As commercial construction begins to eclipse New York City’s overheated residential development market, big contracting companies are beginning to shift their focus.
Although upscale rental and residential condominium construction will always be a mainstay of the Gotham real estate world, the square footage of commercial and infrastructure projects under construction have far outpaced the amount of residential development. From January to August of this year, work began on 8.7 million square feet of commercial buildings, 3.2 million square feet of institutional projects and 8.8 million square feet of residential buildings.
The office development numbers are up 118 percent year-over-year, compared with just 4 million square feet of commercial projects that began construction during the same eight-month period in 2017. Residential construction starts were also up 21 percent compared with 7.3 million square feet during the first eight months of 2017.
The biggest developments that kicked off this year include Tishman Speyer’s $1.8 billion, 2.9-million-square-foot Spiral office building by Hudson Yards, Chris Xu’s 67-story City View condo tower, and Durst Organization’s Queens Plaza Park rental building, the latter two being in Long Island City, Queens. Cove Property Group’s 17-story expansion of the Hudson Commons office building in Midtown West into a 26-story, 700,000-square-foot commercial tower rounds out the list.
So even as construction surges across all the major sectors, construction pros expect the high-end residential market to continue cooling off. AECOM Tishman head Jay Badame predicted that apartment building would remain “relatively flat” while office and infrastructure construction would take off.
Similarly, Bill Gilbane III, the senior vice president of Gilbane Building Company, felt that his family’s firm would take on a growing amount of office and public works contracts. “There’s a lot of infrastructure work [that’s needed], and I see the city as very active in preparing for the future and investing in that infrastructure right now.”
In recognition of the shifting market, we asked Dodge Data & Analytics to rank the top construction firms based on the value of projects that have begun construction over the past 12 months. The numbers include new construction additions and major alterations, not renovations or projects that began more than a year ago. Keeping that in mind, here are the top 10 construction companies.—Rebecca Baird-Remba
Top NYC Officers: Pat Di Filippo, Executive Vice President; Charles Murphy, Senior Vice President and General Manager
Value of Projects: $2.4 billion
Employees: 1,200 in New York City, 6,200 globally
Top NYC projects: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 181 Mercer Street
Turner Construction remains one of the largest and most active general contractors in New York City because it takes on huge, institutional projects, including the expansion of college campuses, the construction of the Oculus and the renovation of Madison Square Garden.
The 1,200-person-strong firm is pushing ahead with the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which will bring the 2.1-million-square-foot building to 3.3 million square feet at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Turner is teaming up with Lendlease to build the project, which will add 90,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space, 45,000 square feet of meeting rooms, a 55,000-square-foot ballroom and a green roof terrace.
Foundation and excavation work is also chugging along on 181 Mercer Street, the $300 million, 181,000-square-foot mixed-use development that replaced the Jerome S. Coles Sports Center on the corner of Bleecker Street. The 23-story building will include a 350-seat theater, dozens of new music and practice rooms, 58 classrooms, a new gym and athletic practice facilities and student housing.
Turner is also wrapping up construction on the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy Airport, which involves transforming the 1960s TWA Terminal into a 512-room hotel with event spaces, bars and restaurants and mid-century-inspired decor and finishes. The company is also just finished CitizenM’s modular, 300-room Bowery hotel, which was prefabricated in a factory in Poland.—R.B.R.
Hudson Yards Construction
Top NYC Officer: N/A
Value of Projects: $1.7 billion
Top NYC Projects: 50 Hudson Yards, 55 Hudson Yards, 30 Hudson Yards
Related Companies and Oxford Properties’ plan to build a new neighborhood on top of an active rail yard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is shaping up better than many New Yorkers expected. The two development firms decked over the eastern half of the 28-acre West Side Yard a few years ago, and now several buildings in the Hudson Yards megaproject are well underway. AECOM Tishman and Tutor Perini are overseeing construction.
The first skyscraper completed in the sprawling complex was the 52-story 10 Hudson Yards, which opened with 1.8 million square feet of office space in May 2016 at the corner of 10th Avenue and West 30th Street. Tenants like Coach, L’Oreal, Boston Consulting Group, SAP and VaynerMedia have moved in over the past two years. Construction is also wrapping up on 55 Hudson Yards, a 51-story, 1.3-million-square-foot commercial tower designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
The 88-story 15 Hudson Yards, the development’s first major residential tower, is also set to be complete by the end of 2018. Designed by Diller Scodido + Renfro and Rockwell Group, the 917-foot-tall building will house 285 luxury condominium units and 106 affordable rentals, in addition to amenities like a swimming pool, a rooftop lounge and a private coworking space.
Then there’s 30 Hudson Yards, the 2.6-million-square-foot commercial high-rise that topped out at 1,296 feet over the summer. The Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed structure is expected to be complete in 2019. WarnerMedia is expected to occupy 1.5 million square feet in the building, where it will consolidate operations for CNN, HBO, Turner Broadcasting and Warner Bros.
One of the most unusual buildings on the rise in the Far West Side neighborhood is 35 Hudson Yards, a 1.1-million-square-foot, mixed-use tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Related and Oxford recently topped out the 1,000-foot-tall building, which will include 143 condo units, an Equinox-branded hotel and health club, and office and retail space when it’s complete in 2019.
A few public-facing pieces of the project are expected to be finished in the spring of 2019, enlivening an area that remains a construction zone. The development’s 720,000-square-foot mall, known as the Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, will open in March with 25 different restaurants and stores like Neiman Marcus, Coach and Stuart Weitzman. The Diller Scodido + Renfro-designed Shed will open at the same time and feature a performing arts venue, an exhibition space and a cultural center spread across six stories. Interior construction is also moving along on the 150-foot-tall, $200 million sculpture and known as the Vessel, which is expected to start welcoming visitors in March.—R.B.R.
Gilbane Building Company
Top NYC Officer: William Gilbane III, Senior Vice President and Managing Director
Value of Projects: $1.4 billion
Employees: 485 in New York City, 2,813 globally
Top NYC projects: 130 William Street, One Willoughby Square, Dock 72 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Gilbane, with its now-famous open-shop policy, has become a top choice for developers of big residential projects in New York City. In the Financial District, the construction company led by two generations of the Gilbane family is erecting the superstructure for Lightstone’s 130 William Street, the 66-story, 224-unit luxury condominium project designed by David Adjaye. And a few blocks south, Gilbane wrapped work last year on the first phase of Macklowe Properties’ 1 Wall Street, an Art Deco office tower that is being transformed into condo units.
Just across the Manhattan Bridge, the 485-person firm has two more big developments underway. Gilbane broke ground earlier this year on JEMB Realty’s One Willoughby Square, a 34-story, 500,000-square-foot office tower and school in Downtown Brooklyn that is expected to become the tallest commercial tower in the borough when it’s complete in 2021.
Over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, crews from the 145-year-old firm are wrapping up work on Dock 72, a 16-story, 675,000-square-foot office building developed by Rudin Management and Boston Properties. The S9 Architecture-designed structure will be anchored by WeWork, which leased 220,000 square feet, and will feature 16,000 square feet of outdoor terraces for tenants. The coworking giant is also curating several different amenities in the project, including a conference center, a health and wellness facility, food and drink options, along with a public lawn, a sun deck and a basketball court.—R.B.R.
New Line Structures
Top NYC Officer: Martin Loy, president
Value of Projects: $1.3 billion
Top NYC projects: One and Three Gotham Center, City View Tower,
85 Jay Street
New Line Structures’ $1.3 billion year in projects for which ground was broken in 2018 in the last 12 months will have a significant impact on the skyline of several boroughs.
The 1.2-million-square-foot Long Island City, Queens-based One and Three Gotham Center, known as The Jacx and consisting of two 30-story towers for Tishman Speyer, is one of the largest commercial projects currently in the works outside of Manhattan, and one that presented serious logistical challenges.
An underground Metropolitan Transportation Authority tunnel encroached onto the site’s property line, and the building’s first floor slab sat right atop the tunnel. To get around this, New Line had to arrange construction so the first four floors over the tunnel would hang from the fifth floor via circular concrete hangers.
And this was just one of the challenges the project presented.
“Logistically, we made a decision early on with ownership to try and see if we could do it with one tower crane instead of two tower cranes,” said company President Martin Loy. “It was a tough slog all the way through. If I had to do it again, I probably would have picked two tower cranes. The owner said he still would have picked one. There were a lot of complexities to this.”
Other successes for New Line this year include construction of the 70-story, 1-million-square-foot City View Tower condominium in Long Island City, a project complicated by factors including the 7 train abutting the property line; and further construction of 85 Jay Street, a roughly 1.4-million-square-foot mixed-use development in Dumbo, Brooklyn including rentals, condomnium units and retail—L.G.
Top NYC Officer: Michael Neary, COO
Value of Projects: $1.3 billion
Employees: 600 in New York City, 1,900 globally
Top NYC projects: Palace Theatre, 200 Amsterdam
The most interesting project for Structure Tone this year has been the redevelopment of the Palace Theatre at 1568 Broadway between West 46th and West 47th Streets. Executive Chairman James Donaghy explained the complexities.
“You have the landmarked Palace Theatre. We’re gonna encapsulate that theater with steel, demolish the building above it, dig out several floors below the Palace and put temporary steel in place, then put a hydraulic lift system underneath the theater. That will take about 18 months,” Donaghy said.
“Then we’ll lift the theater around 30 feet in the air,” he added. “This is the first time this has ever being done in New York City. Once the building is in place 30 feet up, we’ll build a retail box below the theater, and put a hotel above the theater that will go up 20 stories. It’s a three-year project.”
Structure Tone is also building what the firm said will be the tallest skyscraper built on the Upper West Side in 20 years—and which will temporarily hold the title of tallest building in that neighborhood overall—at the 54-story 200 Amsterdam. The building, at 200 Amsterdam Avenue at West 69th Street, will offer 112 condominium units, with amenities including an indoor pool, a virtual golf room and a fitness center.
Structure Tone’s successful year included $776 million of new construction starts, but around two-thirds of the company’s work is in interior projects and repositioning.
Donaghy estimates that 33 percent of the company’s overall work takes place within the five boroughs, and believes that Structure Tone’s varied skill set sets it apart from its competitors.
“We have the most diverse workload of any large contractor in the region,” he said. “That’s a real differentiator. Two-thirds of our work in this region is in interior renovation and building repositioning, then one-third is in new building. The other big guys will have the opposite, if not 90 percent new building. So we have a very diverse project type we work on, with a large technical services division as a result. We do a lot of design assist work, with engineers on staff working closely with our project managers to do it differently than our competitors. We’re very involved in commissioning our spaces so the systems are live on day one. That’s a very different thing. That’s specialized for us.”—L.G.
JT Magen Construction
Top NYC Officer: Maurice Regan, CEO
Value of Projects: $727 million
Employees: 350 in New York City, 400 in North America
Top NYC projects: One Wall Street, Nordstrom
JT Magen’s big year includes the largest pre-war building conversion in New York City history, and the largest retail project currently under construction in the city.
The $800 million office-to-residential conversion of the 55-story Art Deco skyscraper at One Wall Street will make the address the 1.1-million-square-foot home of 566 condominium units, along with various retail and leisure outlets.
The firm is also building the new Nordstrom by Columbus Circle at 235 West 57th Street off Central Park West. The $200 million 300,000-square-foot construction of the brand’s flagship store will include a delicate mix of new construction and restoration of old buildings. The store will include an iconic glass waveform facade, and is scheduled to open in 2019.
“The center part of the project is a new building, and for annexes to the left and right, we’re tying in two existing landmark buildings,” said company CEO Maurice Regan. “It’s quite the complicated project.”
According to Dodge, JT Magen had $727 million in construction starts over the past 12 months, but a company spokesperson notes that the One Wall Street and Nordstrom projects fall outside of that due to “delays between the permitting dates and actual construction starts.”
Regan, who estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the company’s projects are in New York City, attributes JT Magen’s success to a company-wide service mentality.
“The philosophy and structure of the company, from top to bottom, is that every staff member is accountable to the client. We have a very simple internal structure with no bureaucracy,” he said. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards for cost controls and delivery dates, and we treat every client as if it was our first job or our last. Clients know that when they hire us, we’re always working in their best interest, and they keep coming back.”—L.G.
Top NYC Officer: N/A
Value of Projects: $692 million
Top NYC projects: 202 Broome Street, 80 Adams Street, 11 Hoyt
Essex Crossing’s 14-story 202 Broome Street, on the site of a former parking lot between Suffolk and Norfolk Streets, will include 175,000 square feet of office space across four floors, and 83 residential condominium units on its highest nine floors, with the project due for completion by the end of 2020.
The building marks the second Essex Crossing project for Triton Construction, which also built the now-open 242 Broome Street. The company is doing major infrastructure work on that project as well.
“We are also doing the tunnel work in the streets that will connect the barrier to other sites because there is an underground market inside our building, so there’s access in between the various sites using these underground tunnels,” said Lance Franklin, the company’s co-CEO, referring to the Market Line underground market, which will take up three city blocks underneath Broome Street.
The firm is also building the 10-story, 165-residential condominium 80 Adams Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn, on the site of a former parking garage.
Triton, which broke ground on $692 million in new projects in New York City over the past 12 months, is also building the new 800,000-square-foot, 57-story skyscraper at 11 Hoyt, which will include 481 residential condominium units and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The project will include a private park, a gym, and a saltwater pool.
Franklin said the company currently has a $1 billion backlog of development, with around 70 percent located within the five boroughs.—L.G.
Hunter Roberts Construction
Employees: James C. McKenna, President and CEO
Value of Projects: $686 million
Employees: 322 in New York City, 381 globally
Top NYC Projects: Sunrise at East 56th, Graduate Roosevelt Island
On East 56th Street, Hunter Roberts Construction is helping Hines and Welltower build a high-end senior living facility, Sunrise at East 56th, the first of its kind in New York City. The 17-story building is designed and constructed with the elderly in mind, which means that the finishes are upscale but able to withstand the abuse of wheelchairs and spills. Certain “memory” floors have elevator buttons hidden in vestibules so that residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia don’t wander to other floors or outside.
And then across the East River, the firm is working on a project for a much younger crowd. The 18-story, 224-key Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel at Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus. The Snøhetta-designed building kicked off construction in March and is expected to be completed in 2020. The building from developer AJ Capital Partners will be connected to the adjacent Verizon Executive Education Center and serve as the “front door” to the campus.
The 13-year-old firm has also worked on the construction of VIA 57 West, Durst Organization’s 33-story pyramid-shaped rental that was completed in 2016 on West 57th Street by the West Side Highway. And last year it completed a five-year contract with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, for which it oversaw the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, the Museum of the Moving Image’s permanent Jim Henson exhibition wing and Superstorm Sandy recovery projects.—R.B.R.
Top NYC Officer: Richard Wood, CEO
Value of Projects: $451 million
Employees: 280 in New York City, 650 total
Top NYC projects: Four Seasons, Greenwich West at 110 Charlton Street, Fisher Houses
If you have the chance to enjoy a meal at the new Four Seasons at some point, give Plaza Construction a quiet moment of thanks.
Plaza handled the rebuilding of the 25,000-square-foot, three-story eatery, which relocated from the Seagram Building to 280 Park Avenue in August.
The new Four Seasons includes two dining rooms—one for 100 people, and a smaller one that can host 20 to 30—in addition to a sunken centerpiece in the bar area recalling the former space’s swimming pool, a tunnel connecting the bar and dining room with brass walls and ceilings and a custom hand-set terrazzo floor, two custom elevators, and stone bathrooms.
“That was a beautiful restaurant when we finished it,” said Chris Mills, Plaza’s COO. “We built out the entire restaurant, with multiple kitchens and dining rooms, multiple finishes, lots of bronze metal paneling. It’s absolutely top-notch.”
Plaza’s busy year brought them to $451 million in construction starts. (The company disputes Dodge’s figure here, believing the correct number to be $689 million.)
Plaza also broke ground this year on the 280,330-square-foot, 27-story residential condominium Greenwich West at 110 Charlton Street. Upon completion, the building will house 170 apartments and 2,800 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
The building’s exterior is being constructed of masonry with picture-framed windows, for a European look, and will include extensive sound reduction, employing a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system for heating and cooling, the quietest available.
While Plaza works on many significant projects, Mills said the company takes special pride in some of its smaller, but equally meaningful work.He mentioned the two identical 12,000-square-foot Fisher Houses at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, 16-suite facilities offering loved ones a free place to stay while they visit VA hospital patients. They are scheduled to be completed by April 2019.
“The Fisher Brothers, who used to own Plaza, quietly built homes like this near military installations around the world,” he said. “They’re stick-built, wood-frame homes. They’re not tremendous in terms of project size, but for what they do for military families, to be part of that is incredibly special and rewarding. They’re the most important project we have right now, in my view.”—L.G.