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Former Astoria plant poised for development

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"We're preparing the plans now. It should commence within the next four months," said Karl Fischer, the Brooklyn architect for the project. "It will be a different experience because it's not your typical residential building."The brick behemoth, which dominates the Queens skyline with four 275-foot-high smokestacks, will become 10-stories of high-end living space, he said, with 24-hour concierge service, a game room, gym and 40-seat movie theater.The 99-year-old building is one stop from Grand Central Station on the No. 7 train and has great views of midtown Manhattan. So he expects the units, studios and one to three bedrooms averaging 1,100-square feet each, to fetch $550,000-$700,000 when they go to market later this year.CGS Developers of Brooklyn, the building's owner, declined to disclose the venture's cost and was still determining if the smokestacks are structurally sound enough to remain. The developer wants to keep them but said that since they are so old engineers might determine that it is safest to knock them down. The Schwartz building at 50-09 2nd St. is one of the last relics of Hunters Point's glory days as an industrial mecca, said Bob Singleton, president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Queens."From a historical standpoint this is a highly significant building," Singleton said.Built in 1906 as a generator for Penn Central Railroad, its two sections - a boiler house and engine house - were sold in the 1950s to the Metropolitan Plumbing Company and Schwartz Chemical Company, respectively.Schwartz made the finish for synthetic plastics on the first floor and leased the third to a tennis operation. Metropolitan used its half to store plumbing parts.Today the properties are graffiti-covered eyesores with cracked and missing windows and a facade that has faded to the color of rust. But the properties - which are sandwiched between the proposed 2012 Olympic Village and multibillion-dollar Queens West apartment and commercial development - sparked a flood of calls when they went on the market last summer after a city rezoning allowed for more housing in the blocks' manufacturing lots, said Efrom Allen, Schwartz's real estate agent."Everybody is interested in this location," said Allen, who has heard from prospective buyers in California, Florida, North Carolina and even Germany. "I have spoken with hundreds of developers. There is not that kind of excitement anywhere else other than in Harlem right now."CGS won the bidding with a bold offer before the rezoning, he said. It secured Metropolitan's half in September and should close a similar deal with Schwartz after it wraps up a state-supervised cleanup of hazardous chemicals on the property. The city's Department of Environmental Conservation said Schwartz has removed 19 chemical barrels and scraped the walls in the building's stairwells and halls. The company is fully cooperating and is on target to finish the cleanup in several months, a DEC spokeswoman said. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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