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NEW YORK CITY-A joint venture of locally based private equity investment firm the Athena Group LLC and newly formed venture Madison Development LLC has begun assembling a portfolio of 15 outer-borough self-storage facilities. Its first acquisition is a 50,000-sf warehouse property in Jamaica, Queens.

According to Madison Development principal Adam Gordon, the Jamaica property, located on Merrick Boulevard, will be completed by year’s end with the remainder of the properties slated to be acquired and built out in fairly short order. “We’re seeking to build our portfolio in the next three to five years,” Gordon tells GlobeSt.com. “We expect to develop approximately 15 facilities in the Metro New York area, primarily in the four boroughs, excluding Manhattan.” Gordon adds that the properties will be 50,000 to 100,000 sf each. The Queens facility has available FAR for expansion to 66,000 sf.

Real estate investment banking firm Sonnenblick-Goldman Co., based here, arranged the acquisition and redevelopment loan for the warehouse on behalf of Merrick Partners LLC. A West Coast-based thrift provided the financing. Details of the transaction have not been provided.

Sonnenblick Capital Markets Group director Peter Berk, who negotiated the loan, says the financing represents the model for the JV’s later acquisitions. “This transaction involved finding a lender who was willing to work with the borrower to not only acquire and redevelop this facility, but to work with them on a programmatic basis to acquire and redevelop a portfolio of similar facilities in the future,” Berk states. “The underwriting and documentation utilized for this loan closing will serve as a model for future transactions.”

Madison Development was formed by Gordon early this year for the purpose of collaborating with Athena Group on the self-storage project. His partners in the company are Steve McKnight, former New York director of acquisitions for Storage USA, and Doug Chamberlain, former vice president of construction for Storage USA’s nationwide operations.

Athena Group’s real estate investments are made primarily through special purpose partnerships, such as the Madison Development venture. The Merrick Boulevard deal marks Athena Group’s first foray into the self-storage business.

The firm’s residential projects include 838 Fifth Ave., which the Athena Group converted from office to residential space and sold as condominium apartments. Currently, the company is developing the Waverly, a $97-million condo-to-rental conversion project in Miami’s trendy South Beach neighborhood.

According to the company’s Web site, Athena Group also owns office properties in Massachusetts as well as the 2,000-acre mixed-use Brier Creek master-planned development in Raleigh, NC. International holdings include a 120,000-sf office complex in Baku, Azerbaijan and a 1.5-million sf industrial property in Moscow.

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