A landmark waterfront mansion in Staten Island, built by an influential New York developer in 1835 and abandoned for 17 years, is being refurbished for use as a restaurant and banquet hall and is expected to open this year.
The new owners, lawyer Kecia Weaver and her husband Devone Henry, a financial analyst, see their investment as part of the revitalization of the borough’s North Shore.
“When we looked at it, the one word that came to mind was eyesore,” Ms. Weaver said, noting how years of neglect had damaged the roof, the Corinthian-style columns and the front porch.
But the property, called Pavilion on the Terrace in the New Brighton neighborhood, has a big selling point: It is within walking distance of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, where commuters can catch a 25-minute ride across New York Harbor to downtown Manhattan.
With spectacular views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, the area includes the St. George, Tompkinsville, Stapleton, and New Brighton neighborhoods. Civil War-era Victorian homes, fringe tree-lined streets, but waterfront development has sputtered over the years, leaving patches of undeveloped land or aging apartment buildings.
A view from St. Marks Place on the North Shore of Staten Island.Photo: Caitlin Ochs for The Wall Street Journal
As real-estate prices ratchet higher across the city, developers are paying more attention to transit-friendly fixer-upper neighborhoods such as those along the North Shore, which is undergoing a major transformation. Sprouting up next to the St. George ferry terminal are three projects, being built by BFC Partners, Triangle Equities and the New York Wheel, which is erecting a 630-foot tall Ferris wheel, stalled by legal disputes.
Bolstering the developers’ optimism is a burst of other residential and commercial real-estate activity in the area. In New Brighton, less than a mile from the Pavilion, builders recently sold out 20 two-family homes with prices starting at $635,000.
“People have finally discovered Staten Island,” said Henry Salmon, chief appraiser for Equity Valuation Associates, whose family has been in the real-estate business on the Island for 60 years.
Since 2012, residential and commercial prices have risen an average of 30% on the North Shore, said James Prendamano, managing director of Casandra Properties, a Staten Island real-estate firm.
“There are investors with cash willing to take a chance on the North Shore,” Mr. Prendamano said. The average price of a buildable lot is $80 a square foot, compared with more than $400 in other parts of New York City, he said.
Construction is humming along the waterfront on Staten Island’s Richmond Terrace on the North Shore.Photo: Caitlin Ochs for The Wall Street Journal
Changes to the tax code under consideration in Washington, however, could put a chill on home sales in pricey coastal markets such as New York City, warned real-estate agents and economists. The House tax bill, which recently passed, would cap the amount of mortgage interest that can be deducted at $500,000, down from $1 million, affecting demand and prices for properties in the high six figures.
In September, the owner of a former diner with three storefronts sold his property in St. George to a Chinese company for $6.1 million. Two years ago, he said, he was asking $4.8 million but couldn’t get it.
There is a continuing debate among builders and realtors about whether the high prices are here to stay or represent a bubble that will burst.
Triangle has signed Westin, which is proposing a 13 story, 175 room hotel adjacent to the ferry terminal. The site will have 115 residential units, as well as office and retail space. The first of the residential tenants are expected in April 2018.
BFC Partners is building Empire Outlets NYC on city-owned land facing the ferry terminal, which will consist of 100 outlet stores, 70% of which have signed leases, according to Joseph Ferrara, a principal of BFC. The proposed opening is next fall. BFC also is constructing a hotel and a 1,250 parking garage.
James Patchett, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corp., which is spearheading the project, said Staten Island is becoming an attractive destination. He compared the borough of about 500,000 residents with Brooklyn 15 years ago. “There was no Brooklyn Bridge Park then,” he noted. “Now, it’s a mammoth draw.”
A park along the waterfront on Staten Island’s Richmond Terrace offers sprawling views of New York Harbor. Photo: Caitlin Ochs for The Wall Street Journal
Ettore Mazzei, owner of EPS Contracting, who renovated the 1876 circa Edgewater Hall in Staten Island’s Stapleton neighborhood in 1998 for use as a banquet hall and restaurant and is the contractor for the Pavilion, said he is seeing a lot of young people who were priced out of neighborhoods such as Williamsburg in Brooklyn moving to the Island.
“They want to be in the ground floor of a happening place,” Mr. Mazzei said.
Joseph Carroll, district manager of Community Planning Board 1, said changes are everywhere on the North Shore. “We’ve had 10 new art spaces open in the past two years,” he added.
George Christo, owner of Door to Door Realty, is proposing a third St. George hotel, with a 75-seat theater, as well as rooftop space and gardens open to the public on the site of a former convent.
His vision is that years from now, visitors will say to their friends, “Hey, we spent three days in this cool place called Staten Island and had no time to do everything.”
—Laura Kusisto contributed to this article.
Corrections & Amplifications
A photo with a Nov. 29 article about development on Staten Island showed a view of Brooklyn from St. Marks Place. An earlier version of this photo caption incorrectlysaid it was a view of lower Manhattan. (Dec. 6, 2017)