Nicholas Bienstock

Nick Bienstock

Co-chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Savanna

Nicholas Bienstock
By November 3, 2023 10:00 AM

Where is Savanna going to be in 2026?

Every crisis creates an opportunity. The widespread distress in the office market has created a widespread need for “rescue capital” — similar in nature to what we last saw following the Global Financial Crisis. At that time, Savanna was one of the most active buyers of distressed debt-to-
equity transactions in New York. We see a similar opportunity emerging as we go into 2024. With a fully integrated operating platform, expertise up and down the capital stack, and deep experience in complex debt-to-equity transactions, we believe we are an ideal partner to take advantage of that opportunity. So, we are positioning our platform to focus on New York City distressed and rescue capital deals over the next two to three years.

In contrast to the challenges in New York City, our South Florida business is strong and growing rapidly. We are building the Olara, a 1.6 million-square-foot waterfront condominium and rental project in West Palm Beach and already have $100 million of hard contracts — before the sales office has opened. And we are in the pre-development stages of Pine, a 600,000-square-foot, high-end rental project, and the Intracoastal, a 500,000-square-foot workforce housing and moderate-income rental project in West Palm Beach. We have about 15 people in our West Palm Beach office, and that will probably be closer to 25 within the next 12 months.

Where is Savanna  going to be in 2028?

Our hope is that by 2028 we will have completed the acquisition of a portfolio of distressed investments in New York City, stabilized them, and will be looking to exit certain deals! In Florida, we expect to have completed construction and $1.5 billion of sales on our Olara project in West Palm Beach, and will be nearing completion of both Pine and the Intracoastal, and launching additional projects in Southern Florida.

Where is Savanna going to be in 2033?

Ten years out is a bit too far to prognosticate.  

Tell us about a successful financing you’ve done in the last 12 months. Or tell us about an unsuccessful one. 

We closed a large pre-development loan with Madison Realty Capital for Olara in West Palm Beach. They were terrific lending partners for the project. We completed several workouts on New York City deals and still have several underway. I am characterizing a workout as an unsuccessful financing — until it closes — for purposes of this question.

When will we know the market has stabilized?

When deep distress has worked its way through the system and interest rates have eased, we expect the market to stabilize. I’d estimate that this happens by 2027 or 2028 at the latest.

How do you think the 2024 presidential campaign will impact the real estate market?

I think regional and local politics are likely to impact commercial real estate more than the presidential election. In New York, Eric Adams and Kathy Hochul are saying the right things, but they are fighting extreme left legislatures whose favored policies are sending a firehose of wealthy people and productive business out of New York state to Florida and other more welcoming jurisdictions. That’s great for Savanna’s Florida business, but it’s not good for New York. 

If you were to invest your own money in someone else’s real estate, who do you like and why?

Blackstone. They are so big they have limited competition for many of their larger deals. And, importantly, they can raise money on a huge scale during moments of distress, when it is harder for everyone else to raise money. Those distress moments can be fleeting, but often bring the most compelling investment opportunities — and, if you are capital-ready like Blackstone, it’s an enormous advantage.


Who do you like for POTUS in 2024? I wish both sides would give us alternate choices.

Do you feel personally safe moving through NYC? I feel less safe than under Bloomberg. The quality of life in NYC deteriorated significantly under de Blasio.

Jerome Powell: Are you a fan or critic? I think the Fed underestimated many of the serious, negative unintended consequences of the rapid rise of interest rates. Hopefully, they will turn rates in the other direction in early 2024.

Can’t-live-without technology now? Zoom and video conferencing tech.

Elon Musk is …? Brilliant and disruptive.

Taylor Swift or Beyoncé? I’m a Swiftie!

Artificial intelligence — good or bad? Good.

Mischa’s or Nathan’s for a hot dog? Nathan’s, baby!

Netflix or Hulu? Netflix.

What character are you in “Succession”? Have not seen it. But given my kid’s descriptions, I don’t think I want to be anyone.