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The Sit-Down

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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Market Pulse: Berdon LLP

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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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Measuring Up with Peter Weismantle

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Flags waved and onlookers cheered back in May when construction workers hoisted a crown atop 1 World Trade Center. The gleaming tower reached a symbolic 1,776 feet, and the Port Authority proclaimed it the “tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.” An official ruling had not been made, however, throwing the building into a rivalry with Read More

The Sit-Down

Garden State of Mind: Architect Murray Beynon on the Renovation of Madison Square Garden

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Last Thursday, Madison Square Garden debuted the final phase of its three-stage transformation process to the media. The arena has now been thoroughly transformed into a modern facility befitting its self-styled title as the World’s Most Famous Arena. The process, which added two bridges suspended above the event floor, was not without controversy. Many fans, especially those die-hards seated in the arena’s upper bowl, were concerned their sight lines would be obstructed by the innovative additions. The project’s head architect, Murray Beynon of BBB Architects, spoke with The Commercial Observer last week about concerns over the Chase Bridges and insights into the unique challenges presented by creating a modern arena inside a nearly 50-year-old structure.

 

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Taconic’s Paul Pariser and Kevin Davis: Lower East Side State of Mind

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Sixteen years after its founding, Taconic Investment Partners is banking on its legacy. Last month, the city chose a proposal from Taconic and collaborators (including L&M Development Partners, BFC Partners, SHoP and Beyer Blinder Belle) to reimagine the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, Manhattan’s largest swath of undeveloped land below 96th Street. The estimated $1.1 billion project on the Lower East Side near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge will add 1.6 million square feet of commercial and residential space to a neighborhood neglected for nearly half a century.

Last week, The Commercial Observer spoke to Taconic Co-Chief Executive Officer Paul Pariser and Chief Investment Officer Kevin Davis in the firm’s office at 111 Eighth Avenue—Taconic sold the building to Google in 2010—about Essex Crossing at SPURA, the Meatpacking District and the company’s possible reinvestment in the Financial District.  Read More

The Sit-Down

The Company Man: Seth Pinsky Reflects on EDC and Looks Ahead at RXR

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In July, Seth Pinsky, then the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, announced he would soon shift from the public sector to the private sector. In his decade-long stint at the EDC, Mr. Pinsky boosted his reputation citywide by helping to secure a number of high-profile development projects, including Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards and the Cornell Tech campus, and by initiating the response to areas of the city hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. In his next chapter, Mr. Pinsky will spearhead RXR Realty’s Emerging Markets platform, which aims to identify growth opportunities in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. Mr. Pinsky, who joined RXR last month as executive vice president, spoke with The Commercial Observer last week at the developer’s Midtown offices and spent time discussing his tenure at the EDC and his new role. Read More

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Like Father, Like Son: Murray Hill Properties’ David Sturner

David Sturner (Credit: Mike Nagle)

David Sturner’s long tenure at Murray Hill Properties began in 1995, when the full services real estate company launched its asset and project management departments. But his roots at the firm go even deeper than that: Mr. Sturner’s father, Norman Sturner, is MHP’s president and chief executive. Since coming onboard, the younger Mr. Sturner, 46, has risen in the ranks. The onetime project management specialist now also oversees operations and asset management and two years ago was named chief operating officer. Mr. Sturner spoke to The Commercial Observer about the transformation of MHP, growing up in a real estate family and the quest for fortune over fame.  Read More

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The Bush Push: Tribeca Associates Founder Elliott Ingerman on Bush Tower

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Last week, Tribeca Associates, a New York-based real estate firm, announced that it had agreed to acquire the long-term leasehold—for an undisclosed sum—on Bush Tower, a 30-story skyscraper built in 1918 for the Bush Terminal Company. To be henceforth known as 132 West 42nd Street at Bryant Park, the property will undergo an extensive renovation in the next 12 to 18 months, paving the way for the trophy asset to join the ranks of the neighborhood’s more recognizable glass towers. The project is one of a number that Tribeca Associates has in the pipeline, not the least of which is the Baccarat Hotel and Residences at 20 West 53rd Street, where sales are underway. Elliott Ingerman, founder and managing partner at Tribeca Associates, spoke with The Commercial Observer at the firm’s Tribeca office about current projects and his outlook for 2014.

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From the Gut: HFZ Capital’s Ziel Feldman on the Making of a Gut Renovation Empire

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A real estate lawyer in the early part of his career, Ziel Feldman has carved out a niche as one of the most active developers in the New York market. Mr. Feldman, founder and managing principal of HFZ Capital, has taken on ground-up development and the acquisition of existing properties. With an extensive presence on the Upper West Side, Mr. Feldman and HFZ Capital have entered new markets including Flatiron, where One Madison, a condominium project developed in partnership with Related Companies, recently opened for sale boasting residences priced as high as $50 million. Mr. Feldman spoke with The Commercial Observer last week about HFZ Capital’s current projects and his outlook for the market.  Read More

The Sit-Down

Design in Mind: TPG Architecture’s Jim Phillips on the New Office Aesthetic

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Jim Phillips, founder of New York’s largest interior architecture firm, TPG Architecture, boasts more than 40 years of experience designing corporate office interiors. The firm’s client list reads like a who’s who of New York power players, including Silverstein Properties, Irving Place Capital, Condé Nast, SL Green and Digitas. By Mr. Phillips estimation, he walks through more than 1 million square feet of office space in New York per year, which allows him a unique perspective on the city’s building stock. While architects might be best known for their build-out work, TPG and other architects begin the process well before work begins. Mr. Phillips’s services include advising clients on the suitability of space, negotiations and budgets, evaluating the entire deal. Mr. Phillips spoke with The Commercial Observer about changing trends, the evolving demands of clients and some of the difficulties he has faced when evaluating space. 

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