Work is under way to turn the former Eagle Electric Company factory and warehouse site in Astoria, Queens, into a co-op complex with 188 apartments. The conversion, which includes new construction, is a departure from the overwhelming pattern in recent years of developing for-sale units as condominiums.
Half of the apartments are being carved from the three-story 1920's factory, which will have three stories added as part of the redevelopment. The remaining units will be in a new five-story building that is rising next to the old factory building and will be linked to it. The site fills an entire block, bounded by 19th and 21st Streets, 24th Avenue and 23rd Terrace.
The buildings in the $30 million project, called Riverview Apartments, will overlook a central courtyard. The Pistilli Realty Group of Astoria is developing Riverview, which will also include 10,000 square feet of stores and parking for nearly 200 cars. Construction will take 18 to 24 months.
According to the New York State attorney general's office, whose approval is required for co-op or condo offering plans, 19 co-op plans covering 1,531 new or converted apartments have been filed since 1997, compared with 650 condo plans, involving 16,754 apartments. Industry specialists say the condo form of ownership has gained favor because it puts fewer restrictions on apartment owners than is typical in co-ops.
Joseph Pistilli, chief operating officer of Pistilli Realty, said he chose the co-op form of ownership because the community wanted for-sale housing, rather than a rental, and because he leased the factory and the land rather than owning it. Condos must own both their buildings and the land beneath them.
Mr. Pistilli said, however, that the lease included an option to buy the property in 10 years at an agreed-upon price. He also said the offering plan he expected to submit to the attorney general's office in 90 days would include a provision making it mandatory that apartment buyers participate in the purchase of the building and land.
Mr. Pistilli said that the plan was to refinance the complex at that time, replacing lease payments with mortgage payments. He added that he could not say whether monthly maintenance charges for apartment owners would be higher or lower because of that change.
Daniel Martin, a vice president at the Roslyn Savings Bank, which provided $19.5 million in financing to the project, said that the market was strong and that ''Riverview offers homeownership opportunities in a homeownership area.''
The 75-year-old Eagle Electric factory, where switches and other electrical devices were once made, is in a neighborhood of one- and two-family homes. The building also is next to Astoria Park and overlooks the East River.
Mr. Pistilli said the location was a chief reason he got involved with the site three years ago. But for the project to move ahead, the zoning for the property had to be changed from manufacturing to residential that also allowed retail space.
Lucille Hartmann, assistant district manager of Community Board 1, said the Eagle warehouse was among the last big commercial buildings left to redevelop in Astoria. Another is the former Stern's warehouse at 45-02 Ditmars Boulevard, which Mr. Pistilli bought last year to convert to up to 225 condos.
The Augusta Group of Glendale, Queens, has designed Riverview with studio to three-bedroom apartments of 800 to 1,500 square feet. The units in the existing factory will have river and Manhattan views and many will have 16-foot high ceilings.
The top floor will be divided into two levels, and three new floors, which will step back from the original factory, will be added. Many of the apartments in the new structure will have terraces.
Sales prices have not yet been set, but Mr. Pistilli said he expected them to be $300 to $400 a square foot, or an average of $350,000 for a 1,000-square-foot apartment.
George Alexiou, president of an Astoria real estate brokerage company that bears his name, said that while those anticipated prices were ''a little high,'' buyers might be willing to pay them because Riverview was new and the apartment market in the area was tight.
Monthly maintenance fees have not been determined. But since they will include the rent to lease the property, they are expected to be generally higher than the monthly maintenance costs at traditional co-ops.
Photo: Joseph Pistilli, left, Matteo Galati and Anthony Pistilli are developing the former Eagle Electric Company factory and warehouse site in Astoria into a co-op complex with 188 apartments in a $30 million project. (Lucian M. Read for The New York Times)
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