Developer and designer Ari Heckman was practically born a professional developer—his grandfather was an architect, his mother an interior designer, and his father a real estate investor—but even that "DNA," as he calls it, couldn't be the sole reason for his success. At age 29, Heckman has spent more than a decade honing the skills that he says began with "collecting the quarters [from the laundry machines] in my father's buildings." From there, Heckman went on to architecture school at Cornell and worked for Providence developer Buff Chase on "100,000-square-foot, very sensitive historic rehabs," an experience he likens to "development school 101." Now, six years after moving to New York, Heckman helms his own design and development firm, ASH, and just wrapped his first project, Greenpoint's formerly stalled 48 Box Street, which attracted 250 prospective buyers to its first open house and sold out that very night, with "everything [selling for] above ask," according to the broker Dave.
? Heckman attributes that sales success—which came in spite of a league of skeptical Curbed NY commenters—to ASH's ability to "understand emerging locations" and to "utilize our design skills and our vision, to transform a property in a way others might not." While Heckman had previously worked as development director for the successful Williamsburg firm Cayuga Capital Management and invested in "bread-and-butter rental buildings" with his business partner, the Greenpoint project presented its own challenges. Foremost among them: the building was purchased "95 percent complete" from a bank after the original developers fell behind on their payments. Those initial developers "finished mostly everything and we just kind of undid all that," says Heckman, who replaced all the interior finishes, did up a model apartment, and even reworked the façade to better "tie into what's existing in the neighborhood."
? ASH began as a design company, an outgrowth of Heckman's experience during his time with Cayuga. "There was an interesting niche in the market," he says, "where we could really be designers focused on real estate development, as opposed to just designers working for private clients." The company focused on staging, using "design to create a tremendous amount of value," but at the same time justifying the expense to penny-pinching developers. To support that staging business, ASH now keeps a Bushwick warehouse full of furnishings, ready for rental on a client's project, or, as in the case of 48 Box Street, for staging some of ASH's own work.
? Some of that stocked furniture was used here, but ASH also purchased some new pieces to make the project feel "more bespoke," with the end goal to create something that had a "crisp, clean, art gallery-like space" on the interior, but with industrial elements that borrowed "from some of the heritage of North Greenpoint." To aid in the "art gallery" feel, Heckman brought in Grey Area, the art and design showroom run by art-world scion Kyle DeWoody. DeWoody supplied $100,000 worth of art for the model apartment, but the ASH team also commissioned some of their own, including those giant hands above the living room sofa.
? Several "older and wiser" developers tried to warn Heckman away from the stalled Greenpoint building, saying "that some of their most difficult projects were the ones they had taken over in the middle, that they didn't get to start from scratch." But, while he's quick to acknowledge that "there's a lot of backtracking and backpedaling that you have to do," the young developer also finds it "fun from a design perspective when you have the challenge of what's existing and you have to use whatever ingenuity you can come up with to find a way around it. It's nice to have projects like that mixed in with blank canvas-type projects."
? Now Heckman and ASH are moving on to Manhattan, with the purchase of two 1850s Federal townhouses in the West Village. Formerly the Abingdon Guest House, the two townhouses will be converted, through a "sensitive historic renovation," into high-end rentals, with retail space on the ground floor. The firm will simultaneously be tackling a 60,000-square-foot, mixed-use factory conversion in Bushwick and a 52-room hotel back in Heckman's hometown of Providence.
· ASH [official site]
· Get to the Point [New York Post]
· Six-Unit 48 Box Street Launches Sales in Greenpoint [Curbed NY]
· Grey Area [official site]