Knakal sees interest growing
among foreign buyers for deals
outside Manhattan.

NEW YORK CITY-A stalled full-block development site in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood has traded for $54 million, one of the largest outer-borough parcel sales this year, according to Massey Knakal Realty Services, which arranged the deal. Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal, tells GlobeSt.com the buyer was XIN Development Group International, making its first US acquisition in what’s reportedly the first outer-borough deal of its kind by a foreign firm.

The 2.19-acre parcel at 421 Kent Ave. is bounded by South 8th and South 9th streets and Kent and Wythe avenues in Williamsburg, and can support 216 residential units as of right. Massey Knakal, which began marketing the parcel in March, says the plans that were approved for the site included construction of 12 individual buildings. According to a release from XIN, it already has about $8 million of permitting, zoning and foundation construction completed. Bloomberg reports that XIN plans to market the completed apartments as condominiums.

“While most of the buyers within the local community had keen interest in this property, we were pleased to receive interest from a foreign buyer which is rare for sites outside Manhattan but is likely to become more pronounced now that the outer boroughs are growing in popularity,” Knakal says in a release. “The local buyers simply couldn’t compete on this one.” Knakal exclusively handled the transaction with Mark Lively, VP of sales.

There will be more parcel sales where this one came from, Knakal tells GlobeSt.com. “There’s been a lot of activity on the development front recently,” he says, citing development sites the company is marketing in both Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The announcement of the 421 Kent deal closing coincided with news of another investor making its first foray into Brooklyn multifamily, in this case SL Green Realty Corp. The REIT said earlier this week that it has bought a newly completed, vacant residential building in Williamsburg, which sits atop a commercial condo it bought in 2010. The address, price and seller were not disclosed.

Located three blocks south of the L subway line, the 84-unit residential component includes 72 newly constructed apartment units and 12 townhouses. The building also includes an HSBC bank, a Duane Reade store and a 142-car parking garage.

“SL Green’s management is uniquely positioned to find opportunistic residential investments in New York City, as evidenced by this deal, that will give us the high returns associated with new construction without any construction risk,” Brett Herschenfeld, SVP at SL Green, says in a release. Last week, SL Green CEO Marc Holliday said at a Real Estate Board of New York luncheon that the REIT was looking to diversify its portfolio and was even considering rentals in the multifamily space.

Known mainly as New York’s largest office landlord, SL Green has been more active on the multifamily front recently. In October 2011, the REIT made its major equity investment in the sector, going into a joint venture with Stonehenge Partners to acquire eight retail and multifamily properties for $416 million. It included more than 400 residential units.

More recently, SL Green and Stonehenge teamed up again, this time to convert and reposition 1080 Amsterdam Ave. as a luxury apartment building. The 96-unit building was most recently utilized by St. Luke’s Hospital Center to house hospital staff.