March 7, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
A major cosmetics manufacturer based in Long Island City is eyeing an expansion to its Hunters Point facility in a project meant to consolidate and streamline operations for the decades-old, ever-growing business.
Mana Products, a private label manufacturer founded in 1975 and known for making products for “some of the world’s most renowned beauty brands,” runs out of two area facilities—one at 27-11 49th Ave. and another at 32-02 Queens Blvd.—and is proposing to centralize operations by expanding its Hunters Point building and essentially de-occupy its Queens Boulevard site.
The project would result in a horizontal enlargement to the the cosmetics company’s current three-story, 214,000 square foot facility on 49th Avenue, bringing it to about 322,000 square feet.
The 108,000 square foot expansion would take on the form of a five-story “wedge” built out on part of the irregularly-shaped property that today is open grounds used for shipping and receiving.
The wedge would “cantilever” over the building, meaning that the additional two stories in the build-out would only cover over a small part of existing building.
Mana Products, however, is unable to carry out its project due to an obscure land use law, and is consequently moving in part through the city’s land use review process, seeking an amendment to the rule.
The project has been in the works for some time, and is scheduled to be heard and voted on at tonight’s Community Board 2 meeting. The development team, however, has already appeared twice before the board’s land use committee to present the project, which received a favorable recommendation by the body last week.
The company was founded more than 40 years ago by Nikos Mouyiaris, a businessman and philanthropist who died suddenly at the beginning of the year, with initial operations in Manhattan. He moved the business over to the Queens Boulevard building in 1978.
By 1998, the cosmetics giant had outgrown the facility, and purchased the Hunters Point building. Since then, the company has used the spaces, both located within the Long Island City industrial business zone, to conduct all operations in house. About 840 employees work at the two sites combined.
The eight-story Queens Boulevard building, owned by Mana Products, is currently occupied by the company only at the top half, with the rest of the floors leased to other businesses. Site operations here include research and development, formula storage, product development, art/creative and administration, among other sectors.
Materials produced at the site are transported from the building to the Hunters Point facility roughly 10 blocks away, where they are assembled, packaged and warehoused before being shipped to clients.
While the model has been in place for years, the company said the split operations are becoming increasingly inefficient.
“We have outgrown our ability to most efficiently use the current space in both buildings, which hurts us competitively,” said Larry Weinstock, vice president of finance at Mana Products, at an October land use meeting.
The expansion would solve the logistical headaches by having all business literally under one roof, in a move that also means higher production outputs and job growth, as the company anticipates a 25 percent workforce increase in the five years after the proposed buildout is completed.
The wedge would house the sectors currently stationed at the Queens Boulevard building, which would have all but one of the company’s floors vacated. The single remaining floor would be used for some company affairs.
The company would also work to modernize the “new” facility during the project’s roll out, and said the space would have more amenities for employees and make for more robust research and development quarters.
The project would mean that the 100 or so parking spaces the company provides on-site between the two locations would instead be offered by way of lease agreements with nearby properties. The majority of Mana’s employees already commute by public transportation, the company said, which even has a shuttle bus system in place to pick up employees arriving from the nearby Hunters Point station.
The Hunters Point building would be allowed to expand to the desired size as-of-right under an existing zoning provision that covers buildings in manufacturing zones constructed before 1961.
The 49th Avenue facility, however, was built in 1965.
“The whole idea of the text change is to let us expand, consolidate—something that we can’t do because we were built four years too late,” said Jay Segal of Greenberg Traurig, who is representing Mana Products in the application, at the same meeting.
The proposed amendment to the zoning text, in addition, is written in such a way that it would only apply to the Hunters Point facility and no other property in the area. A timeline for the project, if approved, is unclear.
Mana Products framed the amendment’s approval as integral to the company’s mission and livelihood. While opportunities to expand in New Jersey were presented to them, the company wishes to keep calling Queens home.
“We want to remain in Long Island City,” Weinstock said. “We also want to remain competitive.”