A wide bay may separate Staten Island from the rest of the city. But in terms of real estate, differences between the borough and other enclaves seem to be lifting like a morning fog.
New rentals and condominiums, some with perks like a pet spa or rooftop beehives, are rewriting the island’s skyline. Big-city cool is popping up in a place not always noted for it: Small-batch espresso will soon flow at a coffee shop; a jug band played kazoos at a recently opened brewery; and stores selling brand-name skinny-leg pants are on their way. And a fresh crop of renters and buyers, unable to afford pricier precincts and unfazed by stereotypes about how the place can seem insular, bland or run-down, are setting sail for the island.
Rising on a desolate stretch of waterfront is URL Staten Island, short for “Urban Ready Life,” a $250 million mixed-use project with about 900 rental apartments in a series of buildings resembling factories, with bands of windows and flat roofs, the better to house bee hives.
The first phase, with 571 studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, will open this fall. Interiors will feature stone counters and bamboo floors, plus stacked washers and dryers. Studios will likely start around $1,600 a month, and two-bedrooms at $2,800, said David Barry, the president of Ironstate Development, the developer.
The site will contain 35,000 square feet of retail space, more than half of which is now leased. Among the future tenants are a pizzeria, a store dedicated to specialty olive oils and Lola Star, a Coney Island clothing shop that is soon to open a branch in that other rising outpost, the Rockaways. Coffeed, a chain that brewed its first cup in Long Island City, Queens, will also be there.
National chain stores, such as those that dot Staten Island’s strip malls, are not welcome at URL. “This place has its own special character,” Mr. Barry said. “The stores should reflect that.”
URL will also have a 5,000-square-foot plot planted with vegetables that can be purchased from an on-site farm stand. Or, for a fee, residents will be able to request that its kale, spinach, rainbow chard and mizuna be prepared by a chef who will do double duty as the head farmer, said Mr. Barry, who was sifting through résumés for the post as he spoke.