Long-Awaited 53rd Street Jean Nouvel Tower Gets $860M Construction Loan


Tower Verre, 53W53, MoMA Tower … the project has gone by many names, and dragged on for many years. But the super skinny Jean Nouvel-designed tower planned for 53 West 53rd Street is finally on the way, having closed on the purchase of needed air rights and an $860 million construction loan this week.

Hines, the Texas-based mega developer and owner that is partnering with Goldman Sachs and Singapore-based developer Pontiac Land Group on the 82-story residential condominium tower, closed the massive loan with a foursome of Asian banks, according to a statement. 

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The loan was led by Singapore’s United Overseas Bank with participation from fellow Singaporean institutions the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation and DBS Bank, as well as Kuala Lumpur-based Maybank.

While U.O.B. acted as the administrative agent, it lent $220 million, same as two of the other banks in the consortium. One bank provided $200 million, a source close to the deal told Mortgage Observer.

There was no mortgage broker on the deal, that person said.

The developers also closed on air rights from the Museum of Modern Art and Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, city records show. Hines paid the museum $14.2 million and the church $71.1 million. Previously, Hines has purchased air rights from the University Club of New York for about $10 million, records show.

New York law firm Morrison & Foerster handled the loan for the joint venture of Hines, Goldman and Pontiac, according to a release from the firm.

The tower has run into many complications with financing as well as construction in the seven years since it was first proposed, as reported. Fears over the height, and a shadow the spire might cast over Central Park, slowed the approval process, while financing for large-scale construction projects dried up promptly after the project’s announcement in December 2007.

The size of the lot has also been a source of concern, as accessibility for cranes and other construction equipment to the small site in already cramped Midtown would be limited, the source said. The developers have signed Lend Lease as general contractor, according to the statement.

“It’s a big complicated project,” the person in the know said.

Last year, the developers nabbed an infusion of $300 million in equity from Singaporean real estate tycoons the Kwee family, as The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

In a caveat to the community, the latest design for the planned tower provides 39,000 square feet of public and MoMA gallery space on the lower floors. Corcoran Sunshine will handle sales of the 140 condos, plus 28 “service apartments,” according to the statement. The interiors of the luxury condos will be designed by Thierry Despont.

The source familiar said that sales were likely to begin next year, but construction could take five more years. A representative for Hines said occupancy was set for 2018, and declined to comment on the financials.