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Proptech Firm Reonomy Raises $16M in Latest Funding Round

Real estate technology startup Reonomy has sealed its latest funding round after securing $16 million from a group of investors led by existing backer Bain Capital Ventures, the proptech firm announced this morning.

The Series C round takes Reonomy’s total capital raised to more than $38 million since the company’s founding in 2013. In addition to receiving additional investment from previous backers Bain Capital and Silicon Valley Bank, the firm also secured funding from the likes of Marcus & Millichap subsidiary MMC Technology Ventures, billionaire businessman John CatsimatidisRed Apple Group and Jaws Estates Capital, the family office of Starwood Capital Group head Barry Sternlicht.

Reonomy develops and runs an online platform offering a wide array of property data—including building history, owner information, sales and financing history, and zoning and tax data—to the real estate investors, brokers, lenders and appraisers that make up its clientele. While the Flatiron District-based company launched with a focus on its home New York City market, Reonomy expanded its platform nationally last year and now claims information on more than 45 million properties in 3,000 counties across the country.

The proptech firm plans to deploy the funds from the latest round to further invest in research and development for its enhanced data platform, as well as to help grow its roughly 30-person staff—a headcount that Reonomy co-Founder and CEO Richard Sarkis said he’d like to double “within the next 12 to 18 months.”

“We’ve spent years and millions of dollars developing a unique data asset, and this [funding] is going to help us invest further in R&D,” Sarkis told Commercial Observer.

In addition to expanding nationally last year, Reonomy started servicing “enterprise customers” who—unlike subscribers who log in and access the platform online—receive property data directly from the firm via an API data feed that is “piped into their system,” Sarkis said.

Sarkis compared the new enterprise offering to how financial software and data giant Bloomberg LP is able to provide its clientele with a stream of market data through products like the Bloomberg Terminal. Commercial brokerage giant Newmark Knight Frank is among the enterprise clients now relying on the API feed to receive data from Reonomy for its own in-house operational use.

Raj Bhatti, NKF’s chief technology officer, said in a statement that the brokerage’s use of Reonomy data is part of an effort “to integrate several systems into a single interface to create a game-changing tool for our professionals.” He described Reonomy as “a core part of the sophisticated resource we are building” with the goal of making “powerful data accessible to employees across our organization.”

Alex Yarmolinsky, managing director of MMC Technology Ventures—the Marcus & Millichap proptech investment arm that pitched into the $16 million funding round—said in a statement that Reonomy’s “dedication to providing superior data and analyses will help the commercial real estate industry harness machine learning and data science.”

“Their tools empower commercial brokers everywhere to achieve their goals with greater efficiency, and we’re excited to become an investor in Reonomy,” he said.

Source: commercial

Cushman & Wakefield’s James Nelson Making Move to Avison Young

After much speculation and rumor, Commercial Observer can report that Cushman & Wakefield’s James Nelson is jumping to Avison Young.

Nelson’s decision comes shortly after the former Massey Knakal Realty Services partners—including Nelson, Stephen Palmese, Thomas Donovan, John Ciraulo as well as Massey Knakal Founders Robert Knakal and Paul Massey—received the remaining $25 million C&W owed them from the 2014 purchase of Massey Knakal.

Nelson, a vice chairman in the capital markets group at C&W, handles investment sales with his 11-person team. His deals have included selling a Hudson Yards development site, which had a combination of parcels, to Tishman Speyer in 2014 for $238 million. And the Colgate University graduate brokered the sale of Dime Community Bancshares’ $80 million Williamsburg portfolio in 2016.  

He was a partner at Massey Knakal and joined C&W after the global company bought New York-centric Massey Knakal on Dec. 31, 2014 for $100 million.

The deal stipulated that the partners could get 75 percent of the money at closing (although four administrative partners were paid off in full at closing), and the remaining 25 percent on a nine-year note, a source with knowledge of the deal said. But if the brokers remained working at the company as of Dec. 31, 2017, the following day they could accelerate it from nine years to three years. They all gave notice to accelerate it on the first of this year, and they received the remaining 25 percent of their money about two weeks ago.

So while Nelson, Palmese, Donovan and Ciraulo’s contracts expired on Dec. 31, 2017, they couldn’t realistically plan an exit until they received the outstanding funds. (Knakal and Massey’s non-compete and no-solicitation deals expire June 30.)

Mitti Liebersohn, the president and managing director of New York City operations at Avison Young, worked to reel in Nelson for a while, with Nelson spotted around the Avison Young offices on the 15th floor at 1166 Avenue of the Americas between West 45th and West 46th Streets. Liebersohn even made an informal announcement to a team of leasing brokers last month that the firm was close to poaching the big-time broker.

“James Nelson has decided to leave Cushman & Wakefield to pursue other opportunities,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “We appreciate his contributions to the firm and wish him success in his future endeavors. Cushman & Wakefield will continue to seize the opportunity to attract and retain the best talent.”

The timing is good as C&W is having the former Massey Knakal brokers, still working at 275 Madison Avenue, relocate to C&W’s 1290 Avenue of the Americas next month.

Moving from the well-established global C&W to Toronto-headquartered Avison Young, a relative newcomer to New York City, makes sense for Nelson, according to one broker, as he won’t be competing with heavy-hitting investment sales brokers internally, as he is at C&W. Avison Young has focused on office leasing in New York City since opening in 2011.

“He gets the same international platform to play on but has some more elbow room in the sandbox where he is playing,” the broker said.

As for Avison Young, Nelson would help beef up its investment sales business.

“Avison needs someone [selling buildings],” another broker said. “Brokers all have gigantic egos. If he goes there he’ll be the number one sales guy at a reasonably sized firm and he can build a sales team there.”

A spokesman for Avison Young did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did executives for the company or Nelson.

Source: commercial

Fifth Wall, Rudin Raise $4.3M in Seed Funding for PropTech Company

Fifth Wall Ventures led a $4.25 million seed funding round for Enertiv, a property tech company that creates hardware and software to track the performance and energy usage of building systems, Commercial Observer has learned.

Rudin Ventures, the Rudin family’s investing arm, also joined the funding round as well as New York Angels, Cerium Technology and MetaProp NYC. Enertiv, a seven-year-old company with 15 employees, is currently using its technology in 200 buildings across 30 states. The funding will help Enertiv expand its products and hire up to 10 more employees, such as product engineers and data scientists, within the year.

“We know we have a great team, we know we are solving a problem that often gets overlooked, we know we are really far ahead in the [industry], it’s nice that that was finally acknowledged by some key players like Rudin and Fifth Wall,” Connell McGill, a co-founder of Enertiv, told CO.

Enertiv builds meters, “Internet of things” sensors and software applications that allow it to capture data from building systems, such as energy usage from boilers, elevators, pumps, chillers and exhaust fans. This gives landlords knowledge about the intricate workings of their structures.

Furthermore, through Enertiv’s system one can digitally check on any specific equipment in their property, allowing building managers to quickly identify and repair problems, and even predict equipment failures ahead of time. Also if an equipment breakdowns the system will alert the building manager automatically. Ultimately, this technology can help owners reduce energy consumption and save money, McGill said. The company’s technology can also integrate with energy meters built by other companies.

Fifth Wall’s partners, which include major real estate owners and developers like Hines, Lennar, Macerich, and Rudin Management Company, invested in Enertiv because they are concerned about “energy consumption and energy savings,” said Adam Demuyakor, a senior associate at Fifth Wall.

“In older office buildings, there is no management system or brain there, so it’s a ‘dumber building,’” Demuyakor said. “Plugging Enertiv’s smart meter in, will turn them into ‘smart buildings.’ The potential for Enertiv is quite large.”

McGill declined to share the total amount of funding the company had to date.

Enertiv’s products have helped property owners reduce total operating expenses on average by about five percent, according to McGill. Another significant benefit for landlords is having buildings that operate smoothly.

“This is what helps differentiate one real estate company’s services and the experiences that they provide from others,” McGill said. “If they are able to preempt some of these issues—it’s too hot in this space, it’s too cold, there are odors, there is no hot water or the elevator is not working—if they are able to get ahead with our data that’s potentially 50 to 100 tenant complaints that aren’t coming in.”

Rudin was interested in Enertiv because it had been working on a similar concept. The landlord created tech company Prescriptive Data, which has a product called Nantum that collects building data like occupancy and electricity usage to help maintain optimal indoor temperatures and efficient energy use. Rudin executives hope there comes a time when they can find ways to partner Enertiv tech and Nantum.

“We were really impressed by [them] and think they have built and grown a really great company with a great product,” said Michael Rudin, a senior vice president of Rudin Management. “There are obviously a lot of buildings that are the right fit for what Enertiv is doing and that’s why we found it to be attractive. And maybe there is a way down the road that the technical teams [of Nantum and Enertiv] will collaborate.”

Source: commercial

Eastern Consolidated Retail Pros Jeff Geoghegan and Ravi Idnani Move to RKF

Eastern Consolidated food and hospitality retail experts Jeff Geoghegan and Ravi Idnani have joined RKF’s New York office as directors, Commercial Observer has learned. They commenced on Jan. 17

At RKF, they both will continue to focus on tenant and landlord representation in the New York metro area.

“I chose RKF because of the company’s successful track record and leading position in the industry,” Idnani said in a statement emailed to CO. “I’m incredibly excited to be joining the team.” (Geoghegan declined to provide a comment.)

Geoghegan, a broker, and Idnani, a salesperson, worked on James Famularo’s retail leasing team at Eastern Consolidated since the company launched the division several years ago, as CO reported in January 2014.

“People come and go in this industry,” Famularo said of the duo’s departure. “I enjoyed working with them and wish them luck at their new company.”

Geoghegan, who specializes in the Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Upper West Side neighborhoods, has represented owners and developers. Within an 18-month period, he helped find the PokéSpot’s first location at 120 Fourth Avenue, which opened in August 2016. Then he negotiated a second lease for the tenant at 25 Cleveland Place (it opened in April 2017) followed by a space for an affiliated retail concept, Project Cozy, on the ground floor of New York University’s dorm at 398 Broome Street. That opened in summer 2017. Last year, he helped arrange a lease for celebrity chef David Chang‘s Momofuku Nishi at 232 Eighth Avenue.

Idnani is a pro in the restaurant and fashion industries. His recent deals include leases for Eat Club at 109 West 27th Street in NoMad and YokeyPokey, a virtual reality arcade, café and bar at 537 Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. He also represented celebrity fitness trainer Tony Molina in leasing a 1,550-square- foot fitness center on the top floor of 56 West 45th Street and arranged a 9,000-square-foot lease for Kiddie Academy at 282 South 5th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in July 2016.

“We are thrilled to add Jeff and Ravi to our New York team,” Robert Futterman, the chairman and CEO of RKF, said in prepared remarks. “Both have a track record of driving growth and strengthening relationships between landlords and tenants, especially in the restaurant space.”

RKF is bolstering its ranks. Earlier this month, long-time Winick Realty Group broker Darrell Rubens joined the firm, as CO previously reported.

Source: commercial

Optimism Abounded at REBNY’s 2018 Prom

Despite a tumultuous year for real estate—with investment sales falling off a cliff, retail suffering due to technology and banks tightening their lending—it was a night full of spendor, high spirits and big names at the Real Estate Board of New York’s gala yesterday.  

The 122nd annual REBNY banquet at the New York Hilton Midtown at 1335 Avenue of the Americas featured a power-packed list of politicians, developers, brokers, bankers and other professionals. Many in the room expressed optimism for 2018 to Commercial Observer.

“It’s a great time to celebrate the industry,” REBNY President John Banks told CO, without giving further explanation.

However, Bruce Mosler, the chairman of global brokerage of Cushman & Wakefield, later expounded that economic factors are positive and things seem to be looking up for 2018.

“I’m not worried about macroeconomic risk, I’m more concerned about geopolitical risk,” Mosler said.

While nearly 2,000 partygoers hobnobbed at the cocktail hour before the award presentation, members from the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies rallied in front the hotel against the trade organization.

Top pols that graced the event included Mayor Bill De Blasio, recently minted for his second term, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Meanwhile, some of the real estate community’s brightest stars in attendance included RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler, Extell Development Company’s Gary Barnett, Durst Organization’s Douglas Durst, C&W’s John Santora, CBRE’s Mary Ann Tighe (a former REBNY chairman), L&L MAG’s MaryAnne Gilmartin and Robert Lapidus (also of L&L Holding Company), Avison Young’s A. Mitti Liebersohn, Newmark Knight Frank’s Barry Gosin, former REBNY President Steven Spinola; and new REBNY Chairman William Rudin, the CEO and co-chairman of Rudin Management Company.

United States Senator of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the only politician being honored with the award last night, was busy in Washington, D.C., with Congress trying to pass a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. (He earned the John E. Zuccotti Public Service Award.)

Tishman Speyer President and Chief Executive Officer Rob Speyer, REBNY chairman until December 2017, was the recipient of the Harry B. Helmsley Distinguished New York Award. LeFrak Organization CEO and Chairman Richard LeFrak was presented the Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award.

Joanne Podell, an executive vice chairman at C&W, earned the Louis Smadbeck Memorial Broker Recognition Award. Rudin Management Company Senior Vice President Gene Boniberger was honored with the George M. Brooker Management Executive of the Year Award. Ron Lo Russo, the president of C&W’s agency consulting group, won the Young Real Estate Professional of the Year Award.  

And Elizabeth Stribling, chairman of Stribling & Associates, received The Bernad H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award. In her speech, Stribling recalled having known Mendik and what it was like attending the REBNY banquet for the first time.

“It was exactly 50 years ago tonight that I first attended my first REBNY gala as a 21-year-old rookie broker,” she said. “I was starstruck. And I still am.”

Source: commercial

Labor vs Lobbyists: A Look at the ‘Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies’

The emails first began circulating last summer and intensified during the fall as the November elections approached. They were scathing in their criticism of the top industry body in New York real estate, labeling the organization as a “plague” on New York City and calling its leaders “a bunch of billionaire bullies and racketeers.”

One featured more than 30 political candidates running for various city offices—including mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president and City Council—holding up signs saying to “beware” of the “real estate bullies” in question. Others spread the word of public protests at City Hall and echoed calls for the state to investigate Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration for operating pay-to-play schemes benefitting developers.

They were, and continue to be, the work of the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies, a protest initiative laying a wide variety of issues—from the city’s affordable housing shortage and homeless crisis to the displacement of small businesses and the influx of construction worker fatalities in recent years—squarely at the feet of the Real Estate Board of New York.

The campaign is led by Ray Rogers, a 73-year-old labor activist and organizer renowned in labor circles for his anti-corporate initiatives against the likes of Coca-Cola and textile manufacturer J.P. Stevens & Co. (the latter was dramatized in the Academy Award-winning 1979 film Norma Rae). Having made a career challenging the perceived greed of corporate entities and political institutions—often working on behalf of and alongside labor unions—Rogers and his organization Corporate Campaign have now set their sights on REBNY.

“My objective is to greatly diminish the political power of REBNY and to make REBNY something that you would not recognize today,” Rogers told Commercial Observer. “What REBNY should be in the business of is working with the vast majority of their membership, which is real estate agents and brokers, to help them buy and rent and sell properties. They should not have their dirty hands and their dirty money in politics, trying to undermine labor protections for construction workers and undermine every kind of rent control and rent stabilization.”

Upon launching last May, the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies produced and released a five-minute animated film entitled “Bullies,” which screened at the annual Workers Unite Film Festival. The animated short blames REBNY-backed policies for exacerbating high commercial rents that price out small businesses and for fostering unsafe working conditions on construction sites (in addition to drawing a curious, if unclear, connection between REBNY and real estate industry investment in the tobacco industry).

In the months since, the campaign has staged and participated in a handful of protests around the city designed to criticize the real estate industry’s influence over New York politics and public policy, and sought to get its message out by lobbying the support of dozens of political candidates vying for city positions—many of whom appeared in the aforementioned photos on email blasts and the campaign’s site, holding up signs labeling REBNY as “bullies.”

And this week, the campaign will stage its highest-profile protest to date outside of REBNY’s 122nd Annual Banquet at the New York Hilton Midtown—an occasion that will see U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer receive an award honoring his public service. Rogers announced the protest with an open letter to Schumer voicing “displeasure” at the senator’s acceptance of the award—citing REBNY’s support of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight Democratic New York state senators who align themselves with senate Republicans, enabling the GOP “to maintain control of the New York State Senate particularly as it relates to the interests of the heavyweights in the real estate industry,” the letter says.

photo by stoprebnybullies org 3 Labor vs Lobbyists: A Look at the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies
Labor activist Ray Rogers hands out literature at a Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies protest last year. Photo: Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies

REBNY discounts Rogers’ efforts as a union-backed initiative that’s part and parcel of the building trades unions’ ongoing battle for relevance in a construction sector that’s increasingly veering in the favor of nonunion contractors. In particular, the trade association pointed to Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 as the driving force behind the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies and as Rogers’ primary financial backers.

“We respect Local 46’s right to free expression,” a REBNY spokesman said in a statement. “We wish them well as they seek to more effectively market their services to address the needs of a 21st century construction site.”

Rogers acknowledged that Local 46 supports the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies but disputed the notion that any union had hired him with the express goal of lodging an anti-REBNY smear campaign. Rather, he said his interest in the real estate industry group dated back several years and was initially motivated by the issue of construction safety and hazardous working conditions on construction sites. He added that he had had conversations with numerous union leaders about the prospect of taking a stand against REBNY, only for those parties to eventually back out.

“I tried to get [other] labor unions involved but couldn’t get anyone to really do it with me,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of labor leaders out there that have shown great fear, but the labor union was not built because people were scared to fight. Labor leaders have got to start realizing that [unions were] built on activism and courage. I’m so sick of hearing about how ‘REBNY is destroying us’—well, you have an opportunity to turn the tables.” (Local 46 did not return multiple requests for comment.)

While the matter of organized labor plays an undoubtedly significant role in the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies’ platform (among the campaign’s goals is for at least 90 percent of New York City construction workers to be working under union contracts), the initiative has gained support from political candidates and social justice advocates passionate about issues ranging from the future viability of the city’s small businesses to the influence that corporate-backed industry groups like REBNY have over the political system.

“I’m not anti-real estate; real estate is important to New York City. But, I do believe REBNY wields tremendous clout over our political system, and I don’t think any one entity should have that,” Sal Albanese, the former city councilman who challenged Mayor de Blasio in last year’s Democratic mayoral primary (and ran in the general election as the Reform Party candidate), told CO.

Albanese described REBNY has having “disproportionately outsized influence over our politics” at the city and state level, citing the role that real estate interests had in the corruption trials of former state politicians Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.

“These guys have deep pockets, and they know how to manipulate the political process to their benefit—our campaign finance laws make that possible,” he said. “Chuck Schumer isn’t alone; Bill de Blasio, a so-called progressive, is in the pocket of big real estate. There’s no single entity in the city or state of New York that wields more influence.”

sal albanese d mayor Labor vs Lobbyists: A Look at the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies
Sal Albanese is among the New York City political candidates to have supported the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies. Photo: Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies

Albanese also criticized the industry group for its role in stunting the progress of the controversial Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which would make it easier for commercial tenants to renew their leases while hindering landlords’ abilities to raise rents at their own discretion. REBNY President John Banks has labeled the proposed law “unconstitutional.”

That issue, in particular, has drawn support for the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies from activists like Marni Halasa, who unsuccessfully challenged new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for his seat representing the Third District on Manhattan’s West Side. Halasa said Rogers’ campaign “highlights an important issue that the average layperson is unaware of: how big real estate actively works against the public.”

“I think Ray has really galvanized small business activists from all over the city to come together, and that’s often difficult,” she noted, pointing to the issue of “hyper-gentrification” that negatively impacts neighborhoods and small businesses as the primary reason she supports the campaign. “A bill that would provide small business owners with leasehold rights and the right to renew their leases—if that can get not just a public hearing but support and passage—would be huge. But does REBNY want that? I’m sure they don’t.”

Albanese agreed that passage of the SBJSA would be “one of the barometers” of the campaign’s success—“If they could pass significant legislation that REBNY opposes, that would be a major win for [Rogers] and the movement,” he said—as would campaign finance reform “that would limit [REBNY’s] influence.”

Albanese—who along with Halasa is among the candidates who had their picture taken holding Stop REBNY Bullies slogans—also contested the notion that Rogers is merely doing the unions’ bidding under the guise of a collectivist, anti-corporate campaign. “Ray Rogers is not somebody you can put up to anything,” he said. “He’s got a history of being an activist and an organizer around the country, and he takes on causes because he believes in them.”

Of course, Rogers’ campaign still has a long way to go in terms of getting anywhere near the traction it would need to attain its lofty goals; the “Bullies” animated short has only just over 1,000 views on YouTube, and sources with knowledge of REBNY’s thinking told CO that the organization has been far from intimidated by the relatively tepid turnout at some of the campaign’s protests to date.

Rogers himself is under no illusions about the task that he has set for himself and the work that lies ahead should he wish to realize his campaign’s goals.

“I say to people all the time that, when you confront powerful institutions, you cannot expect to gain any meaningful concessions or justice unless you’re backed by a significant force or power yourself—it’s not just one demonstration after another,” he noted. “I need to raise money, just like political leaders. We’re taking on the most powerful industry—the most powerful lobby and institution—in the state.”

Source: commercial

Rob Speyer’s Greatest Hits as REBNY Chairman

Five years makes a big difference. If one were to hop in a time machine and zoom back a half decade, it would almost feel like a Futurama episode of a parallel universe.

Having been hit by Superstorm Sandy, a lot of the coastal parts of New York City were in shambles, and thousands were still reeling from the devastation. President Barack Obama was gearing up to begin his second term, while Donald Trump was penning an op-ed on CNN’s website championing, “We will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability.”

During that time, Rob Speyer, the real estate scion of Tishman Speyer, became the chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York. With his term having ended at the close of 2017, Commercial Observer took a look at his tenure over the last five years at the helm of the 122-year-old body.

2013

January—Speyer, the president and co-chief executive officer of Tishman Speyer, starts a three-year term as REBNY chairman (it is later extended for two more years). He becomes the youngest person to steer the organization. His father, Jerry, was chairman from 1986 to 1988 and oversaw the appointment of Steven Spinola as president in 1986. The younger Speyer works with Spinola until his retirement.

November—Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration withdraws a proposal to rezone Midtown East for taller new commercial buildings, after failing to gain support from the City Council.

2014 

cdcmyk Rob Speyers Greatest Hits as REBNY Chairman
The Rob Speyer CD. Illustration: Kaitlyn Flannagan/For Commercial Observer.

January—New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio succeeds Bloomberg as mayor.

December—Speyer leads the search to replace Spinola as president of REBNY after his nearly 30-year run. The organization announces Consolidated Edison Vice President of Government Relations John Banks will be the next president.

2015 

January—Obama signs an extension through 2020 for the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act days after Congress approves it. REBNY supports the extension of the program, which was created in 2002 following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. It provides compensation for “certain insured losses resulting from a certified act of terrorism.”

March—Banks becomes president-elect during a transition period to replace Spinola, who will step down at the end of the year.

June—The 421a tax abatement program expires. About a week later Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces the renewal of the program for six months with the caveat that for a longer renewal REBNY and the construction unions will have to come to an agreement about prevailing wages.

September—Speyer becomes the lone CEO of Tishman Speyer after sharing the title with his father since 2008. The younger Speyer also retains the president role, while his dad, a co-founder of Tishman Speyer in 1978, keeps the title of chairman.

2016 

January—Talks between REBNY and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York break down and 421a officially expires without an extension.

January—REBNY’s membership exceeds 17,000 real estate professionals, an all-time high for the then 120-year-old organization.

August—After breaking tradition and giving Speyer a fourth year as chairman in 2015, the board of governors approves Speyer for a fifth year.

October—New York State enacts legislation (supported by REBNY) that makes it illegal to advertise short-term rentals in multifamily buildings, targeting Airbnb and similar actors.

November—The construction unions and REBNY agree on a benchmark labor wage for construction workers, fulfilling the prerequisite to revive 421a.

2017 

April—421a is reborn as Affordable New York after it passes in the state budget. The legislation allows a tax break for 35 years if developers of market-rate rental buildings with 300 or more units in certain neighborhoods set aside 25 to 30 percent as affordable units and pay construction workers an average hourly rate of $60 in Manhattan and $45 in Brooklyn and Queens.

June—William Rudin, the CEO and co-chairman of Rudin Management Company, is selected to succeed Speyer as the next REBNY chairman.

August—REBNY launches its newly syndicated Residential Listing Service. The long-planned RLS allows salespersons and brokers to send listings to a network of real estate listing websites through one centralized feed.

August—The City Council passes the Midtown East rezoning, which will amplify developers’ ability to construct taller commercial buildings along 78 blocks from East 39th to East 57th Streets and Third to Madison Avenues.

September—Despite heavy pushback from REBNY over a new bill that increases safety training for construction workers, the City Council votes unanimously in favor of it. In a statement, REBNY says it supports more safety training but criticizes the legislation for failing to address the trade organization’s concerns about its implementation and costs.

December—Speyer ends his five-year tenure, the second-longest consecutive term behind Bernard Mendick (1992 to 2001).

Source: commercial

A First Look at REBNY’s Historical Archives, Now at LaGuardia Community College

They’re not the Dead Sea Scrolls,” admitted Michael Slattery, the senior vice president of research for the Real Estate Board of New York, “but for us, they’re the equivalent.”

Slattery is talking about the 35 boxes worth of materials that REBNY delivered from its Midtown headquarters, at 570 Lexington Avenue, to the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at the City University of New York’s LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, this past September. The shipment contained a treasure trove of historical documents, tracing the course of REBNY’s 122-year history—and with it, the history of New York City real estate.

“We had them in our offices. I had some in my office. We had diaries in the storage room. We had property cards in metal file cabinets in the conference room,” William Auerbach, REBNY’s chief financial officer, said of the documents REBNY donated to the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives.

He said the industry group decided that providing LaGuardia with the materials would be the best way to ensure their future preservation, while also making them available for academic and research use to the wider public.

In addition to thousands of institutional artifacts—membership directories, annual diaries, meeting minutes ledgers and photographs from REBNY galas and dinners past—the boxes shipped to LaGuardia Community College contained an estimated 300,000 “property cards” that, for decades, REBNY used to document property information “for every block and lot in Manhattan,” Auerbach said.

Those property cards—12-by-6-inch index cards featuring information on everything from property transfers to mortgage details to zoning alterations—comprise the most expansive, and arguably most valuable, facet of the historical trove. The organization maintained and updated the cards, which date back to the 1920s, up until the turn of the 20th century as “repositories of information” for members interested in a given property’s history, according to Slattery.

“It was a member service to provide information and save you from going down to the city register’s office [near City Hall],” Slattery said.

Since the handover, archivists at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives have been busy at work, going through the boxes and undertaking the painstaking task of gaining “informational control,” according to LaGuardia Community College archivist Douglas Di Carlo—a process that includes counting, ordering, processing and eventually digitizing the documents.

“There are some volumes, particularly the early volumes from the late 19th and early 20th century, that will need conservation work—repaired bindings and pages,” Di Carlo said.

City historian Kevin Draper of New York Historical Tours said the documents will provide researchers with firsthand source materials on the history of New York City real estate. And beyond real estate, Draper added, the REBNY archives’ value extends to the general history of the city.

“One thing about New York is that from the very beginning—when the Dutch settled here 400 years ago—it was always about real estate,” he said. “Everything in this town always starts with the real estate, and having access to archives like this is a great way to find out that information.”

Source: commercial

Gilmartin Leaves Forest City to Start Development Firm With L&L Execs

After 24 years with Forest City, MaryAnne Gilmartin is striking out on her own.

The Forest City New York chief executive officer is leaving her post at the top of Bruce Ratner’s firm to team up with L&L Holding Company executives David Levinson and Robert Lapidus on a new venture called L&L MAG. Gilmartin, who will be the chief executive officer of L&L MAG, confirmed the move to Commercial Observer yesterday after Brooklyn business website The Bridge leaked the news.

She’s also taking four of Forest City’s top executives, Jeffrey Rosen, Susi Yu, Adam Greene and Ashley Cotton, with her. Rosen will be the managing director of development and capital markets, and Yu will be a managing director and head of development. Greene will become a managing director of construction and development, and Cotton will serve as the managing director of communications and marketing.

The time is ripe for Gilmartin to leave Forest City. The company stands at a crossroads after transitioning from privately held developer to publicly held real estate investment trust two years ago. Forest City Realty Trust, along with its local arm, Forest City New York, are shifting away from ground-up development and focusing more on investing in and operating office and multifamily properties, she explained. Yesterday, The New York Post reported that Forest City is selling all but 5 percent of Pacific Park,  the 22-acre megaproject rising atop the Long Island Railroad yards formerly known as Atlantic Yards, to its partner on the project, Greenland USA.

Gilmartin and her crew have a services agreement with Forest City to finish the remaining work on Pacific Park. The developer has only completed four out of 15 planned buildings and 800 affordable apartments, with an approaching deadline in 2025 to complete 2,250 affordable units. The developer hasn’t started construction on any new buildings since 2016, but it has continued work on buildings that were already underway.

But Gilmartin, who is arguably one of the most powerful women in New York real estate, wants to stay in the development game. She also sees the L&L venture as a unique opportunity to start her own company, rather than run someone else’s.

“I’m first and foremost a developer,” she told CO. “It’s what I love. Dave Levinson and Rob Lapidus know how to raise capital, they love the urban landscape and they enjoy challenging projects. I’m taking the people I love at Forest City and doing more of the stuff I think is super challenging and rewarding.”

The 53-year-old executive added that she’ll miss Forest City, but that, “I think there’s a recognition that there isn’t a job big enough at the company to keep me challenged and keep me happy for the next decade.”

In her time at Forest City, Gilmartin has overseen the development of the $5 billion Pacific Park project, the New York Times Building at 620 Eighth Avenue, the Tata Innovation Center at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island and the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street.

L&L MAG will bring together Lapidus and Levinson’s talents for developing office buildings with Gilmartin’s ability to build residential, office, hotel and cultural properties, she said. They hope to work on a variety of projects, both in the city and elsewhere. The team will split its time between a redeveloped office space at 594 Dean Street in Prospect Heights and L&L’s 142 West 57th Street in Midtown.

“We are constantly on the lookout for the next big project, even in the midst of the most active phase in our history. This partnership with MaryAnne Gilmartin, who has been the driving force behind some of New York’s most transformative developments in a generation, is the ideal vehicle to further those ambitions,” Levinson said in prepared remarks. “New York City is long overdue for a woman to serve as co-founder and CEO of a major development company, and MaryAnne has more than demonstrated her unique combination of vision, perseverance and leadership throughout her remarkable tenure at Forest City.”

L&L’s current portfolio of commercial properties and development projects will continue to be owned and operated via its existing ownership structures and management teams, according to a press release.

Forest City’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Gilmartin’s departure.

Source: commercial

Macy’s Closing 11 Stores This Year, Clearance Sales Launch Today

Following a small uptick in sales during this past holiday season, Macy’s announced the closure of 11 stores in 2018—seven of which weren’t previously announced—hoping to save $300 million annually.

Macy’s reported its sales increased 1 percent in November and December 2017 combined compared with the same period in 2016, according to a recent company press release.

Clearance sales for the 11 stores are expected to begin today and will continue for approximately eight to 12 weeks. The closure of those stores this year represents 81 of the 100 locations it put on the chopping block in August 2016. (Macy’s has terminated 124 locations since 2015). Macy’s will reduce its workforce by 5,000 employees as a result of the closures and staff cuts made at remaining locations, as USA Today reported.

“Our primary focus in 2017 has been to continue the strong growth of digital and mobile, stabilize our brick-and-mortar business and set the foundation for future growth,” Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said in a statement. “We’ve made good progress on each, including encouraging trend improvements in our brick-and-mortar business.”

Among the 11 Macy’s closing this year, there are four in California including the one in Westside Pavilion mall in Los Angeles (news about its closure was announced last year, as the Los Angeles Business Journal reported in October 2017). There are two closing this year in Florida and one each in Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Vermont.

Macy’s—which has brands such as the flagship Macy’s, its off-price sibling Macy’s Backstage, high-end cousin Bloomingdale’s and beauty and spa retailer Bluemercury—has approximately 140,000 employees and operates more than 860 stores.

Macy’s stock has plummeted to just over $24 per share from approximately $30.46 a year ago. It is expected to report its fourth quarter earnings on Feb. 27.

Besides Macy’s, other retailers have struggled as the retail industry has changed. Sears announced on Jan. 4 that it was planning to close an additional 103 stores this year. JCPenney has plans to eliminate 138 stores. And Bon-Ton announced last year it was cutting 40 locations, as Commercial Observer previously reported.  


Source: commercial