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May 17, 2015 10:47 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Condominiums Bring Easy Living To The East End

The courtyard in the recently opened Watchcase condominium development in Sag Harbor. MICHAEL HELLER
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May 20, 2015 1:19 PM

An optimized living experience is a trend that’s here to stay as homes are outfitted with myriad amenities that are no longer the exception, but rather the rule—think swimming pools and tennis courts, or finished basements transformed into at-home movie theaters or jaw-dropping wine cellars.The customizable lifestyle in luxury condominiums and townhouses has burrowed its way into the Hamptons real estate market. In fact, out of Hamptons condo sales that sold at or above $1 million, the last four quarters showed nearly eight times the volume that the same period five years ago did, according to real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller.

To find the impetus for this full-service lifestyle out east, look no farther than about 90 miles west, to New York City. “The evidence of behavior is based on what’s going on in the city,” said Mr. Miller. Urban dwellers are accustomed to the convenience of city living, with its doormen-clad apartment buildings and the lack of lawns to mow.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the ever-bustling village of Sag Harbor has seen the greatest boom in

high-end condominiums, with the near simultaneous openings of Harbor’s Edge on Water Street, and Watchcase on Church Street. Rich in amenities, these buildings try to cater to every whim, and then some.

Overlooking the harbor on West Water Street, Harbor’s Edge opened for sales the second week of May and sold its first penthouse unit in preview. Backed by Water Street Development, the building has 15 2- and 3-bedroom units, all facing the water. Most of the condos range from $2.25 million to $5.75 million.

Amenities include a rooftop pool with a wet bar and outdoor television; four elevators so that residents will share theirs with only one other apartment; and concierge service from spring to fall and a year-round porter. In each apartment, a resident’s experience can be customized down to the room. There are, for example, separate heating and air-conditioning systems in every room, and master showers can be set to a specific temperature and remain that temperature every time they’re turned on.

“If you come here, you need two skill sets: you have to be able to write a check. You have to be able to turn a key,” said Halstead broker Keith Green, who is helping market the property and currently living in one of the apartments—a 2-bedroom, 3-bath unit with a “media room” that would sell for $2.7 million. “We have refrigeration and freezer in the storage room, so if you’re a Fresh Direct user and your groceries arrive before you do, we’ll keep them cool for you. We’re just trying to simplify.”

Condo owners subsidize the costs of such amenities with maintenance fees. At Harbor’s Edge, residents will pay $2,000 to $3,000 per month, according to Mr. Green.

A few blocks away, the Watchcase is in its final phase of restoration and development, with several closings under way. With 63 factory residences, penthouses and loft condominiums, the residences that have already been closed on range in price from $710,000 to $5.5 million. Watchcase is now 70 percent sold overall, and 80 percent sold in the factory building, according to a press release. Available residences range from $2.85 million to $10.2 million.

The developers, Cape Advisors, designed the condo with “resort-style amenities,” including a heated 60-foot saltwater pool, fitness center, private training studio, sauna, club room and catering kitchen for recreation and private events for residents. Also, residents will be serviced by a concierge, live-in resident manager, superintendent and a porter. Other features include rooftop gardens and powder rooms, kitchens, built-in fire pits and private elevators.

The first residents, a couple, moved in recently.

“The basic premise out east is everything’s taken care of for you. … It’s a package or a concept,” said Mr. Miller. “[People] have limited free time, and this is basically turnkey with nothing to do in terms of maintenance or security.”

Sag Harbor is also home to a third condominium project, that would include a marina, still in the planning phase. The proposed complex would be located on Ferry Road and West Water Street between the 7-Eleven convenience store and the Sag Harbor-North Haven bridge. East End Ventures, the development firm of Michael Maidan and Emil Talel, is backing the project, an idea that has been around since 2005. The original plan called for 22 units, but that garnered fierce opposition from the community. The new plan now calls for only eight condos.

The demographic drawn to this type of housing is first and foremost those who can afford it and are “willing to pay lots of money not to have the obligation of owning a house,” said Paul Brennan, a broker with Douglas Elliman.

At Harbor’s Edge, the majority showing serious interest are age 55 and over “that are looking for more freedom in their life,” said Mr. Green. Former estate owners can say goodbye to home maintenance responsibilities, such as snow removal, lawn care, pool cleaning, garbage removal and pest control. “When you’re tying yourself down with a big estate, you work for the estate. And so when you choose condominium living, you’re choosing freedom.”

Luxury townhouse complexes on the East End are also taking a page from condo living. In Water Mill, a luxury townhouse condominium unit is proposed for a 6-acre property adjacent to the Water Mill Shoppes. It has been around since two recessions ago, but with residential demand far outpacing that of any other use these days, the plans have been newly minted as a residential project. Last April the owners of the land, which sits between Montauk Highway and Nowedonah Avenue, went to the Southampton Town Board with sketches of a 48-unit condominium development they plan to propose as a planned development district. A public hearing on the proposed zoning change will likely take place this summer.

In Southampton, there are two luxury townhouse complexes in various stages of completion. Known as Bishops Pond on Magee Street in Southampton Village, there are 69 units, with 34 villas, or apartments, and 35 townhouses, most of which are sold. They range in price from $1.1 million to $2.3 million. Beechwood Organization, the developers, are even expanding, adding two more buildings nearby, which will house 10 additional condominium units—known as Bishops Enclave—selling for a million dollars and more, bringing the total number of units up to 79 on the 15.78-acre property. The residents have access to a clubhouse with a lounge and fitness room, an outdoor pool and tennis courts, billiards, a fire pit and a barbecue area, as well as concierge service.

Bishops Pond proved so popular that Beechwood decided to build a second luxury subdivision known as Bishops Grant in Southampton Village on the corner of North Main Street and County Road 39.

“The opportunity to buy new in Southampton Village is finite. We’re appealing to those who tell us they want the same quality as Bishops Pond but in a more traditional, new but classic, single-family home,” Steven Dubb, principal of the Beechwood Organization, said in a statement in April. Starting at $4.5 million, each home will have 6,500 square feet of living space, 7 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms and sit on a 1-acre parcel. Building has not yet begun.

Farther west on County Road 39, Fairfield at Southampton will be yet another luxury housing condominium complex, the most modest of the lot regarding on-site amenities. Known as Fairfield of Southampton, the complex will have 15 community benefit units set aside as affordable housing—part of an agreement the developers, Fairfield Southampton LLC, made with Southampton Town to get a zone change from commercial to a planned development district.

The complex will feature 32 3-bedroom units and 18 2-bedroom condos, and the units will range from almost 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. There will also be a clubhouse, two garages, a recreation center and an outdoor pool.

Under the original application submitted several years ago, the 15 affordable units were proposed to have been sold for around $200,000 each, while the remaining 35 condos were to be listed between $300,000 and $400,000 per unit. However, the prices have been changing every year since, according to attorney Wayne Bruyn, who represented Fairfield during the zoning change and site plan process. “My sense is that whatever the market is a year from now will have an impact,” suggested Blair Mathies, project manager on the construction site. Multiple calls to Fairfield to confirm were not returned.

The benefits of a reduced-maintenance lifestyle are apparent: more free time, fewer home aggravations, the elation that can come with easy living. But there may also be something lost in that cookie-cutter convenience.

Homeownership brings with it individuality and a bit of good old-fashioned grit. “It’s a labor of love,” said Mr. Brennan. “Now it’s off the shelf … what’s lost in it is a sense of place. It’s like the homogenization of the vacation home.”

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