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Category ArchiveDurst Organization

Convene to Bring Social Events to New 28K-SF Space at 75 Rock

On-demand meeting space provider Convene has signed a 28,232-square-foot lease at RXR Realty’s 75 Rockefeller Plaza for a new location, Commercial Observer can first report.

The space will be the company’s third in an RXR building—as Convene has outposts in 237 Park Avenue and 32 Old Slip—and will be a sort of social “work club,” featuring a range of culinary experiences and cultural programming, according to information provided by Convene.

The new location will open in May, according to a spokeswoman, who declined to provide the terms of the deal. The company’s largest location at 101 Greenwich Street, which is expected to open next month, will also have events and a kitchen, as CO previously reported.

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A boardroom for on-demand conference room requirments. Renderings: Convene

“RXR is excited to collaborate with Convene to develop this innovative concept at 75 Rockefeller and provide a level of services and amenities that is truly unique for Class A office product,” William Elder, the executive vice president and managing director of RXR, said in prepared remarks. “It will establish a new benchmark for an in-building, five-star service experience combined with boutique hospitality appeal that our existing and future tenants will not find anywhere else.”

Convene will occupy space on the 31st and 32nd floors of the 33-story building, which is located on West 51st Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. The tower recently underwent a $150 million renovation. It was not immediately clear which brokers handled the deal for either side.

The new Convene digs will offer meeting and event space, and collaborative working and common areas. A restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by Convene’s chefs, will be available all day. There’ll also be a cocktail bar with a barista. And there’ll be a segment for hosting art, music, wellness, culinary and business events.

“Our collaboration will bring a new level of choice and flexibility to the workplace by offering the latest amenities, the best hospitality services and an extensive collection of unique cuisine options to tenants at 75 Rock,” Ryan Simonetti, the CEO and co-founder of Convene, said in a statement.

The new digs at 75 Rockefeller will be Convene’s 12 location in New York City. The company has also established key partnerships with other large landlords, such as Durst Organization and Brookfield Property Partners, as CO reported last year.

Source: commercial

A Look at the Glassy Behemoths of Long Island City

So many skyscrapers are going up in Long Island City, Queens, that the air is starting to feel a little thin.

Much of the construction of the tallest buildings in the area is focused around the Queens Plaza and Court Square sections of the neighborhood with their easy access to eight subway lines.

primaryphoto41 A Look at the Glassy Behemoths of Long Island City
Court Square City View Tower. Rendering: CoStar Group.

LIC’s towers are not actually like the super skinny ones that dominate the skyline along West 57th Street, and most are not condos purchased to park money for shady foreign elites.

But we shouldn’t sell them too short, either; there is at least one tower that’s so tall that its developer filed its plans with the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure it wouldn’t pose a threat to airplanes. (That’s what happens when you want to build supertall skyscrapers a few neighborhoods over from two of the busiest airports in the country.)

That building, United Construction & Development’s Court Square City View Tower, as it’s currently known should stretch 66 stories and 984 feet high. It will be the tallest structure in Queens. The building, at 23-15 44th Drive, will feature roughly 800 condominium units. It is being designed by Hill West Architects and will feature a double-height lounge with a mezzanine area overlooking a pool on the third floor. The tower will also have two shades of glass—a neutral blue on its broader sides and a clear green

eagle hero A Look at the Glassy Behemoths of Long Island City
Eagle Lofts. Rendering: Rockrose Development

on the edges. (By the way, the FAA determined in September 2016 the building will not be a “hazard to air navigation.”)

Durst Organization has plans for a 63-story, 765-foot tall rental building that would be attached to the landmarked Clock Tower in LIC at 29-55 Northern

Boulevard. Durst is planning outdoor open space for the tower dubbed Queens Plaza Park and other amenities, although those have not been announced yet. The tower will have 958 apartments.

Stretching nearly 600 feet and 58 stories, Tower 28 at 42-12 28th Street by Heatherwood Communities is next up in terms of height of projects under construction or already completed. The project opened last year and features 451 apartments. It houses amenities such as a fitness center, spa, sauna and yoga studio.   

Then there’s Rockrose Development’s Eagle Lofts at 43-22 Queens Street at 570 feet and 54 stories. The SLCE-designed building under construction will have 790 units and feature 15,000 square feet of interior amenities for a fitness center, entertainment lounge, rooftop barbeque areas, yoga studio, media screening room, children’s playroom and library.

And under construction now is Tishman Speyer’s Jackson Park. It will include three high-rise rental towers, the tallest of which, at 28-34 Jackson Avenue, will be 53 stories and comprise roughly 650 apartments. The complex will have its own amenity building at 45,000 square feet. Those perks will include amenities like a swimming pool and fitness center.

Source: commercial

While Williamsburg Suffers L Train Problems, It’s LIC’s Time to Shine

Long Island City, Queens, has long been treated like Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s not-quite-ready-for-prime-time little brother.

Both waterfront communities are one stop from Manhattan and have seen great gusts of development since the beginning of the millennium, but Williamsburg has been the pricier, more desirable and cooler of the two. (Even though LIC had a much greater transportation network: eight subway lines, 15 buses and two ferry stations.)

Well, that’s likely to change when the L train takes a 15-month hiatus starting in April 2019 so the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can repair tunnels damaged by 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, real estate professionals say. (The L shutdown will interrupt 225,000 riders that ride the line between Manhattan and Brooklyn daily.)

“A bunch of residents that came to tour our building said ‘Williamsburg and Greenpoint is not for us—my commute can’t suffer [15 months] or longer,’ ” David Brause, the president of Brause Realty, which is completing a 38-story rental tower in LIC, told Commercial Observer.

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The Forge, Brause Realty’s 38-story rental in LIC. Photo: FXCollaborative

As Brause pointed out, “This is not an isolated story.”

Brause is among a fair number of developers and brokers that informed CO of the exodus from Williamsburg to LIC. David Maundrell, Citi Habitats’ executive vice president of new developments for Brooklyn and Queens, said that just this past weekend his office had five people from Williamsburg looking for rentals in LIC.

“It’s really just worrisome to a lot of people that there is no real solution but buses and Uber,” said Eric Benaim, the president, chief executive officer and founder of Long Island City-based Modern Spaces. “In four or five minutes you can be in Midtown Manhattan [from LIC]. And we have great parkland, and there are a lot of things to do here now.”

And he added, “There is obviously a buzz. I get all the time that ‘I’m hearing a lot of good things about Long Island City.’ ”

Another thing pushing residents to the Queens neighborhood: cheaper rents. The average rental unit in LIC was priced at $2,291 per month for a studio and $2,904 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to Modern Spaces’ fourth-quarter 2017 market report. Meanwhile, in Williamsburg it was $2,671 per month on average for a studio and $3,076 for a one-bedroom, according to Citi Habitats’ report for the same period.

And besides price and proximity to Manhattan, this isn’t your grandfather’s LIC—heck, it isn’t even your father’s LIC. There are more than 170,000 residents, 106,000 workers and 6,600 businesses in the neighborhood, according to the local economic development organization, the Long Island City Partnership.

Since 2006 more than 14,100 rental apartments and condominium units have been completed and there are another 19,100 in the planning stages or currently under construction. By 2020, the retail market is poised to more than double in size, adding 508,000 square feet to the current 325,000 square feet.

“Long Island City was once viewed as a location for convenience. Ten years ago you would move to Long Island City because you worked in [the] Grand Central [Terminal area], and you moved to Williamsburg because you wanted to live there,” said Stribling & Associates’ Patrick Smith, a resident of LIC and a residential agent that works in the area. “But what has happened over the course of the past 10 years is Long Island City is now perceived as a lifestyle neighborhood.”

Waterfront parks and good restaurants have sprouted up in the last few years in LIC, including Michelin-starred Casa Enrique and the highly respected Italian eatery Levante; art institutions like MoMA P.S. 1 and the Sculpture Center; two Food Cellar grocery stores and a Duane Reade; fitness facilities such as The Cliffs at LIC and Brooklyn Boulders; and schools, including the expanded P.S./I.S. 78Q and Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island (which is technically a part of Manhattan, but it’s pretty much in LIC).

And some of the retailers are picking up on the Williamsburg-to-LIC shuffle. The Gutter, a bar and bowling alley that opened in Williamsburg in 2007, opened an outpost in LIC last year. And Sweet Chick, the popular chicken and waffles concept started on Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue by John Seymour and rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones, announced in November 2017 plans to open an LIC eatery.

“LIC has some great restaurants and places to hang out,” said Helena Durst, a principal at Durst Organization. “It has a very cool vibe to it.”

Durst, in fact, is comfortable making a 765-foot tall bet in the neighborhood. The developer filed plans last July with the New York City Department of Buildings to erect a rental tower at 29-55 Northern Boulevard with 958 units—70 percent of which will be market-rate—and 15,000 square feet of retail. There will also be more than a half acre of open space.

Durst purchased the site in December 2016 from Property Markets Group and Hakim Organization for $175 million. The previous developers were planning a 66-story building at the site, which has a landmarked Clock Tower building with 53,000 square feet of commercial space. The developer is still planning out amenities in the building, but it banks on attracting professionals looking for value.

“We see the residential market continue to grow as people keep getting priced out of Manhattan,” Durst said.

Durst is hardly the only one who’s placing bets in LIC and as the skyscrapers keep rising, developers are trying to one-up each other with their amenity packages.

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Jackson Park will have a rooftop pool and two-acre park. Rendering: Tishman Speyer

“Renters are looking for new products that are highly amenitized,” said Erik Rose, a managing director for residential development in the New York region for Tishman Speyer. “They’ll even move out of buildings that are two and three years old for the latest and greatest.”

Tishman Speyer is expected to complete construction of its 1,871-unit, three-building rental named Jackson Park in LIC at the end of this year. The tallest structure—at 28-34 Jackson Avenue—will rise 53 stories.

The complex surrounds a two-acre private park, complete with dog run, children’s play area, outdoor seating, Ping-Pong tables, barbecue pits and bocce courts (because bocce tournaments are a thing in LIC, Rose said). In addition, there will be a 45,000-square-foot, five-story building with lounges, fitness center, 75-foot pool, sauna and full basketball court.

Brause Realty and Gotham Organization have really turned it up at their 38-story LIC building at 44-28th Purves Street named The Forge. Leasing for the 272 units started in August 2017, and it’s already 50 percent leased. The building comes with 26,000 square feet of amenity space including an outdoor pool (pools, by the way, are commonplace at new luxury LIC rentals), movie screen, hammocks, fitness center, bike storage, residents’ lounge and rooftop lounge with views of the Manhattan skyline and art installations. The building is also feng shui-certified, and the developers are seeking a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver designation.

Nearby is G&M Realty’s two-building 1,151-rental-unit complex at 22-44 Jackson Avenue. The project includes a 48-story structure and 41-story tower, both at the former site of 5 Pointz, the once-great graffiti complex. Amenities will include bike storage, pet grooming and other pet services, a swimming pool, a game room, a laundry room, a fitness center and a courtyard.

And Rockrose Development Corp. is building a 54-story rental at the former Eagle Electric Factory at 43-22 Queens Street called Eagle Lofts with 790 units. Building highlights: roof decks and 15,000 square feet of interior amenity space for a fitness center, an entertainment lounge, rooftop barbecue areas, a yoga studio, a media screening room, a children’s playroom and a library. And all apartments will come with washers and dryers.

Last April, Rockrose opened a 51-story building with 974 apartments (195 affordable) in LIC at 43-25 Hunter Street called Hayden. It’s already 85 percent leased and has 18,000 square feet of amenities—5,360-square-foot fitness center, full-sized basketball court, billiard room, solarium, yoga studio, Zen garden, media room, children’s playroom, rooftop terraces and all the units have washers and dryers.

The competition for renters is so stiff that landlords are giving away rent to woo tenants.

“You can do a two-year lease with one to three months of free rent,” Smith said. “Some developers are paying brokers’ fees.”

But LIC will be more than just another outer-borough bedroom community. Large mixed-use projects with office and retail spaces are on the way to beef up the office market.

Tishman Speyer is building The Jacx, a 1.2-million-square-foot office and retail building at 28-10 Queens Plaza South, where WeWork has already signed on for 225,000 square feet and Bloomingdales inked a deal for 550,000-square-foot offices.

The Jacx will also include over 50,000 square feet of curated retail space, including a market, food hall, upscale dining, boutique fitness center, 175 bike spaces and an onsite valet garage for 550 vehicles, according to the project website.

Another mixed-use megaproject is the TF Cornerstone-led development in the 4.5-acre Anable Basin inlet section of LIC.

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TF Cornerstone and its partners are development a mixed-use project in the Anable Basin section of LIC. Rendering: TF Cornerstone.

Alongside partners Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Coalition for Queens and BJH Advisors, TF Cornerstone was selected by the New York City Economic Development Corporation last July to build it. The two-tower development will feature 1,000 apartments, and one of the two towers will reach 650 feet.

In addition, it will house 400,000 square feet for offices and 100,000 square feet for light industrial use. The plans also call for an 80,000-square-foot public school, a 25,000-square-foot performing arts training facility and 19,000 square feet of retail.

“One of the primary goals of this project is to support the commercial, technology, artisan and industrial businesses of Long Island City, while also balancing that work environment with market and affordable housing,” Jake Elghanayan, a principal and senior vice president at TF Cornerstone, said in a statement when the project was announced. “By providing dedicated space for skilled job training programs, the project will generate a diverse set of economic and employment opportunities for New Yorkers.”   

Most of the Williamsburg folks looking to move to LIC are renters seeking short-term space—for 15 months—while the L train is shut down, according to Smith.

Home buying is a whole other subject. The L train shutdown won’t deter potential homebuyers from plunking down money in Williamsburg if they have the long game in mind, Smith said.

Part of the problem in LIC is a lack of inventory. Until now there was not much in the way of condos in the neighborhood, as most developers took advantage of 421a to build rentals with an affordable component. Nearly 2,800 of the 17,000 units planned in LIC between now and 2020 will be condos, according to Citi Habitats’ Maundrell.

But many condo projects have been announced recently, and Benaim is predicting a shift away from rentals soon.

“I think there is going to be a condo boom probably like by the third quarter of this year,” Benaim said. “We [will be marketing] buildings as small as 12 to 15 units and as large as 800 units.”

That 800-unit condo project at 23-15 44th Drive is called Court Square City View Tower. Developer Jiashu “Chris” Xu’s United Construction & Development Group is building the planned 66-story structure that is slated to rise 984 feet, making it the tallest structure in Queens.

Other LIC residential condo projects include Slate Property Group and Carlyle Group’s 88 unit building at 21-21 44th Drive and the 65-unit 5 Court Square by David Wu.

Condos are already achieving similar pricing to Williamsburg. The average condo in LIC sold for $1.1 million at $1,174 per square foot, according to data from Modern Spaces’ fourth-quarter 2017 report. In Williamsburg on the other hand it averaged $1.2 million at $1,264 per square foot, according to the Citi Habitats report.

“[LIC] has an extremely strong condo market, because there is really no supply and a lot of demand,” Maundrell said. “The demographic that is moving into Long Island City would like to buy but they can’t.”

With all of the new skyscrapers that will be popping up around LIC, one could mistake it for parts of Manhattan—just don’t call it Billionaires’ Row for non-billionaires.

“I wouldn’t call it Billionaires’ Row, because Billionaires’ Row has Central Park to look at,” Maundrell said. “And Billionaires’ Row doesn’t have rental buildings.”

It might not be West 57th Street in Manhattan, and it might not be Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg—but it is something exciting.

Source: commercial

Ryan Simonetti and Christopher Kelly on the Evolution of Event Space Provider Convene

In early 2011, William Elder, an executive vice president and the managing director of RXR Realty in New York City, received a call from Ryan Simonetti, a young real estate executive he knew.

Simonetti wanted to tell him about his new business: on-demand conference and event space provider Convene, which he co-founded with Christopher Kelly. Elder and Simonetti met at RXR’s 1336 Avenue of the Americas, where Simonetti was hoping to open a Convene outpost, but Elder wasn’t convinced.

“I didn’t get the conferencing thing,” Elder said. “And I said no.”

Elder’s rejection wasn’t exactly crazy. Six years ago, it was still pretty unquestioned that companies needed conference rooms and boardrooms in their offices. But within the next year, Elder started seeing a change. More firms started cutting back on these kinds of spaces. The idea of outsourced meeting rooms became intriguing. In 2012, he decided to work with Convene at 237 Park Avenue, where RXR was spending $50 million to upgrade the building.

As Elder took Fortune 100 companies on tours of the building, anytime he mentioned Convene, the company’s executives eyes would light up.

“Just having Convene working through [tenants’] plans, it just changed the conversation,” Elder said. “The 10 times a year they need that big boardroom, they can use Convene. So not only do they save on the buildout cost, but they save on the real estate cost for having to lease that extra space.”

When RXR bought 32 Old Slip in April 2015, which had a Convene in place, Elder accepted how popular the company was becoming.

“[Simonetti] is very future focused,” Elder said. “He sees things well before [others]. He identified a place in the market where there was a real need and no competition.”

But the vision never changed for Convene’s founders.

“Chris and I have had the same picture in our minds of an office building—the ideal experiential office building—since before we even first started the company,” said Simonetti, the chief executive officer of Convene.

Today, Convene has about 1 million square feet of event, meeting and conference space in the country—between Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and New York City—that services 25 million square feet of office buildings. The company plans to open another 2 million square feet by the end of next year within another 50 million square feet of real estate.

And over the next five years, Convene is looking to expand into Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Toronto. Internationally, the 340-person company also has plans for a London location in 2019.

“Tenants don’t need to take that [extra] space, and landlords don’t need to build common conference areas, and it’s of such high quality that it will help them attract tenants,” said Jeff Lessard, a senior managing director of strategic consulting at Cushman & Wakefield. “It’s a different angle into the industry than like a WeWork, but I would say it’s compelling.”

Convene will soon open a new location in RXR Realty’s 75 Rockefeller Plaza. (The specifics of this new space are not yet set.)

Although Convene’s roots are in on-demand meeting spaces, it has evolved in phases to become a complete hospitality company that transforms an office building into sort of a “lifestyle hotel”—something Simonetti claims was the goal all along. (The evolution of Convene is something that is very much on his mind. “There was a time when Amazon only sold books,” Simonetti told CO.)

After launching in 2009, Convene progressively added new divisions including an in-house architecture and design team, a workplace strategy team and a culinary group led by Regional Executive Chef German Villatoro, who creates menus for onsite kitchens at Convene spaces. Each location has a lead chef and culinary team, and some have cafés, too.

one world commons long table window 2 2 Ryan Simonetti and Christopher Kelly on the Evolution of Event Space Provider Convene
DOUBLE UP: Convene currently has nine active locations in New York City, including at 1 World Trade Center. Photo: Convene

Next, Convene plans to build technology and apps to connect tenants to its services. Recently, it launched Convene Workplace, a service that will provide working suites at Convene locations for companies with up to 100 employees.

But by getting into the office-space-providing business, Convene is now directly butting heads with companies like WeWork and Regus.

“As WeWork and Regus start catering to companies with 50 or 100 people [and not startups], they are moving into the landlords’ business,” Simonetti said. “So I think landlords are viewing them as competitors, meaning that they now have to respond. We have become the landlords’ response.” Convene’s model is closer to that of a property manager.

And now that the appetite for this kind of service seems to be proven, landlords like RXR, Durst Organization and Brookfield Property Partners are jumping aboard.

“There was a moment in the last six months where adopting agile and flexible work space went from being an opportunity for the landlords to not adopting it being a risk,” said Kelly, the president of Convene. “They want to make sure that they are mitigating risk.”

There are now nine active Convene venues in Gotham with four more under development or in the planning phase.

Convene recently opened on the 64th floor at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and Durst’s 1 World Trade Center, where the location features a café, meeting spaces, lounges and game rooms. It is accessible to all the tenants of the 3-million-square-foot building.

The company also has a location at Durst’s 117 West 46th Street, where the landlord first got acquainted with Convene in a typical owner-tenant relationship last year.

“We are of the opinion that the trend of greater hospitality in commercial buildings is a trend that will continue to grow and, over time, will become even more important,” David Neil, a principal at Durst, said. “Ryan and Chris have tapped into this trend and are well positioned to help landlords like ourselves be at the forefront of this movement.”

A year and a half ago, Brookfield Property Partners led a funding round for Convene that raised $20 million. And the landlord was among other established companies—including Durst and venture capital firms—that pulled in another $68 million in May 2017. To date Convene has raised about $119.2 million since 2009, according to the last announcement of funding. It is hoping to bring in $150 million in another funding round in early 2018.

Brookfield took a step further in its relationship with Convene in September, when it announced a partnership that will allow Convene to design, manage and operate workspaces and on-demand meeting and event spaces at the landlord’s downtown Los Angeles properties, starting with 333 South Grand Avenue and expanding to others in the future.

“Successful landlords will be those that work to provide solutions to their tenants’ desire for efficiency and flexibility,” Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield, said in prepared remarks provided to CO. “Convene helps owners do that by offering flexible meeting, social and coworking spaces, significantly enhancing the consumer-facing experience within a property.”

It was probably always destined that Simonetti and Kelly would found a thriving business together.

Simonetti, 36, grew up in Hillsborough, N.J., as an only child. His father runs a bread delivery route that hauls Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and has woken up at 2:30 every morning to deliver bread for 27 years (and still does today). It taught Simonetti the value of hard work.

He played basketball in high school and went on to Villanova University, where he met Kelly during freshman orientation, and the pair started hatching plans for extra cash almost immediately. They worked at restaurants, tended bars, bought used textbooks from their fellow students and sold them online and organized ticketed parties and spring break events.

“We were the only two guys at Villanova that didn’t have our parents’ credit cards,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a 35-year-old Armonk, N.Y., native, grew up as one of four boys.

ryanandchris 110 Ryan Simonetti and Christopher Kelly on the Evolution of Event Space Provider Convene
CONVENING WITH CONVENE: Ryan Simonetti, left, and Christopher Kelly launched Convene in 2009. Photo: Yvonne Albinowski/for Commercial Observer

His grandfather, the son of Greek immigrants, sold nuts on street corners in Manhattan as a child and became a screen door salesman as an adult. Later he ran a hardware store and got into the construction business, passing on his entrepreneurial spirit to Kelly.

While he was in grade school, Kelly’s family would go to Costco and buy items wholesale, including candy for the youngster, who would turn around and peddle it to other children on school buses.

“I always had a hustling mentality,” Kelly said.  “I still remember; Blow Pops were my first product.”

Kelly studied marketing and international business at Villanova. Following graduation in 2004, he took two years to travel around the globe, visiting about 30 countries and living on an average of $20 a day, he said. His travels took him to Asia for six months, one month in Africa, and six months in South America before he ended up in Costa Rica in Central America, where he opened a bar on the beach called Coconuts. (While in Costa Rica, he learned how to speak Spanish and to surf.)

As for his future partner, Simonetti interned for Goldman Sachs in college, and after graduating in 2005, he worked at Lehman Brothers Real Estate on the structured products side until 2006. Then he joined Gramercy Capital. At 26 years old, he was running a $3 billion portfolio that focused on office buildings and hotels.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Simonetti received many calls from tenants saying they needed to give back space as they were forced to cut costs.

That was when the idea struck about incorporating flexible conference and meeting spaces with services in office buildings, which became Convene.

“The first opportunity that I identified was why are office buildings not being run more like hotels and is there a way to think differently about how office buildings are built designed and operated,” Simonetti said.

A big problem, he realized, was the companies sign long-term sheets but don’t have crystal balls.

“How could a CEO of any company predict 10 years from now what their business is going to look like, how many employees should they have, what is the design going to be, [and] what that experience is going to be,” Simonetti said. “And I thought, if given a better option, would companies actually outsource a portion of their real estate strategy?”

To help start his business, Simonetti called Kelly, who moved to Colorado in 2006 to start a private jet charter business called evoJets. He had a house, a car and a girlfriend, now his wife.

But he decided to take a vacation and travel to New York and meet with Simonetti. “I had coffee with Ryan, and he explained to me the vision for the company, and I literally never went home [to Colorado] from vacation,” Kelly said.

Convene was born the following year in November 2009, and today Simonetti and Kelly currently live down the street from each other in Tribeca.

Kelly, a married father of two young children, has run a few marathons, a biathlon and a half ironman. He recently completed the New York Marathon in November in a personal best: 2:57:59.

Simonetti, a married father of a 3-year-old boy, practices Muay Thai and boxing and has taken part in two amateur mixed martial arts fights as well as a boxing match. (He won the two Muay Thai bouts, but his boxing record is 0-1, he admitted. He declined to say anything other than the fighter he lost to has more experience in the ring.)

“For me, [martial arts] becomes a great counterbalance to the pressures and stresses of being a husband and father and obviously running a high-growth business,” Simonetti said. “And you learn a lot about yourself when you step into a ring.”

When Convene opens its largest location yet—58,000 square feet at Cove Property Group’s 101 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan—early next year, it will be more than just on-demand meeting and event space with concierge service and a kitchen. There the company plans to officially launch Convene Workplace to provide flexible office suites for companies. The service will also open in Convene’s new Los Angeles locations and in the Philadelphia outpost as well.

The recently formed Convene technology department is hard at work on a mobile app for next year that will connect tenants to Convene services within buildings so they can do things like order food from the Convene kitchen for delivery to their office. This app will also be introduced at 101 Greenwich.

“As a landlord, we want to ensure that we cater to tenants’ need to attract and retain the best and brightest talent,” said Kevin Hoo, the founder and managing partner of Cove. “And partnering with someone like Convene, [which] has a competitive advantage and insight into this paradigm, made sense for us.”

Source: commercial

CO’s ‘Women in Construction & Design’ Event Celebrates Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Some of the most accomplished women working in the fields of construction, architecture and development gathered at Commercial Observer’s “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Leading Women in Construction & Design” event on Tuesday, where the conversation revolved around both the challenges facing, and the opportunities available to, women in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The morning was anchored by CO’s presentation of its 2017 Women in Construction Awards to six individuals who have made a mark upon their respective industries over the course of their careers.

The “Barrier-Breaker Award,” honoring women who have set a precedent in their fields, were presented to Aine Brazil, vice chairman at engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti; Jan Hilgeman, vice president of construction at Hines; and Carol Patterson, a senior partner at law firm Zetlin & De Chiara.

The “Woman on the Rise Award,” celebrating some of the most promising individuals working in the industry today, were given to Pascale Sablan, a senior associate at S9 Architecture, and Margaret Wrzos, an assistant project manager at AECOM Tishman.

And the “Innovative Designer/Engineer Award” was presented to Marianne Kwok, a senior designer at Kohn Pedersen Fox.

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Keynote speaker Linda Chiarelli at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

But the day also featured three broad-ranging panel discussions and a keynote address from Linda Chiarelli, vice president for capital projects and facilities at New York University. Chiarelli, who served as deputy director of construction for Forest City Ratner Companies before joining NYU, noted that women make up only 9 percent of the construction industry’s workforce—with many of those jobs in administrative and non-construction-related roles.

But she also cited progress from the days when job interviewers would ask “if I planned to have kids,” and urged attendees to be aware of the city’s new law prohibiting employers from inquiring about job applicants’ previous salaries—a regulation designed to lessen the pay gap faced by women and people of color. “You should all be aware [of the law],” Chiarelli said.

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(From left) Karla Pascarella, Marissa Kelly, Stacey Dackson, Megumi Brod, Maey Khaled and Anita Woolley at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

She was followed by the morning’s first panel, “Challenges and Opportunities for Women—Fostering a Culture of Diversity from the Field to the Boardroom.” Anita Woolley, first vice president of strategy and communications for AECOM’s construction services group, noted the benefits of “having people of different backgrounds” on staff, citing studies indicating that “diverse teams are more successful.”

Maey Khaled, director of technical services at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, recalled engineering courses where she’d frequently “be the only woman in the class” and stressed the need to foster industry participation from women at an earlier age group. Stacey Dackson, a project manager at Structure Tone, echoed that sentiment and the need to educate young women about the career opportunities available in the construction industry, citing the field’s “tremendous economic viability.”

Marissa Kelly, a project executive at Cauldwell Wingate Company, said that there is still the flawed perception that “women are too emotional to be in leadership positions” at a corporate level—a notion that “holds women back” in the industry, she said—while Megumi Brod, senior vice president and Northeast regional development officer for Rockefeller Group, urged attendees to both “be a mentor” to other women in their fields and also “make a mentor” who can help guide them through their career paths.

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(From left) Melissa Grzymala, Helena Durst and Jane Smith at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

The second panel of the day, “Women Leaders in Construction & Design—How They Paved the Way,” included the likes of Kimberly Steimle Vaughan, chief marketing officer and chief people officer at construction firm Suffolk, who cited her company’s efforts to “create a culture of inclusion” and “infuse people in the organization from different backgrounds.” Vaughan said that while roughly a third of the firm’s workforce is comprised of women, she had been to job sites where there were more women at work than men, and that diversity had become a key tenant of Suffolk’s corporate philosophy.

Melissa Grzymala, an executive project manager at Faithful+Gould, recalled a high school guidance counselor’s incredulity at her career goal of becoming an engineer, while Elisabeth Malsch, a principal at Thornton Tomasetti, noted the importance of hiring women given how they occupy a roughly equal share of the graduating classes at most higher education institutions. “If you’re not hiring women, you’re not hiring the top of the class,” Malsch said.

Jane Smith, a partner at architecture and interior design firm Spacesmith, said that “obviously things have changed [in the industry]” since she first started, and urged the conversation away from the obstacles facing women. “The women in this room shouldn’t need to worry about whether they’re women or men,” Smith said. “Let’s talk about how we can succeed.”

Helena Durst, a principal at the Durst Organization, agreed with Smith’s argument, noting that the principles being discussed on the panel “are not male or female values; they’re hirable values…. We shouldn’t be talking about maternity or paternity leave; we should be talking about child care.”

But Durst also acknowledged that her own company “has a lot to learn” and is “far from perfect” as far as gender equity in the workforce, adding that the effort to improve “starts with awareness” and “talking about biases,” as well as “looking at policies that are [both] written and unwritten.”

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(From left) Susan Radin, Jan Hilgeman and Jennifer Bernell at CO’s “Women in Construction & Design” event. Photo: Aaron Adler

The morning’s third and final panel, “Creating the Next Generation of Women in Construction & Design,” featured Gilbane Building Company’s Brennan Gilbane Koch noting how the four previous generations of Gilbanes who led the family-led construction firm were almost entirely men—a state of affairs that has changed, given her current role as Gilbane’s business development manager. Anne Fletcher, a principal at architecture giant HOK, said that when she started in the industry she found herself not only doing “everything my male colleagues did,” but also “arrang[ing] shipping” and “answer[ing] the phone because I had the best phone voice.”

While Fletcher was recently named the new managing principal of HOK’s Los Angeles office, she also noted that she’s one of only six women on HOK’s 34-member board of directors—indicating the progress that remains to be seen in the industry.

Jennifer Bernell, executive vice president of development for Kushner Companies, discussed the challenges of balancing her role at Kushner with her responsibilities as the mother of four young boys—adding that she has been “fortunate” to have the support of her company, as far as maintaining a flexible schedule allowing her to meet the demands of being both an executive and a parent.

Susan Radin, a senior project manager at Turner Construction Company, cited progress as far as work-life balance expectations that are no longer exclusively faced by women—noting that in previous years, she “never heard from male colleagues that they had to [leave work early to] take care of their kids.”

Hines’ Hilgeman, who in addition to receiving the “Barrier-Breaker Award” also spoke on the panel, added that in her own career, she has stories about workplace harassment “not unlike what’s [been] in the news today.”

“We all have those stories, and we’re going to have them no matter what industry we’re in,” she said. “I think it’s a much broader, underlying cultural issue.”

Source: commercial

Owners Magazine 2017: Interviews with NYC’s Top Landlords

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At the risk of stating the forehead-slapping obvious, it’s been a strange 12 months.

There’s been a mixture of good and bad real estate news that can paint a picture of continued stability or darkening clouds on the horizon, depending on your point of view.

By October, the vacancy rate in all three major Manhattan markets for office space appeared to be falling, per Cushman & Wakefield data. Hundreds of thousands of square feet have been leased by Spotify, GroupM, Amazon and others. All of that is inarguably good news.

However, a year ago, few people knew that we were sitting on a retail powder keg ready to blow and take some of the biggest names in the industry with it, like Toys “R” Us, Aerosoles, Payless, Radio Shack…you get the idea. This is inarguably bad.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a magazine like this one.

Yes, the data, the deals and the numbers are critical to understanding the state of real estate. But it’s also important to get a sense of what the key players are thinking right now. That’s why we asked 36 of the biggest names in the business what their vision of the market looks like.

We’ve supplemented these questionnaires with our own reported features.

Last year, New York was considered immune to the vicissitudes of the world economy because we were always a safe, stable place to park cash. That looked like less of a sure bet when China announced new outbound investment rules. Lauren Elkies Schram examines the topic in her story in this issue.

Some in the real estate community long hoped for a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year’s mayoral election and put substantial money behind Paul Massey (one of their own) to take the reins of City Hall before that fizzled out. At the risk of propagating a Dewey-Truman blooper (we ship this magazine before Election Day), Aaron Short reported what developers are expecting and hoping for in de Blasio’s second term.

While many developers have spent the last few years touting the Far West Side of Manhattan, there is actually quite a bit of activity on the East River, something that Rey Mashayekhi examines in depth.

Finally, Liam La Guerre looked at something that’s always been written off as anathema to real estate developers: technology. It turns out, the shrewd owners are not only interested in tech, but they’re also developing their own. — Max Gross 

Source: commercial

Delivering Amazon: This Is What’s Right and Wrong With the City’s Pitches for HQ2

Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that Amazon received 238 proposals from cities and regions that want to house its second North American headquarters.

Indeed, Amazon has a lot to offer: a promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion to spend. Everyone—including Gotham—wants in on the action.

In its attempt to lure Jeff Bezos to our city, New York hasn’t shown this much leg since The Deuce era.

More than 70 elected officials—from Public Advocate Letitia James, to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito—signed a statement touting New York City’s accessibility to both Boston and Washington, D.C.; its commitment to sustainability; Citi Bike and the largest subway system in the world (wisely, nobody mentioned MTA’s “summer of hell”) and “affordability”—as in, the fact that the administration has promised 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. (Friendly advice: The word “affordability” isn’t something that really works to New York’s advantage in real estate matters. But too late now.)

“Companies don’t just come to New York,” Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in his seduction letter. “They become part of New York.”

In its official presentation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation proposed four different neighborhoods that could conceivably do the job: Lower Manhattan, the Far West Side, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.

And while everybody weighs in (Moody’s pegged New York’s chance of landing Amazon as sixth in the country—after Austin, Texas; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Rochester, N.Y.; and Pittsburg—as per a New York Times story), it’s worth considering the four areas up for consideration, what they all have to offer and what the NYCEDC probably won’t mention.—Max Gross

Lower Manhattan

Over the 16 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, Lower Manhattan has been transformed from a financial district to a commercial and residential hub.

It is this very evolution—plus its transportation network—that makes the neighborhood ideal for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America, Lower Manhattan boosters say.

Amazon wants 500,000 square feet of office space in 2018 with another 7.5 million square feet over time. And Lower Manhattan has the potential for over 8.5 million square feet of space, according to the city’s recent proposal to Amazon.

Granted, Downtown Manhattan would not be the cheapest option nationwide. But, “cost of space should be least of their concerns,” Marty Burger, the chief executive officer of Silverstein Properties, said in a survey for Commercial Observer’s upcoming Owners Magazine. (The landlord owns the majority of the World Trade Center buildings.)

“Most important is access to new talent,” he continued. “You want a place that has A) the best transportation, B) a great pool of people to draw from. When we look at the lower tip of Manhattan, it has the best access to all this talent—Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Jersey City, even Long Island. There are 10 million people to draw that talent from.”

Lower Manhattan has a high concentration of mass transit with 13 subway lines and the PATH train, and those transit hubs have been upgraded with abundant retail and dining options as well as climate-controlled concourses, said John Wheeler, a managing director who runs JLL’s Lower Manhattan office.

Downtown Manhattan boasts access to the waterfront, more than 83 acres of open space and enticing dining options, from food halls like Hudson Eats in Brookfield Place to restaurants helmed by star chefs, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and Danny Meyer, to fast-casual chains like Chop’t Creative Salad Company and Dig Inn.

Burger has already figured out how to make it work for what’s being called Amazon HQ2.

“We could put together a campus for them,” Burger said. “They could take the top of 3 World Trade Center. We could work with Durst [Organization] to get them the top of 1 World Trade Center. We have a potential to build 2 World Trade Center and 5 World Trade Center. We could put together 7 million square feet.”

But there are also other options for Amazon.

Wheeler noted that, while the World Trade Center would be “part of the solution,” other candidates include Brookfield Place, 28 Liberty Street and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s headquarters building at 7 Hanover Square.
Lauren Elkies Schram

Long Island City

Long Island City’s relatively recent transformation from an industrial outpost to Queens waterfront hotspot has been mostly fueled by residential development, with more than 14,000 new units built since 2006 and another 19,000-plus in the pipeline, according to data from the Long Island City Partnership.

As far as commercial development is concerned, however, the neighborhood by most accounts has some way to go. Most of Long Island City’s new office stock has come in the form of repositioning existing warehouse buildings into loft-like spaces mostly of a scale smaller than what Amazon would demand.

But the city is floating LIC as a legitimate option for Amazon, citing the neighborhood’s “creative” appeal as “home to over 150 restaurants, bars and cafés” and more than 40 “arts and cultural institutions” including galleries, museums and theaters, according to the NYCEDC’s proposal.

While the proposal cites “over 13 million square feet of first-class real estate” available in the neighborhood, how much of that qualifies as office space that would suit Amazon’s needs is murkier. Per the LIC Partnership, the area has roughly 7.5 million square feet of existing, nonretail commercial space—which would already fall short of the 8 million that Amazon will eventually require—and another 4.5 million square feet on the way by 2020.

But projects like The Jacx—Tishman Speyer’s two-towered development that promises to bring 1.2 million square feet of Class A office and retail space to Jackson Avenue—hope to further enhance the neighborhood’s office chops. And perhaps the biggest advantage LIC has is its relative affordability compared to the other areas under consideration with the city citing “price points that compare favorably with commercial centers across the five boroughs.”

For developers like TF Cornerstone, which was an early believer in Long Island City and has helped facilitate its transformation via multiple large-scale residential projects, Amazon’s arrival would be a massive boon to the neighborhood’s economy—one that would fuel demand for the thousands of new residential units due to come online, attract needed retail to the area and heighten its profile as an office destination. In turn, LIC’s relatively central location within the five boroughs and robust public transit offerings would give Amazon what it needs for a viable HQ2.

“The north Long Island City waterfront offers the best location for a large user like Amazon,” Jake Elghanayan, a senior vice president at TF Cornerstone, told Commercial Observer in a forthcoming interview for Commercial Observer’s Owners Magazine. Elghanayan cited the neighborhood’s large “contiguous development area” and robust public transit offerings, as well as its proximity to the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.—Rey Mashayekhi

West Side of Manhattan

Those associated with the Hudson Yards megaproject like to say that “a new city” is being built on Manhattan’s Far West Side, and it’s hard to argue with the assessment. With tens of millions of square feet of new commercial space due to come online in the area over the coming years, Hudson Yards would most likely serve as the centerpiece of the city’s effort to get Amazon to commit HQ2 to Manhattan’s West Side.

Besides the sprawling 28-acre development being undertaken by Related Companies and Oxford Properties, there is also Brookfield Property Partners’ Manhattan West project nearby, where Amazon already has a sizable footprint. Last month, the tech giant committed to taking 360,000 square feet of office space at 5 Manhattan West, where it will house 2,000 employees and serve as the primary location for Amazon’s advertising division. (CO first reported that Amazon was in talks for the space in April.)

The city’s proposal for HQ2 also cites the nearby Penn Plaza district, where Vornado Realty Trust—the largest commercial landlord in the area surrounding Penn Station—has in recent years talked up a large-scale repositioning of its assets in a bid to capitalize on the West Side’s newfound appeal as an office destination.

In total, the city says the West Side offers Amazon more than 26 million feet of available office space to build its campus—more than triple the 8 million Amazon will need long term—as well as ample transit options for the company’s sizable workforce: 15 subway lines, plus access to the PATH, the Long Island Rail Road, the Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak, not to mention the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Hudson River ferry service.

But the West Side could prove cost prohibitive; it is the most expensive of the four New York City submarkets being floated as options for Amazon. With the cost of living and doing business in New York already the biggest drawback in the city’s bid for HQ2, the likes of Related and Brookfield may have to look elsewhere to fill up all that office space.

Such cost concerns aren’t discouraging neighborhood stakeholders, however. “Manhattan’s always been expensive, but it gives you other things,” said Robert Benfatto, the president of the Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen Alliance Business Improvement District. “It has its upsides and downsides, but it tends to be attractive to businesses.”—R.M.

Downtown Brooklyn

Out of the four neighborhoods New York City proposed for Amazon’s second headquarters, the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” of Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn and the Navy Yard might hold the most promise. Although the area doesn’t have much office space right now, several large projects are either under construction or in the pipeline. At the Navy Yard, Rudin Management and Boston Properties’ Dock 72 will bring 675,000 square feet of offices—anchored with a 222,000-square-foot WeWork—to a former dry dock on the East River.

Besides Dock 72, landlord Brooklyn Navy Yard Economic Development Corporation is leasing up a newly renovated 1-million-square-foot industrial and office building called Building 77, and there’s available space at Steiner Studios, the film and television production complex on the eastern edge of the yard. The closest subway stations are about a mile away in Dumbo (certainly its biggest drawback), but the yard has begun running shuttle buses that take commuters into Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn for easy transit access. It’s also about to open a new ferry stop next to Dock 72.

TerraCRG Founder Ofer Cohen dispelled concerns about the Navy Yard’s lack of transit, pointing out that it hasn’t prevented hip companies from setting up shop there. New Lab, an innovative science and tech coworking space, recently opened in Building 128. And Building 77 hosts tenants like startup incubator 1776, a commissary kitchen for small food manufacturers called Tiny Drumsticks and fashion company Lafayette 148. He noted that Dock 72 would probably be the only project large enough to accommodate Amazon’s requirement of 500,000 square feet of office space in 2019.

“Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle are poised for significant growth,” said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer. “There’s a huge demand for Class A space in Downtown Brooklyn. We have 1,400 innovative companies in the broader tech triangle. And we have an amazing pipeline of new talent for companies relocating to the tech triangle because we have 10 different colleges.”

Myer pointed to several sites in Downtown Brooklyn that could host Amazon. Rabsky Group could build an office building as large as 770,000 square feet on its vacant parcel at 625 Fulton Street, and RedSky Capital could develop a huge commercial and residential project on its assemblage bounded by Dekalb Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street. And Tishman Speyer is developing the Wheeler, a 10-story office building, on top of the Art Deco Macy’s department store at 422 Fulton Street.

CPEX Real Estate’s Timothy King, the brokerage’s managing partner, pointed out that Amazon would have convenient access to plenty of retail and amenities in Downtown Brooklyn, including hospitals, hotels, shopping, restaurants and bars. And when you consider Atlantic Terminal, the broader tech triangle offers 13 subway lines. “Short of going out in the desert somewhere and building some kind of utopian village,” he said, “I’d be hard pressed to find some place better for Amazon than beautiful Downtown Brooklyn.”—Rebecca Baird-Remba

Source: commercial

Fujitsu America, Two Other Tenants Renew at Durst’s 733 Third Avenue

Three tenants—Fujitsu America, Marwood Group and Continental Industries Group—have signed leases to remain at 733 Third Avenue between East 45th and East 46th Streets, Commercial Observer has learned. The 10-year deals were all negotiated in the last few few weeks, with an asking rent of $68 per square foot, according to the landlord, the Durst Organization.

In the largest of the latest transactions, Fujitsu America, which provides a portfolio of business technology services, computing platforms and industry solutions, has renewed a deal to remain in 10,964 square feet on the 17th floor at the Midtown building, as per information from Durst.

Fujitsu, a tenant in the building since 2004, is renovating its suite to accommodate the digital team’s need for an open-concept floor plan, the landlord indicated. Brian Cohen of Newmark Knight Frank represented Fujitsu in the deal. A NKF spokesman didn’t respond with a comment.

Marwood Group, a health care-focused advisory and consulting firm, will continue leasing the 25,438-square-foot 11th floor.

“Marwood has been at 733 Third for almost 10 years,” emailed Dennis Someck of Lee & Associates NYC, Marwood’s long-time exclusive broker. “The building has worked well for them and Durst has been a terrific landlord. After reviewing and evaluating all other options Marwood decided that it made sense to remain in their current location. The Durst team…was terrific to deal with and structured an economically attractive deal to retain Marwood as their tenant.”

And Continental Industries, a global sales and distribution company of chemicals and polymers, will be relocating from the 20th floor to the 7,442-square-foot 21st floor. Michael Joseph of Colliers International represented Continental Industries, a Colliers spokeswoman confirmed, saying that the broker declined to comment.

Durst’s Ashley Gee represented Durst in-house in all three deals.

“We are thrilled to have Fujitsu, Marwood and Continental Industries renew their leases at 733 Third Avenue,” Jonathan “Jody” Durst, the president of the Durst Organization, said in a prepare statement. “It is a great compliment when a tenant stays in our portfolio. We look forward continuing our relationships with these stellar companies.”

Durst erected the Emery Roth & Sons-designed building in 1961. The 24-story, 445,000-square-foot structure is 98.3 percent occupied, Durst’s spokesman said. Major tenants include National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Rodale and Rosenberg & Estis.

Source: commercial

Fetner Gets $202M Refi for Midtown Mixed-Use Property

The New York State Housing Finance Agency has provided Fetner Properties, Inc. with a $176.8 million loan for The Epic, a 59-story primarily residential skyscraper located at 125 West 31st Street.

The $176.8 million senior portion replaces a previous loan of the same amount. HFA also provided an additional $25 million subordinate note for the construction of the building’s multifamily portion where 20 percent of the units are reserved for affordable housing, according to information from HFA’s website.

The financing was assigned to Wells Fargo, property records show, and the loan was provided from the proceeds of tax-exempt bonds. A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo was not immediately able to respond for a request for comment.

Fetner Properties acquired the Durst Organizations stake in the 473,783-square-foot, 459-unit condominium building in April 2016 as part of the two firms dissolving its $740 million residential development partnership, Durst Fetner Residential.

The building was constructed in 2005 and includes 326,067 square feet of residential space, roughly 4,917 square feet of retail space and 25,009 of parking garage space, according to information from PropertyShark. It is comprised of a five-story facility for a non-profit organization and an 11-story American Cancer Society “Hope Lodge” to support cancer sufferers, according information from HFA and ACS.

Officials at HFA did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the financing. Officials at Fetner Properties did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Baird-Remba

Source: commercial

Checking in With Halletts Point in Astoria, Queens

The Durst Organization’s attempt to build a new neighborhood on the Astoria waterfront is finally taking shape. The first building in the Halletts Point megaproject topped out two weeks ago at the corner of 26th Avenue and First Street, just steps from the East River.

The 22-story tower, dubbed 10 Halletts Point, will bring 408 new apartments to a remote slice of Queens dominated by New York City Housing Authority’s 22-building Astoria Houses complex, which was constructed in 1951. By the time it’s done, the 2.4-million-square-foot Halletts Point project will comprise seven buildings, 2,000 apartments (including 483 affordable ones), plus 69,000 square feet of retail and a public waterfront esplanade. Five partially affordable high-rises will dominate the waterfront, and two smaller, entirely below-market-rate buildings will rise further inland.

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Halletts Point Building 1 after being topped out. Photo: Durst Organization

While the full buildout of Durst’s $1.5 billion development won’t be complete until 2023, the first building—which will have 81 affordable units—will be finished in the summer of 2018. Designed by Dattner Architects, the building at 26-01 First Street will be split into two towers and clad in a mix of glass and copper-hued metal paneling. A 24,000-square-foot Brooklyn Harvest Market will anchor the ground floor, bringing the Dursts a tax break and a valuable amenity to the neighborhood. (So far, Dattner Architects designed the master plan for the projects as well as Buildings 1 and 7; Davis Brody Bond is designing Buildings 2 and 3; the remaining three buildings have not been assigned an architect yet.)

“We’re excited about creating this new urban presence in Queens and drawing people back to the waterfront, which has been under-utilized for a while,” said architect Steve Frankel, a project manager at Dattner who’s overseeing Halletts Point. “A lot of the buildings have been oriented so they create new corridors to the river. They let light and air in so people walking through the neighborhood can connect to the waterfront.”

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Halletts Point Building 1, from street level. Photo: Durst Organization

The developers have scrapped plans for a cogeneration plant that would have powered the entire complex on its own, but the project will still incorporate environmentally friendly features. Ten Halletts Point (known as Building 1 on the site’s master plan) will have its own blackwater treatment plant, which will recycle and treat 50,000 to 80,000 gallons of wastewater a day and pump it back into other parts of the building. After the water has been treated with microbes, aerated and disinfected with chlorine, it can be used to water plants and flush toilets. The building will also be cooled by a chilled water system, which is a form of air conditioning typically used in office buildings. The system sends cool water throughout the building, and as the water passes over coils, the system sucks in hot air and chills the water before recirculating it through the building.

“We’ll have a central chiller plant [in Building 3]. Each apartment will have fan chiller units rather than a conventional through-the-wall air conditioning system,” explained Jonathan “Jody” Durst, the president of the Durst Organization. “And that will save about 50 percent of the utility power that would normally be required for a conventional air conditioning system.”

Tenants will also have access to a host of creature comforts in Building 1. The property will be outfitted with a large, landscaped terrace on the fourth floor, a smaller deck on the eighth floor, as well as several other outdoor terraces, yoga room, fitness center, children’s playroom and a rec room. The five waterfront buildings will share amenities, and they’ll be connected by swaths of newly created green space.

north tower superstructure work Checking in With Halletts Point in Astoria, Queens
Workers do steel work at Building 1. Photo: Durst Organization.

It is a mammoth construction job; so far, among the contractors, consultants and engineers that have been hired for work on Halletts Point, according to the project’s website, are East Coast Drilling (ECD), Gleeds, Incinia Contracting Inc., Lagan (the environmental engineering firm), Longman Lindsey, McLaren Engineering Group, Milrose, Natural Systems Utilities, New Line Structures, Perciballi Industries, Philip Habib and Associates, Severud Associates, VDA (Van Deusen and Associates, for the elevators) and Vidaris.

Source: commercial