kerr, president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, was another supporter. 

“The building will be paying taxes greater than the existing vacant property is paying now,” Kerr said. “I believe the city will receive an additional $2 million and about $4 million additional for the schools.”

Thursday’s zoning board hearing was held a day after the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve a settlement between the city and current and prior owners and developers of the Superblock, the name locals gave the property when its development was first proposed in the 1970s. iStar, the present owner, and Philip Pilevsky of Philips International, the former lead developer of the site, were named in the city’s suit claiming millions dollars in condemnation costs and legal fees.

The zoning board trustees are expected to vote on iStar’s proposal at the next meeting on Feb. 27 at City Hall.

larry teague January 31, 2014 at 01:45 PM
Lear Jet, you are a very perceptive man. SeaPointe/Haberman is a significant reason that the Superblock has been such a disaster. Odd that he was given such an inflated payout (much higher than appraisals) for his share of the superblock. maybe the prior city mgr really enjoyed his haberman rental?. either way, the previous developments and the town's history can't be ignored. caution, in this case, is so much wiser. it's unfortunate that most people misinterpret the desire for caution as being against any development. hopefully things will slow down on this and people will take a closer look at it
beachbingo January 31, 2014 at 02:54 PM
Good points Jet & Larry. There seem to be too many monuments around to less than really successful development efforts. Just for the record I think SeaPointe/Haberman v LB may still be in the courts as per this Herald article: http://www.liherald.com/longbeach/stories/Court-says-developer-can-sue-Long-Beach,40435?page=1&content_source=
Penquin January 31, 2014 at 03:51 PM
Bob West - you are talking to imposter Eddie
Penquin January 31, 2014 at 04:15 PM
I-Star is a publicly traded company. Therefore, if shares are bought or owned by any member of the council, the city manager, or zoning board personnel or families of such, that would be an SEC violation. Are you listening SEC?
Eddie January 31, 2014 at 09:23 PM
Penguin you really have no clue.
Ack Ack January 31, 2014 at 09:48 PM
i live on shore road...the architects are dopes and obviously not from the area. No one at the pool will get any sun whatsoever based on the position of the buildings. The east tower will block the sun until 1pm and then the west tower will block the sun from 3pm onward, or something close to that. And will be a terrible disruption to all residents having a 15 story building since the tallest building is 10 stories, most are 5-7 floors whats the point of raising heights over 50%? And parking in an already overly congested area? what a joke
beachbingo January 31, 2014 at 11:56 PM
Ack Ack-- Good point regarding the shadows at the pool. Figure also the East Tower (LB Blvd. side) will get hit with extreme sun in the mornings and the West Tower (R'side) similarly late in the afternoon. So, solar heat gain and reflectance may be problematic? The pool area may be breezy also given wind vortices created between the two towers. Wind vortices or eddies may be extreme on the street (B'way) behind the two towers in storm conditions. Maybe they should have modeled a single, tall "toothpick" tower on the NW corner of the site and found out by comparison what that would have done for them?
Howie February 01, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Lear Jet: "eight words that say nothing," Let me interpret, It's a done deal or THe fix is in, whatever you prefer, all synominious.
Eddie February 01, 2014 at 04:45 PM
I hope its done. All we need is another 10 years of a lot for parking. At least they got something done!!
Trying to Make Sense February 01, 2014 at 04:45 PM
Amazing how many engineers and architects opine on Patch. Any agreement that doesn't address incomplete eyesores, that doesn't define acceptable stages for the development, seems inadequate given the examples cited. Also, as long as big building cast shadows, they might as well be efficient shadows that are showcasing LB's "safer, smarter, stronger" motto. Southern facing yet no solar plans. I think, too bad. If this iconic development is intended to portray an image of LB to its target demograhic, as forward thinking and "green", it would do well to harvest the sun, and refer to itself as the wave of the future. I hope IStar calls EmPower. I think the City should encourage it.
Angela Tancredi February 01, 2014 at 11:29 PM
I read the articles in the paper, all the posts. We can go back forth all day. During the Summer season, how long does it take you to get over the bridge down East B'way or Long Beach Road during the Fairs in July and August. Do you food shop and run errands during the summer? How long dose it take you to find another space. I live on Shore, traffic counter meters were put on LB Road, during the month of February 2013. Why not put the traffic counter during the spring and summer months? Sorry, someone in this City is getting paid off to look the other way I have been here 20 years and have seen the our shore shrink and more people coming into Long Beach. I welcome change, but not two 15 story towers with approximately 1000 more people. The height of buildings used to be 8 stories, then it went to 10 and now then want 15? Our roads, drainage, fire dept. etc cannot handle. I invite you to sit in my apartment when they start pounding in the pilings. I personally will be affected and so will most of my neighbors on Shore Road. What I want to know is why the City of Long Beach would even think this is a good idea for the entire community? Scale it down to 8 floors with enough parking for every tenant. Two parking spaces for each unit. As I stated earlier, no matter how much we complain or fight for a better plan, this is a done deal. Money talks!
Sent from my Lear Jet February 02, 2014 at 02:25 AM
Angela: When the politicians want a project OKed badly they do the parking surveys around this time of year because there are plenty of vacant spaces. If they want to shoot the project down they do the survey on July 4 weekend when Shore Roader's are parking by LB Hospital because there are no vacant spaces anywhere near the beach. They've been doing this for years and that's how the survey for this project was done. I'm not kidding.
beachbingo February 02, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Angela-- Most likely there will be lots of engineered reinforced pilings as per code, too. Even the much commented on pool will likely have to be kept independent structurally but also supported by the pilings. The pilings mentioned will add a certain cost which conceivably the developer may not have fully factored into early project costing.
beachbingo February 03, 2014 at 07:15 AM
Jet-- Its not only the parking, its congestion too! If it were only a matter of finding a spot for everyone to park and stay parked it would be easier. What you describe seems more like a jobs plan for the Corporation Counsel's office than anything to do with professional planning & zoning principles. When I think back to the Comprehensive Plan 2007 I believed they figured a max. of about 55 residential units per acre on the Superblock site. As proposed they are now closing in on 90 per acre? LB, only a population of about 35,000, consistently ranks in the top 50 most densely populated incorporated places in the US. Hence any requirement for coordinated and routinely updated planning seems to be particularly relevant to LB. Additionally, in the Comprehensive Plan 2007 there was a call for a "(major) storm damage protection plan". Post-Sandy such a professionally developed plan might still be very useful to reference at least before committing whole hog to what may be a run of larger-than-ever new development proposals. Anyway back to parking, in the Comprehensive Plan 2007 it was suggested that LB formally consider a zoning change which would require 2.0 parking be provided per units vs. the existing 1.75. Should this suggestion be formally considered sometime soon as it would obviously have direct bearing on traffic conditions as well as decisions regarding development?
Sent from my Lear Jet February 03, 2014 at 08:30 AM
I'm pretty sure that the 1.75 spaces came about because of the uproar about parking for the Seapointe eyesore, 30 years ago.
Eddie February 03, 2014 at 09:32 AM
With all these bright people commenting - why don't you all buy the land and do what you want with it.
beachbingo February 03, 2014 at 10:23 AM
They may not want to sell it until they get their variances because they figure it may then be worth much more? Zoning exists in great part I suppose so entire communities don't have to live with a run-on of development mistakes which overall erode real estate value and/or quality of life. Good arguments can be made that decent planning and zoning practices over a period of time tend to enhance value while maintaining a process whereby costly "mistakes" are minimized.
Trying to Make Sense February 03, 2014 at 10:27 AM
A little snarky there Eddie2, but your point is well taken. Seems like some armchair engineers choose to ignore the facts that density (height) determines economic viability for that location and that the parking requirements are exceeded (esp. given the demographic the buildings target). Regarding the comments of people who chose to rent or purchase near to a Superblock, I can't imagine they never believed anything would be built there, that "their" views, sunlight or quiet might be altered. But, then again, I have two friends, one in the Canals, one in the Walks who are experiencing major change as homes are rising around them. Should my neighbor raise a fence, goodbye south facing tomatoes. Should my other neighbor put in a backyard pool, goodbye quiet and privacy on my deck. I hope they look into solar, just a hope. The City ought to do what it can to prevent unfinished eyesores, I expect them to learn from the past. But this project is a go for the most part because it seems to make sense. BTW Eddie2, one cannot steal a psuedonym as Moe seems to believe. I would hope that the original Eddie returns as Original Eddie or takes a page out of the Prince playbook and returns as the symbol formally known as Eddie. Eddie, don't you own a Lear Jet?
Gregory Miller February 03, 2014 at 11:55 AM
The best use of the super block would be for a college. The youthful energy brought to Long Beach by a college would only benefit us. As an example, almost all towns or cities upstate that have a college, seem to have a much more robust economy than their neighboring towns. This is probably due to money coming from elsewhere entering into their community, as well as the draw of being amongst that youthful energy. Students tend not to afford cars, easing traffic concerns. Their volunteer rate far exceeds that of non students, therefore easing the burdens of social programs such as day care, soup kitchens, senior citizen care, etc. Perhaps some sort of Art College to add a hip aura to the mix. Every developer knows, let the artists come in and property values soar. Another thought is perhaps a unique College dedicated to alternative energy, such as tidal, wave and solar energy, It's unique location on the Ocean, would make tidal and wave energy much more accessible. Many senior citizens struggling to get by on social security and/ or meager pensions, or just empty nesters, could rent rooms off season to students, to help them financially, freeing up those rooms for the summer season. All the businesses in Long Beach would benefit during the off season, by this influx of students. The long term benefit to Long Beach would far outweigh other considerations.
Trying to Make Sense February 03, 2014 at 07:16 PM
The volunteer rate of retired empty nesters is quite significant Greg. Your idea works better at the ex LBMC. But there needs to be a college ready to make the move... Sustainability Institute of Molloy? Or too many high quality competitors elsewhere? But I like your Imagining! Just ain't happening there for pretty obvious reasons.
Mr. C. February 04, 2014 at 06:49 PM
The parking proposed, in fact, falls short of requirements. Residential parking is sufficient, but based on the developer's stated 11,000 sf of commercial space, parking is about 16 spaces short. Nonetheless, a nice car park eyesore to further grace an already somewhat unattractive beachfront area. Keep it up LB! No sense of place.. just build denser and cheapen the product further. There is another way in which everyone wins.. private development objectives can be met without sacrificing environmental, community and civic aspirations.
Trying to Make Sense February 05, 2014 at 09:11 AM
"There is another way in which everyone wins.. private development objectives can be met without sacrificing environmental, community and civic aspirations" Really? Prove it. Some people think that if they repeat an idea over and over again, it can become true. Not a scintilla of evidence given the legal and real estate realities of this situation that your statement is accurate Mr.C... much as I'd like it to be.
beachbingo February 05, 2014 at 04:00 PM
I think an important legal/real estate reality may be the developer currently has the ability as of right to do a project within the current zoning. If I understand it correctly the developer would like to build a project exceeding what is currently allowed under the current zoning in place for a decade or more. NYS law prohibits a ZBA from "dispensing" new zoning arbitrarily but allows for a ZBA to grant zoning variances ("safety valves") due to demonstrated substantial and unreasonable burdens. Additionally, a ZBA is required to weigh clear environmental and community concerns (extends to regional) before granting a variance. While a ZBA should be timely, my understanding is it can refer to other agencies for items like floodplain vulnerability assessments as may be required for adequate consideration before granting a variance.
Mr. C. February 05, 2014 at 07:48 PM
Seems there's currently a misconception regarding development, with similar comments on both Patch and this on​ ​the blog, Sea By The City:​ ​ "The Superblock is private property, so a public paradise would be out of the question,.." Well, since 1961, inclusion of Privately Owned Public Space--called POPS--has been a key component of NYC zoning. POPS has become a standard not only nationwide, but around the world. On average across the US, somewhat similar projects, in terms of both use and scale, have allocated about a third of the site to POPS usage. Typically, developers include the cost of developing these spaces in their economic/financial projections. Evidence supports that a POPS approach can yield higher long term returns and benefits to the developers, attracts more desirable residents, improves communities while encouraging development, raises property values, and raises local revenue. It is a model for growth which has been successfully employed. Catch the wave, LB! Any large scale development of the Superblock should be coordinated with the adjoining "Foundation Block" and streetscape connecting back to the LIRR station/central commercial district to significantly enhance the sites' identity as a natural "Gateway" to the beach rather than walling it off. After all, if we take the Beach out of Long Beach, what identity are we left with? Long Beach IS the beach and nothing works better in developing LB than strongly and affirmatively reinforcing this identity.
Eddie February 18, 2014 at 08:57 AM
Does not matter what anyone you think. None of you own the land. Why don't you all start a campaign to raise money and buy the land? It's been done in other areas. The owners invest and take the risk. I just hope they rent for huge amounts. It will increase property values. It will also push out a lot of people that are barely hanging on to live here. Don't know if that is intentional?
Trying to Make Sense February 18, 2014 at 09:20 AM
Weak, faux Eddie. The variance request is "owned" by the people through its ZBA. No one has suggested the land owner can't build to code.
beachbingo February 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM
Trying-- Do you suppose 100 townhome units, as shown on the website attached (Myrtle Beach, SC), in some configuration could be developed on the Superblock? If they could be built for what they sell them for in SC and sold for $150,000 profit each in LB that might come to $15 million gross profit less land and soft costs? This is purely off the top of my head, but it seems there may be a number "feasible" approaches given existing code but differing in character between the "Myrtle Beach approach" and the 500+ units iStar has rendered. http://www.c21theharrelsongroup.com/south-beach-cottages/
Eddie February 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM
No not owned by the people in anyway. I guess you want to pay more millions in settlement for trying to take land that is not yours. The ZBA will do what they want. If you want to stop it- buy it. But do it soon. It does appear the goal is to push people out who have lived here for generations in the name of profit. I hear mastic beach is still reasonable. Good luck - God Bless- I'll still be here.
Trying to Make Sense February 19, 2014 at 09:02 AM
Beachbingo, it seems that until a real calculation involving land costs, construction costs, taxes and fees in LB versus Myrtle is calculated, it would be impossible to know. As I have noted in the past, a person with expertise in assessing locations for a major hotel chain told me that those factors were the inconvenient truth that limits the possibilities in LB. My guess is that it explains why developers have not been climbing over one another's backs to get a crack at developing this ultra prime real estate.
Eddie February 23, 2014 at 08:10 PM
Hi Moe - it's me again. Kiss my ass you fat loser.

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