Less than one year ago, Simon Baron Development and Quadrum Global completed the $300 million ALTA+ residential high-rise in Long Island City. Designed by Stephen B. Jacobs, the 500,000-square-foot, 43-story tower at 29-22 Northern Blvd. comprises a total of 467 units, of which 170 are co-living units with hotel-style amenities and services managed by Ollie, while the rest are traditional rentals.
At the time of its launch, the project’s co-living component was the largest in the country and the first rental development of its kind in Long Island City. Today, both the conventional and co-living units are more than 90 percent occupied, as this area in Queens continues to see strong multifamily demand, with the average Long Island City rent clocking in at $3,547 as of November, according to Yardi Matrix.
Emerging as a new housing type across the U.S., co-living is particularly successful in expensive cities that lack sufficient middle-income housing to meet demand. This option mostly caters to young adults who are priced out of home ownership in core areas, offering an alternative to commuting, as well as to underground room sharing.
In the interview below, Matthew Baron, president of Simon Baron Development, takes us behind the scenes of the ALTA+ development, while also sharing his views on the future of the co-living trend.
What was the vision behind the development? How did the ALTA+ story begin?
Baron: My partner Jonathan and I acquired the site in 2014 because of our belief that Long Island City was poised to continue to see growth as an emerging neighborhood. ALTA’s location in Long Island City, surrounded by transportation, and minutes from Manhattan by subway, bus or car, made for an attractive development project.
What sets it apart from other projects in the area?
Baron: At the time, we had planned one of the largest amenity packages in the neighborhood, which did not exist in competitive buildings. In addition, the bottom-third of the building was planned as co-living, which five years ago was not something on anyone’s radar. Today, I think those two elements make it one of the most standout projects in all of Queens.
What was the most challenging part of building a project of this scale in Long Island City and how did you overcome that?
Baron: Being surrounded by transportation and, in this case, an elevated subway line is really advantageous for your residents, but it poses significant challenges for a developer. One challenge is that the area tends to get very noisy and we spent a lot of time and money constructing a bespoke window system for our building in order to make sure our units are the quietest units in Long Island City. I love doing tours with lenders or capital partners in the lower-floor units and opening and closing the windows a la Ace Ventura, so they can get the full effect of just how quiet our units really are.
What does the project mean for Simon Baron Development, taking into account the company’s previous work?
Baron: It’s our largest project to date. Our firm has built its reputation on being able to successfully complete both large-scale ground-up projects, as well as complex renovations.
Given that we are surrounded on all sides by the MTA and Sunnyside yards, there was a lot of coordination involved between various agencies in order to make this project happen. In addition, we are in a very noisy area, which necessitated a lot of sound attenuation work, and resulted in a custom designed window and facade. The result is a building that is really quiet, enhancing the quality of life for our residents.
How is the co-living trend evolving in the U.S. and especially in NYC? How does it impact the multifamily market?
Baron: We think it’s here to stay and it’s really a great option for residents. In dense urban areas like NYC, underground room shares are a large part of the market. Co-living opens up an option for those residents, where they no longer have to rely on such a market in order to find suitable housing, and it’s done in a way that really improves their quality of life and experience.