NEW YORK CITY-The Lightstone Group, a national developer of outlet malls and multifamily buildings, is shifting its investment focus to its hometown: New York City. Company founder and chairman David Lichtenstein tells that the privately held REIT is planning three projects across the city, including a 200+ unit, 200,000-square-foot apartment tower in Long Island City opposite the East River waterfront.

“We’ve developed in 15 or 20 states, and at some point, we decided we are represented in force everywhere except for New York City, and why not start at home,” he says. “The grass has always been greener elsewhere, and that’s not true – the grass is greener exactly where we live.”

The company recently hired Manhattan-based developer Dennis Freed, the construction supervisor behind TriBeCa Green in Battery Park City and the Guggenheim Museum renovation to oversee the project at 50-01 Second St. in LIC, as well as two other sites in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Lichtenstein says while the details about the other projects are confidential due to the early nature of the planning process, the developments will be consistent with the company strategy. “Historically we have been mall developers and multifamily developers across the United States, but what we want to do in New York City is different,” he says. “We think we have a real flair for development, we have built some really astonishingly beautiful projects and now that we have really sharpened our game, we would like to bring it to New York.”

Lightstone – which traditionally focuses on small- to mid-size deals in the $15 million to $25 million range – has nine million square feet of commercial space and more than 11,000 multifamily units in 20 states and Puerto Rico. Founded in 1988, Lichtenstein began his career focusing on the acquisition of apartment buildings, and then transitioned to retail with the purchase of Prime Outlets, a chain of outlet malls, in 2003. The REIT has also made plays in the industrial and office sectors, but is now stepping up its game in the New York apartment scene.

“The New York real estate market appears to be getting busy once again but you need to build smart and be innovative,” Freed, senior vice president of development and construction for Lightstone, in a statement. “We have a number of residential and mixed-use New York City developments underway.”