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The Sit-Down

The Sit-Down

Miki Naftali of Naftali Group is the Million-Square-Foot Man

Miki Naftali

Since its inception nearly three years ago, Naftali Group has completed or is constructing 1.05 million square feet of residential condominium, rental and multifamily development, including a Pace University dormitory at 33 Beekman Street. This year,  Naftali Group will be launching three condos—234 East 23rd Street, 261 West 25th Street and 206 West 77th Street—and a rental building, the Bergen, at 316 Bergen Street in Boerum Hill. In addition to his offices at 1700 Broadway, which houses 22 employees, Naftali recently opened an office in Delray Beach, Fla. Miki Naftali, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, received a lot of attention when he led the $450 million restoration and reconfiguration of the Plaza Hotel as the president and CEO of Elad Properties. Flanked by his marketing pro and an outside P.R. person, Mr. Naftali, 51, talked to Commercial Observer last week in the conference room at his offices about development trends, the Plaza and his and his wife’s future move to Manhattan.  Read More

The Sit-Down

Empire State of Mind: Tony Malkin on Empire State Realty Trust

Tony Malkin. (Credit: Aaron Adler)

Last year, the Empire State Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust that counts the Empire State Building among its assets, went public. Under the symbol ESRT, shares in the REIT have traded up over 14 percent since the initial public offering early last October. The road to the New York Stock Exchange was a somewhat rocky one for the REIT, with a small, yet vocal group of investors rallying against the initial public offering. Undeterred, Tony Malkin, the chairman, chief executive and president of ESRT, pushed forward, confident that the consolidation and public offering of the portfolio formerly known as Malkin Holdings was the best route for investors. Nearly six months since the NYSE’s bell tolled for ERST, Mr. Malkin’s confidence is paying dividends. Having just signed LinkedIn to a 160,000-square-foot lease at the Empire State Building, ESRT is committed to redeveloping both its globally beloved 34 Street asset and other properties in the portfolio. Mr. Malkin spoke to Commercial Observer last week about ESRT’s road to its IPO and what’s planned for the future. Read More

The Sit-Down

JLL’s Downtown Don: John Wheeler

John Wheeler. (Credit: Lea Rubin)

John Wheeler was tapped in March 2012 to run JLL’s lower Manhattan office after returning to the firm in 2009. He is a managing director at the company and has been with JLL for 14 years. He had two stints working on the principle side of the business for Gramercy Capital and Antares Real Estate Partners. Today he directs JLL’s efforts on Gramercy Capital’s 13.5-million-square-foot national portfolio. A couple of his key transactions have been a 500,000-square-foot sublease to Morgan Stanley at 1 New York Plaza and a 450,000-square-foot master lease to the City of New York at 180 Water Street. In his entire career, Mr. Wheeler, 52, has negotiated 13 million square feet of leases for clients. Last week, Commercial Observer sat down with Mr. Wheeler in his office at 140 Broadway and talked about lower Manhattan post-Superstorm Sandy, leasing prices being pushed from the bottom up and the newly distinguished submarket of the Water Street corridor. Read More

The Sit-Down

The Patient Negotiator: Paul Wexler of the Wexler Healthcare Properties Team

Paul Wexler. (Credit: Lea Rubin)

Though best known in New York for its residential brokerage business, Corcoran also lends its brand to one of the city’s most prominent health care real estate teams. Led by 30-year industry veteran Paul Wexler, the Wexler Healthcare Properties team has closed more than 1,000 leases and sales worth billions of dollars in the health care real estate space. Mr. Wexler has done deals with major New York hospitals and a variety of health care specialists. He has a unique perspective on the state of the city’s health care real estate market and spoke with Commercial Observer last week about the rise of walk-in clinics, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and more.   Read More

The Sit-Down

No Holding Back: Robert Lapidus

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Robert Lapidus remembers Midtown South vividly. Not the red hot Midtown South of today, but the Midtown South from nearly a decade and a half ago, when his firm, L&L Holding Company, bought 150 Fifth Avenue. Rents in the building were $26 per square foot, the property was operating “like a hotel,” and the submarket Read More

The Sit-Down

Tucker Reed Won’t Sleep Until Downtown Brooklyn Becomes a 24/7 Community

Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Tucker Reed is sweet on Brooklyn—big time. A resident of Prospect Heights who enjoys frequenting the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mr. Reed is a champion of the city’s most populous borough. He is a ball of energy as he talks about all of the work the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has done with him as president for the past two years, from supporting the technology sector with the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition to establishing Downtown Brooklyn as New York City’s college town. About a year after Commercial Observer conducted the Sit-Down interview with Mr. Tucker, we wanted to check in and see how the nonprofit has been doing with the reinvention of Downtown Brooklyn. Read More

The Sit-Down

Kevin Hoo’s Tweet Victory

Kevin Hoo

Kevin Hoo’s prior experience with UBS AG and later Tishman Speyer allowed him to slip seamlessly into a role as a vice president at Savanna in 2011, where as an asset manager he handles everything from financing acquisitions to choosing building finishes, leasing them up and handling day-to-day operations. “We run a fairly lean team here,” he said. “My role has been to play the jack of all trades.” At Tishman Speyer, Mr. Hoo’s acquisition, development, design and construction roles saw him focusing on properties as iconic as Rockefeller Center and the MetLife Building, but as he tells it, Savanna’s recent repositioning of 245 and 249 West 17th Street, now home to Twitter’s New York City headquarters, is the most exciting endeavor he has been a part of. Read More

The Sit-Down

Stephen Ross’ West Side Story

stephen ross

Time Warner Inc. was rumored to be eyeing space at Hudson Yards as early as last spring, but only this month did the company confirm it would anchor Related Companies’ 30 Hudson Yards, an 80-story tower on the Far West Side. Concurrently, Related agreed to a deal to buy back the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle for $1.3 billion and will market space there for the first time since the building came online a decade ago. The complex deals, which include a significant financial commitment to Hudson Yards by Time Warner, are vital for the ambitious development and another victory for Related Chairman Stephen Ross, who has long championed the viability of his plans for the once-barren pocket of Manhattan. Read More

The Sit-Down

Family Value: Jim Stifel of Benenson Capital Partners

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Despite more than a century of history in real estate investment, Benenson Capital Partners continues to fly under the radar in the industry. But having closed a 75-year master lease at 400 Park Avenue with Waterman Interests and commenced a $200 million renovation of the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers in 2013, the family-run owner is set for more big things in 2014. On the docket this year are new developments in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side. Having recaptured two properties previously leased to social services and the United States Postal Service, new value opportunities are on the horizon in the family portfolio. Jim Stifel, chief investment officer at Benenson Capital, is the man in charge of finding value in the company’s assets. He sat down with The Commercial Observer for a rare interview at Benenson Capital’s 708 Third Avenue offices to reflect on 2013 and look ahead to 2014 and beyond. Read More

The Sit-Down

Helping Hudson: Ellen Baer on Transforming Hudson Square

Ellen Baer of the Hudson Square Connection (Photo: Mike Nagle)

Last month, the Hudson Square Connection, the Hudson Square neighborhood’s business improvement district, announced it was teaming up with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Council on a $27 million streetscape improvement plan. The move is the latest step in transforming the once industrial hub of the city’s printing industry into a vibrant 24/7 community. The neighborhood, home to a daytime population of approximately 60,000, slows down dramatically once the lights go off at night. But that’s set to change. Recently rezoned, Hudson Square will soon be redeveloped to capture Downtown Manhattan’s booming residential growth. With the likes of Trinity Real Estate, Edward Minskoff, Beacon Capital and Jack Resnick & Sons already involved in developments in the neighborhood, it’s all happening in Hudson Square. Ellen Baer, president of Hudson Square Connection, spoke with The Commercial Observer last week about how the streetscape improvement plan and rezoning fit together and the vision for Hudson Square’s future. 

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The Sit-Down

Market Pulse: Berdon LLP

Mr. Kotler

The past 12 months have seen some significant shifts in the New York real estate market, from the influx of foreign buyers and the rise of the high-end condominium market to the institution of the Affordable Care Act and the tax implications that legislation has on real estate investors. As co-managing partners of accounting and advisory firm Berdon LLP, Mark Bosswick and Stuart Kotler are required to have their fingers on the pulse of the market, and whether its keeping an eye on real estate investment trusts or foreign capital, the accounting professionals need to know where the market stands and, more importantly, where it’s headed. Messrs. Bosswick and Kotler spoke to The Commercial Observer last week about accounting trends and tax challenges expected in the New Year. 

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