Sunday Summary: Happy Birthday, Building Congress!


On Thursday night many of the top people in the real estate business dusted off their fanciest duds and made their way to the expanded Javits Center to banquet the way they used to (“banquet” can be used as a verb, right?) in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the New York Building Congress.

We at Commercial Observer spoke to the Building Congress in the run-up to the celebration: Congress President Carlo Scissura talked about the incoming Adams administration and federal infrastructure spending; we learned the story of Congress Chair Elizabeth Velez, who helmed the organization at the toughest possible time; we recounted the history of the Building Congress from the days when it was a sleepy golfing club to now, when it’s a force for the industry; and we learned how the wider construction industry endured during the last painful 20 months.

SEE ALSO: Queens Condo to Pay $119K for Stealing Workers’ Wages

And there was reason for contractors and construction pros to party beyond just the centennial celebration; President Biden signed his infrastructure bill into law this week, which will no doubt be a boon for builders. New York should see money showered on a number of projects that have been in the hopper for years.

COVID update

It was the old good news/bad news story for COVID-19 this week.

On the positive front, Gov. Kathy Hochul called on New York companies to bring their workers back to the office after New Year’s, deeming the city safe. Plus the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for all individuals 18 and up.

On the bad front, there was a spike in COVID rates and the governor warned people that they need to get vaccinated. Plus, there’s considerably less teeth in the governmental demand for people to either get vaccinated or get tested regularly after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration paused enforcement of a federal vaccination mandate pending the outcome of a battle in federal court challenging the order.


It would appear that companies are with Hochul on the return-to-work thing, because it was another week of big leases.

The biggest leasing move wasn’t a move at all. MSG (a.k.a., Madison Square Garden) decided to renew its 428,000-square-foot lease for its corporate headquarters at Vornado’s 2 Penn. (We don’t care if it’s a renewal, we’re talking nearly half a million square feet of space here!)

But there were other deals that broke the 100K mark, too. LeFrak, for instance, did 100,000 square feet worth of deals at 40 West 57th Street. (We don’t care that it was technically five separate deals, either. The math still adds up to 100,000 square feet.)

The pet supply subscription company BarkBox is taking a long walk from 221 Canal Street to Silverstein Properties’ Equitable Building at 120 Broadway, where it’s settling into 52,000 square feet. And speaking of Silverstein, ​​the ad firm Index Exchange took a 13-year sublease from Casper Sleep at 3 World Trade Center.

Also, the city seems pretty attractive to out-of-towners: the Texas-based asset manager and debt investor Sycamore Tree Capital Partners took 3,551 square feet at 437 Madison Avenue; Voro Motors, the L.A.-based electric scooter manufacturer, nabbed 4,250 square feet at Brooklyn’s Industry City for its first East Coast outpost; and the British investment manager J O Hambro Capital Management secured a new 5,237-square-foot office at William Kaufman Organization’s 437 Madison Avenue.

If all of this activity is giving you a jolt of excitement … well, stay away from the new, souped-up, 2,250-square-foot Starbucks coming to Hudson Yards. (It will be “a bit nicer” to fit in with Related’s Hudson Yards image, apparently. We’re a little curious what that means.) And, speaking of the Bucks, the java giant also opened a cashier-less cafe this week at 111 East 59th Street in a partnership with Amazon (AMZN); the duo is planning two more such locations as well.

Florida still shining

If you bought in Florida in 2014 your property is worth a lot more than it used to be. How much more?

Stiles Corporation, to take one example, made almost eight times what it paid for a Fort Lauderdale mall it bought back then for $2.4 million this week. (Wait. Back up a sec. You could have bought a whole entire mall in a major South Florida market for less than the price of a Brooklyn brownstone in 2014?! Good times.)

That’s what you might call in the business a “home run.” Someone who also knows a bit about homers is Alex Rodriguez. The legendary slugger is teaming up with Starwood (STWD) to buy some 45 South Florida homes for $18.4 million. (We love homers. But our favorite might be Homer Simpson. Did you know  there’s a new “Simpsons” pop-up in … wait for it … Springfield, Va.?)

Everybody’s galloping out to the Sunshine State like they got a clean hit down the third-base line. Kushner Companies and PTM Partners have joined forces to build a 420-unit multifamily project at 2000 Biscayne Boulevard in Edgewater. (Disclosure: Kushner Principal Nicole Meyer is married to CO’s publisher Joseph Meyer.)

Finally, Steve Witkoff announced plans to restore and renovate the Shore Club Hotel and Cromwell Hotel in Miami Beach with the esteemed Robert A.M. Stern leading the restoration efforts.

The big deal of the week

The number that caught our eye this week was $300 million. Global construction company Hilti Group announced that it was buying Fieldwire, the worksite job management software startup, for that gargantuan sum. (It was an even bigger deal than VTS’ purchase of Lane Technologies for $200 million last month, and we thought that was impressive!)

For that kind of cash Hilti could buy nearly five life sciences buildings in L.A., if this recent University of Southern California deal is any guide

Owners speak!

Finally, this week CO released its annual Owners Magazine. In addition to the 41 different megaowners surveyed on every subject from when they think the pandemic is over to their feelings on the incoming mayor, Eric Adams, the magazine also included stories about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legacy, the future of New York’s eviction moratorium, the fact that the pandemic scrambled everyone’s idea of how to value their properties, what the explosion of big players on the single-family rental scene means for the mid-sized owners, and an assessment of how New York’s building stock weathered (literally) Hurricane Ida. (Speaking of which, New York University released a study this week saying that the feared and despised Local Law 97 might be a lot cheaper and offer much bigger savings than landlords realize.)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!