As quickly as $1 beers are swallowed at the Phoenix, Gary Barnett’s Extell Development has pulled out of the East Village.
The development giant, which purchased 17 buildings in the East Village last year, has quietly sold them all to the elite real-estate fund Westbrook Partners for $97.5 million—a hefty increase from the $72 million that Extell paid just 18 months ago. The sales were recorded in city records.
The buildings are all small residential ones that include a total of 259 apartment units, according to Propertyshark.com.
When Extell purchased the East Village portfolio, it was a curious move: The development giant is in the business of high-end development, not collecting rent checks in old five-story walk-ups.
Whatever its plans, it appears to have abandoned them.
“It was a great opportunity to sell,” said George Arzt, a spokesman for Extell. When asked why the company bought the properties in the first place, he said it was a “good opportunity to pick up some properties we wanted.”
Mr. Arzt wouldn’t comment on whether Extell planned to flip the properties all along, or whether bigger plans for a major development were scrapped.
In any event, wherever Mr. Barnett’s company goes, it seems to carry controversy with it. One of its biggest developments, the Ariel East and West on 100th Street and Broadway, has touched off rezoning efforts on the Upper West Side, with residents complaining that the high-rise condos are out of place in the neighborhood.
In the East Village, the community board organized a meeting soon after Extell’s buy became public, because of “concerns about funny demolitions or evictions,” said Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3.
Ms. Stetzer said that Extell officials didn’t share any plans about potential developments and assured tenants there would be no demolitions. Since then, she said, she’s heard nothing from Extell or from tenants.
But before tenants gather round in Tompkins Square Park to offer a sigh of relief: Westbrook Partners, the new buyer, is in many ways a carbon copy of Extell.
Westbrook trades primarily in commercial real estate, trading $100 million buildings in Europe, and was part of the team that sold 450 Lexington Avenue to Istithmar for $600 million last year. It was also reportedly one of the leading bidders for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.