Development

Developers Break Ground at 7 Bryant Park

Rendering of 7 Bryant Park

Developers broke ground at 7 Bryant Park yesterday, with a consortium of public officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg gathering to pitch the trophy office tower as a boon for the city.

Politicians are touting the planned 28-story, 470,000-square-foot steel and glass tower, slated for completion in the first quarter of 2015, as a magnet for good jobs, talent and companies.

“The best days are still to come to Bryant Park – a place the city has worked hard to bring roaring back to life,” Mr. Bloomberg said at the ceremony, adding that the project will bring “more top-tier, cutting-edge commercial space, and more leading companies and their tax revenue to Midtown Manhattan.” Read More

Power Broker

Each One Teach One: Massey Knakal Broker James Nelson

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James Nelson recently ushered a dozen Colgate University undergraduate students on a tour through The Abingdon, a West Village nursing home-turned-luxury condo where some units, which sold out this month, ran for more than $10 million.

With the help of his team, Mr. Nelson, a partner at Massey Knakal, sold the property at 607 Hudson Street for just over $33 million to Flank Architects in 2011 on behalf of nonprofit group VillageCare, which previously ran a nursing home there.

Much like the undergrads, the investment sales heavyweight traveled The Abingdon’s hallways with looks of awe, as Jon Kully, a principal at Flank, led the group into its sprawling condos. The building bore no resemblance to the nursing home Mr. Nelson had first stepped foot into in 2007. “They had 200 beds packed in there, and it wasn’t up to code, and it was in desperate need of renovation,” he said. “This was a complete transformation. It really was amazing what they did, and to know that I had a small part in making that happen was great.” Read More

Feature

Head of the Class: Teachers Retirement Fund TIAA-CREF Making Waves in New York

8 Spruce Street

Though not a traditional owner-operator, TIAA-CREF has begun to draw the attention of the real estate industry in recent months for a bevy of deals, including its acquisition of a stake in the Frank Gehry-designed building at 8 Spruce Street and a joint venture with Norges Bank Investment Management.

The asset management firm’s steady persistence in the real estate market during the downturn has led to a realization of gains, and recent deals could lead to the redeployment of capital in key markets going forward, said analysts familiar with the firm’s strategy going into 2013.

“TIAA is one of the investors that was pretty active in the depths of the market in 2009 and 2010, and some of those investments have turned into significant home runs,” said Dan Fasulo, managing director and head of research at Real Capital Analytics. Read More

The Sit-Down

Friends of High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond Talks About Stepping Down

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Robert Hammond announced this month that he will step down as executive director of Friends of the High Line at the end of the year. The self-described entrepreneur will leave the organization that he co-founded in 1999 with Joshua David in enviable shape. The High Line—the elevated park that in 2009 opened to the public on a long-abandoned former West Side freight railway trestle—drew 4.4 million visitors last year.

Friends of the High Line is in the midst of a $125 million capital campaign that will help fund stage three of the project and bring its northern terminus to West 34th Street. Once it officially runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District through Chelsea and to the Hudson Yards site, the High Line will serve as a pedestrian artery between three of the city’s most dynamic—and fastest changing—neighborhoods.

Mr. Hammond spoke to The Commercial Observer about the genesis of the project, the surrounding real estate gold rush it has amplified, if not prompted, and the backlash of a vocal minority.
Read More

Sales Beat

Massey Knakal Arranges $87.5 M. Sale On Behalf of Yeshiva University

Entryway at 920 Broadway

Massey Knakal has sold a portfolio of three office buildings on behalf of Yeshiva University for $87.5 million, The Commercial Observer has learned.

The 16-story, pre-war office building at 920 Broadway – in Midtown South’s Flatiron District – has roughly 110,000 rentable square feet and accounted for $58.5 million of the transaction.  It features 96 feet of footage on Broadway and 74 feet along East 21st Street and the corner building is zoned for office and residential development.

The 12-story block-through office building at 9 East 38th Street in the heart of Midtown has about 94,000 rentable square feet, with 47.5 feet of frontage along East 38th Street and 50 feet of frontage on East 39th Street.  A three story, 25-foot-wide adjunct building provides half of the frontage along 39th Street, with the two buildings netting the remaining $29 million of the transaction. Read More

Food & Drink

Restaurateur Signs Deal to Run World Financial Center Marketplace

Restaurateur Peter Poulakakos has signed on to run the 30,000-square-foot marketplace at Brookfield’s World Financial Center, the New York Post reported yesterday.

Poulakakos is perhaps best known as operator of coffee chain Financier Patisserie but also oversees downtown restaurants Harry’s Café, Harry’s Steak, Adrienne’s Pizza Bar, Ulysses’ and Bayard’s.

“We met with everyone who has the expertise and desire to open a world class market in Manhattan and we were really blown away by Peter’s vision for marketplace,” Edward Hogan, Brookfield’s national director of retail leasing, told The Commercial Observer. Read More

Sales Beat

Newcastle Realty’s Late Year Pickups Highlight Record Fourth Quarter for Investment Sales

759 St. Nicholas Avenue (StreetEasy)

Real estate investment firm Newcastle Realty Services purchased neighboring apartment buildings at 656 and 759 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem for a combined $5.6 million from Colorado-based real estate firm Aimco late last year, city records posted yesterday show.

Sellers sought to unload properties before looming capital gains tax hikes as December wound down, a main reason why the fourth quarter was the strongest investment sales quarter in two and a half decades.

The firm paid $4.4 million for the six-story, 20,640-square-foot property at 656 St. Nicholas Avenue, which features 30 residential units; and $1.2 million for the building at 759 — a 5,666-square-foot, four-story building with nine units. Read More

Anniversaries

The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing: 20 Years Later

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When terrorists detonated a monster bomb in the underground parking garage at the World Trade Center’s North Tower on February 26, 1993, it shook the city with seismic strength.

Six people died and 1,042 were injured in the bombing.  But it came before the widespread understanding, blunt as it was, that terrorists wanted to kill Read More

Sales Beat

Sale of Inwood Property for $11.3 M. Highlights Value of City Parks

A view from Inwood's Fort Tryon Park

A mixed-use, rent regulated building across the street from the Fort Tryon Park at 4740 Broadway has been sold for $11.3 million in the Inwood neighborhood, The Commercial Observer has learned.

The six-story building boasts great upside, given its low rents and proximity to the notable neighborhood amenity, situated along the Hudson River.  The property contains six commercial units and 68 residential units — 62 rent stabilized units, five rent controlled units, and one super’s unit.

This property has tremendous potential due to its extremely low residential rents and fantastic retail corner location,” said Massey Knakal’s Robert Shapiro, who exclusively handled the transaction. Read More

Renovation and Repositioning

Brodsky to Renovate 157 Columbus Avenue Following Disney Departure

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The Brodsky Organization is renovating and repositioning 157 Columbus Avenue following the departure of longtime tenant Walt Disney Co., The Commercial Observer has learned.

The renovation is the first at the Upper West Side office building since it was built 30 years ago, in 1983 – the same year Walt Disney signed its lease there.

Ownership hired architecture firm Davis Brody Bond LLP to design the new lobby, elevator cabs, bathrooms, and upgraded building infrastructure, while a team from Cushman & Wakefield will resume its leasing efforts on the roughly 70,000 square feet of available space after the renovations, expected to conclude this summer, are complete. Read More

Controversies

Building Owner Sues Owner of Former Lenox Lounge for Stripping Building

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The owner of the building that housed the former Lenox Lounge at 288 Lenox Avenue in Harlem is reportedly suing the owner of the club for stripping the space of its iconic Art Deco façade and fixtures.

The Commercial Observer reported last month that Alvin Reed, owner of the Lounge, had signed a 15-year lease at 333 Lenox Avenue due to an insurmountable rent increase at the former space, and that he had brought with him a truckload of items from the old location that would be used to recreate its original vibe.

The New York Daily News reports that Ricky Edmonds, owner of the building, is now suing Mr. Reed for $50 million, claiming that he owns the items removed.

“The front facade was removed.  The interior and exterior doors were being removed. Fixtures such as mirrors, light fixtures, signs and banquettes were removed, completing their extensive stripping and looting of the property,” the suit claims. Read More