UPDATE  2/14/07    Mixed Moods on Condos
Sag Harborites weigh in on luxury apartments
East Hampton Star 02.01.2007

Modern Plans for a Harbor Village

Kirk Condyles for The New York Times

RESTORING A PLANT Cape Advisors is seeking approval of a proposal to build 63 condominium apartments and 18 town house units at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory site in Sag Harbor.

Published: January 7, 2007


Beyer Blinder Belle

A rendering of the proposed 63-unit condominium in Sag Harbor.

THIS former whaling port on Gardiner’s Bay, now a cozy two-square-mile village of restored historic homes, has caught the fancy of condominium developers.

Three projects were proposed recently within two months, according to the mayor of this East End village, Gregory Ferraris. The biggest, which has generated the most interest, is a plan to restore and develop the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

“Most of Sag Harbor worked here at one time,” Mr. Ferraris said of the 1880 Italianate brick factory on 2.5 acres. It employed more than 500 people at its peak, and over the years manufactured gold and silver jewelry and, in its last decades, watch casings, he said.

Bulova bought the building in 1936 and ended its operations there in 1981. But the site had been contaminated by heavy metals over its long history, the mayor said, and since Bulova’s departure it has crumbled and decayed. Bricks still lay in a pile at the base of the four-story factory on a recent wind-blown morning.

Now the site, still on the New York State Superfund list, is nearly cleaned up, the mayor said.

Last January, Cape Advisors, a Manhattan development firm, bought the building for $16 million, according to David Kronman, a project developer for the company. The owners will present a proposal for a condominium development of 63 apartments and 18 town-house-style units, two per building, to the planning board on Jan. 23.

And that’s just the start of the approval process. Officials are fiercely protective of the village’s eclectic mix of architecture, which ranges from 1700’s Federalist two-stories to 19th-century clapboard fishermen’s cottages, and its views both from land and from boats on the water. Sag Harbor has five review boards that must approve any development project.

Cape Advisors hopes that the reputation of its architecture firm, Beyer Blinder Belle, will help to win the village over. That firm, the lead architect on the main interior renovation of Grand Central Terminal in 1998, worked on the restoration of Ellis Island together with the Boston firm Notter, Feingold Alexander, according to Michael Wetstone, an associate partner at Beyer Blinder Belle.

In aerial views, the Bulova building, with jutting 24-foot-wide brick extensions added at different times over the years, is shaped like an ancient hieroglyph etched on a roughly triangular lot that borders four streets.

Nearly all of the future condominiums would have two walls of 7-foot-high windows, exposed brick and heavy timbers, Mr. Wetstone said. “You’ll get a really open, airy sense of space” in the lofts, with floods of natural light and 12-foot ceilings.

The units will range in size from 600-square-foot studios to a 2,700-square-foot four-bedroom town house duplex, Mr. Kronman said.

The nine town houses, which will replace the parking lot, will also have a courtyard and a glass-enclosed swimming pool.

Penthouse units in the restored factory building will have walled-off areas of the roof, which will have plantings and soil up to a foot deep, Mr. Wetstone said.

The buildings will also have energy-saving heating and cooling systems, he said, citing solar panels, underground geothermal cooling pipes and small turbines that capture heat created from generating electricity.

The other two proposed condominium projects are next to the highly coveted waterfront.

On Ferry Road, at the base of the bridge that connects Sag Harbor to North Haven, the developer Michael Maidan is planning 22 condominiums, each with its own boat slip. Mr. Maidan’s firm Code Red is also planning a second 20-unit condominium nearby at 21 West Water Street, the site of a former nightclub.

Like residents near the Bulova factory, which has been an eyesore for nearly 25 years, neighbors of the nightclub are welcoming change on that site, according to the mayor. The Water Street proposal, and the new boardwalk that the developer is planning, will also reduce the amount of concrete and add landscaping.

To help keep developers’ designs from overtaxing village infrastructure like the sewage treatment plant, the village planning consultant, Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates, has been attending all planning meetings since July at the request of the mayor, he said.

“You have three very large projects for sleepy little Sag Harbor,” Mr. Warren said, “and we want to get them right.”

Whatever the final designs, local real estate brokers are confident that the units will command top prices.