Some century-old buildings in Peekskill are getting a new life thanks to Monica Flaherty, a resident of the city who, through her development company The Flatz Properties LLC, has shelled out more than $2 million to purchase and rehab five properties.
“I am particularly interested in architecturally interesting properties,” she said. “I love the high ceilings. I love the way people used to design for space.”
That interest is the reason the 150-year-old building at 1008 Main St. caught her eye. Built as a hotel in 1865, with grand hallways and marble fireplaces, the building later fell into disrepair before it was revitalized in the 1980s. The three-story, 12,000-square-foot property — known by some as The Pugsley Building after former owner Samuel Irving Pugsley and by others as The Pataki Building for longtime tenant Gov. George Pataki, later served as a health care facility and an after-school center for children.
“A lot of people in Peekskill have been through this space,” Flaherty said.
Now called The Flatz, Flaherty’s flagship location features two large retail spaces on the ground floor and office spaces ranging from 300 to 3,000 square feet on the floors above. Nine businesses, from an accountant to a DJ, occupy space on the upper commercial floors, while a Japanese restaurant on the first floor will soon be joined by a sushi and sashimi restaurant. Each floor also has a separate art gallery space.
After two years of development, Flaherty still has big plans for The Flatz, which her company is marketing as the “Great Dame” of downtown Peekskill. She aims to transform the building’s 2,200-square-foot basement and its outdoor courtyard into a performance venue and restaurant. She also hopes to make the building energy neutral and plans to install solar panels on the roof.
Flaherty in December 2014 also acquired four other mixed-use properties in the city, all within a two-block radius of 1008 Main St. In total, she holds more than 30,000 square feet of real estate and 30 office and apartment units at her properties at 114 N. Broadway, 160 N. Division St., 1134 Main St. and 1132 Main St. Flaherty said all her units are fully rented.
“Peekskill is so hot right now for residential stuff,” Flaherty said, citing the ongoing revitalization of the city. “If I could get 10 more buildings, all residential apartments, I could rent them tomorrow. We cannot rent things fast enough.”
As for office space in Peekskill, Flaherty said, “It was a lot tougher two years, a year and a half ago, but right now we have people reaching out to us through our contact form (online).”
Flaherty said that though she does not seem to have any issue finding tenants for her properties, she has noticed a number of commercial vacancies in the surrounding area.
“I don’t know if it’s because our offices sizes are perfect for one- and two-people offices, and we kind of have a little bit of a community feeling in the buildings,” she said. “I know there are other offices available in Peekskill, but I would imagine that the market is starting to tighten up for them too, which is great for everybody.”
For the Seattle native, property development is in her blood. Flaherty was raised by a single mother who spent her days purchasing and renovating homes with Flaherty’s aunt. “I was, like, women use power tools and put up sheetrock. That’s what we do. That’s normal,” she recalled thinking as a child.
Following her graduation from Harvard in 1992, where she majored in government, Flaherty purchased her first building in 1993, a vacant Victorian rowhouse in Boston’s South End with heroin needles strewn across the floor and sewage falling through the ceiling. But the building’s disrepair did little to dissuade Flaherty from its purchase.
“I went in, and I was in in love,” she said.
Flaherty relocated to Westchester in 2006 after marrying her husband Erik Contzius, a New Yorker whom she met in a singing class and who is her partner in the real estate business. She said Peekskill caught her eye both because of its architecture and its energy. “This really suited me and my husband culturally. It’s very liberal. We like the community, art and theater scene. Peekskill is great.”
Once renovations to her holdings are completed, Flaherty plans to shift her focus to acquiring more residential buildings in the city. She said she has her eye on a handful of houses in the city that “desperately need updating.”
“Even a lot of the buildings that need a lot of help around here, I just look at them and in my head, I see what they will be,” she said.