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Striking A New Chord

10/17/2008

TWO brick monoliths in Astoria, Queens — decades removed from the piano factories they once were — are hitting the market as condominiums.

Sales have begun at the Pistilli Grand Manor condominium, erected in the early 1900s as one of the neighborhood’s two Steinway & Sons factories. It was later used as a warehouse for Stern’s, the former regional department-store chain. The 201 units, developed by the Pistilli Realty Group, include studios, one- and two-bedrooms, with an average cost of around $440 per square foot.

The building has garnered online criticism for its relatively low-end fixtures. “We used a moderate kitchen and appliances,” said Joseph Pistilli, the developer. Otherwise, prices would be much higher, he said, adding that people can upgrade to their own taste — and that in this market, prices are negotiable.

Nearly 20 units have been sold or are in contract, said the selling agent, Charles Sciberras of Realty Executives Today, who has posted pictures at pistilligrandmanor.com. A trilevel garage will have more than 300 parking spaces, renting for $150 to $200 a month.

The units are sunny, as the windows “are the size of doors,” Mr. Sciberras said, and it’s unlikely there will ever be tall surrounding structures to block the light. As for parking, “in our neck of the woods, that is a big selling point.”

Now with a glass awning, the building has a laundry room on each floor as well as a shared gym and garden. The ground floor will have retail and commercial space. Community Board 1 has already signed on as one tenant.

After Stern’s began its long decline, there was talk of turning the building — which has been vacant for nearly three decades — into an all-night supermarket, or into rental or retiree housing. Plans stalled 10 years ago when Nikos Kefalides, then the building’s owner, died in the crash of Swissair Flight 111. The Pistillis bought it from his estate.

Astoria’s other piano factory, simply called the Piano Factory Condominiums, was formerly owned by Sohmer & Company. The condo-conversion plan is awaiting approval by the state attorney general, with sales expected to begin sometime in the winter, according to the developer, Angelo Acquista of the TTW Realty Group.

There will be around 70 apartments, from studios to three-bedrooms. The cost will most likely start around $650 per square foot, with penthouses reaching $900 per square foot. There will be a gym and pet spa; each unit will have a washer-dryer hookup.

A two-story underground structure behind the building will provide parking for around $200 a month. Sales will be handled by Shawn Williams and Violet Boe of Prudential Douglas Elliman. Prospective buyers can sign up for information at Pianofactorycondos.com.

The building, circa 1886, is known for its mansard-roofed clock tower. After Sohmer was sold in 1982, the property was acquired by the Adirondack Chair Company, a wholesaler of office and institutional furniture, and sold to TTW Realty three years ago. (Sohmer pianos are now made in Korea.)

Over the last quarter-century, there were several failed attempts to confer landmark status on the building; that goal was finally achieved last year. Its German Romanesque Revival style includes “window patterns and monumental brick facades” that convey “a solid image,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The clock has been restored, Mr. Acquista said, and is now “accurate to the second.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/realestate/19post.html?_r=0

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