Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Troubled Harlem Park Project Back in the Game

The world gave up on Harlem Park years ago, but the long-stalled development project at 1800 Park Avenue is being resurrected as a residential building with a big affordable housing component planned by developer Bruce Eichner. Vornado Realty Trust recently announced the $65 million sale of the site at the southwest corner of East 125th Street. Mr. Eichner is planning an 80/20 residential building of 596,000 square feet. It would include retail space, a garage and 600 new apartments, with at least 200 affordable units. The project, which is expected to cost around $250 million, may begin showing signs of life as early as this summer.

Once planned as a mixed-use mega-project where Major League Baseball would base its cable network, financing troubles and MLB's withdrawal ultimately killed the project. But now, developer Ian Bruce Eichner has stepped up to the plate.

Among Eichner’s developments projects are CitySpire on West 56th Street; 180 Montague St. in Brooklyn; 1540 Broadway in Times Square; and the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. He is as well known for developing high-profile projects as he is for losing them — including 1540 Broadway and the Cosmopolitan — to his lenders.

While Mr. Eichner doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to financing, the Bloomberg administration has been encouraging more affordable housing, so it would not be a surprise if low-interest financing and New York City bonds come into play and Harlem Park is finally back in the game..

In 2004, financing was approved for a $200 million Courtyard Marriott and office building to be developed by Raymond Caldiero, chairman of the Sequoia Group on the same site, but without any commercial tenants, the site was acquired by Vornado in 2007.

It planned a 600,000 square-foot office building with 72,000 feet of retail, but that also never came out of the ground.

In 2010, Vornado bought out its partners, California Urban Investment Partners — a joint venture which included basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson— for $11.85 million.

The site wraps the entire eastern end of the block between Madison and Park and East 125th and 124th streets.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bronx Armory to Become World's Largest Ice Skating Complex

The colossal Kingsbridge Armory, a turreted fortress in the Bronx that has sat vacant since 1996, will be transformed the world's largest indoor ice center. The announcement by Mayor Bloomberg came as no surprise, as the ice center plan won the support of local officials last year. With the support of celebrities like Olympic figure skater Sarah Hughes and pro hockey player Mark Messier, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center will host nine year-round ice rinks, an outdoor rink, 12 retail shops, plus 50,000-square-feet of community space. The $275 million project is expected to create 890 construction jobs, with groundbreaking to take place in 2014. 

The first phase of the development—five ice rinks and the community space—will be complete and operational by September 2016. The second phase will take an additional year.

The developer, KNIC Partners, founded by Kevin Parker, has privately invested into the project. It's all expected to be completed in 2017 and create nearly 500 permanent jobs.

Now, the fun stuff: what this 750,000-square-foot ice center will have. All nine rinks will be indoor regulation size, and usable for national and international hockey tournaments, figure and speed skating competitions, and ice shows - including one that can seat 10,000 people.

Five rinks will be on the main floor, and four will be on two elevated platforms 40 feet above the main level. At least two of the rinks will be usable for sled-hockey for people with disabilities. The center more than doubles the number of indoor ice rinks in NYC. Presently  there are only seven rinks in the city and none are located in the Bronx.

In addition to the rinks, there will be dressing rooms, lockers, retail space for sports goods, parking for 480 cars, and a wellness center with off-ice training fitness, rehabilitation, sports therapy programs.

One of the community programs will be run by a KNIC foundation that will host free after-school hockey and skating, as well as academic tutoring. The developer guarantees that 51% of jobs would go to Bronx residents and will provide opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as free ice time to Bronx public school students.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

West Side Mega-Tower Coming Back From the Dead

The Moinian Group’s plan for another mammoth residential tower are officially back in play. The foundation for 605 West 42nd Street had been poured when the credit crunch forced the project's developer to put construction on hold. The original design called for a 65-story glass box to be known as the 'Atelier II,' accompanying the neighboring 'Atelier' at 635 West 42 Street - but the empty pit has collecting debris since 2009. Now, there are signs of life at the long-vacant concrete basin. The developer has filed a new application for the site with the Department of Buildings which calls for a brand new 61-story, 656-foot tall rental tower with more than 1,200 units.

Atelier II is the second phase of The Moinian Group's 42nd Street development plan. It was designed in close coordination with the Atelier to create a strong sense of place. It will feature a prominent, sloping glass tower creating upwards of 1,000 apartments.

With over 1.1 million developable square feet, 605 West 42nd Street's distinctive tower will stand 61 stories tall. It will be home to 120,000 SF of luxury retail shops and over 550 underground parking spaces.

As with its sister property, Atelier, Costas Kondylis and Partners drew inspiration from the building's design from the great ocean liners docked along Manhattan's West Side. As described by the famed architect: "Like the buildings that comprise Rockefeller Center, each of the two residential towers has a distinctive character yet work together to define a cohesive whole through their use of composition, proportions and materials."

The developer had first earmarked the 1.1 million-square-foot site, located adjacent to the Moinian Group-developed Atelier condominium tower, for a residential tower in 2007. The recession stymied progress at the site, but the new plans signal that construction may shortly begin again in earnest. The plans originally called for a hybrid building with rentals at the base and condos starting at the mid-section and above. In a more recent interview, however, Joseph Moinian referred to the tower as a rental, indicating that he may have scrapped plans for the condos.

The recent DOB filing shows that Moinian wants to build a total of 1,669 units at the development site, which includes the Atelier at 635 West 42nd Street. There are 478 units at the Atelier, public records show, allowing for 1,191 at the so-called Atelier II.

The project’s architect is David West of Goldstein Hill & West, though early plans called for prolific architect Costas Kondylis to design the property. Tishman Construction will head up construction at the site, sources said.

The Moinian Group paid Verizon $120 million for the building in 2005 and began construction. The foundation was more than half completed when the financial crisis brought the project to a halt, and the site is registered as an 80-20 project eligible for tax abatement. The developer has been seeking a partner with which to develop the site for several years and even considered selling the site in 2010.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Surge of Residential Development Hits Downtown Brooklyn

The forest of apartment towers that has sprouted in downtown Brooklyn in recent years may just be the beginning of the area's upward growth according to a local business group, which predicts a second wave to the recent construction boom. Some 14 residential projects, including a few over 50 stories tall, are expected to be added in the area in the next two to three years. Of the 4,746 planned apartments, more than 20% of the units will be earmarked for affordable housing. About half of these projects are already rising, while the other half are currently in the development process. When they are completed, the area's population will rise from a little more than 13,000 to well over 25,000.

The boom began with a rezoning in 2004, which paved the way for new office and commercial towers along Flatbush Avenue and the surrounding blocks. Since then, 29 buildings with nearly 5,300 units have sprung up.

"You look at the residential boom that already took place, you look at the once-in-a-generation projects coming online, like Barclays Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park, you could conjecture, 'Oh, well, that's kind of the exclamation point, and we're done,'" said Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. "But no, I think really that's just the beginning, and you start to see that now with the next wave of development that's coming."

The group has also noted an increase in the portion of new units that will be affordable—rising to nearly 22% in the latest wave, from about 9% in the previous one.
This will push the area's ratio of affordable housing to market-rate to about 15%.

Once the current crops of projects are completed, the area will boast more than 1,400 affordable units, according to the partnership's study.

"When the rezoning was done, people complained it did not do enough for affordable housing, but this shows that's not the case," Mr. Reed said. "The rezoning worked."

The rezoning was one of the first major undertakings of the Bloomberg-era Department of City Planning, led by Commissioner Amanda Burden. The city has now rezoned more than one-third of the city's landmass, and the downtown Brooklyn one served as a model for many, pushing inclusionary housing as a means to foster affordable housing development.

Some complained that housing for low- and middle-income families should have been mandatory in all new developments, but the administration prefers a market-driven approach that uses government incentives and tax breaks to promote the private development of affordable housing.

"We're very pleased with the progress occurring in downtown Brooklyn, including a significant increase in the creation of affordable housing," Brooklyn City Planning Director Purnima Kapur said. "This indicates that the 2004 rezoning, in conjunction with other programs that promote affordable housing, is achieving its goals of creating a lively neighborhood with affordable and mixed-income housing, new retail stores, offices, and hotels that bring economic vitality and jobs to this area."

A spokesman for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which has helped support many projects in downtown Brooklyn, said the neighborhood has become a new home for all New Yorkers where once there was but a few hundred apartments.

"This is good housing policy, but more than that, it is good neighborhood policy and a road map for creating stable and diverse communities," he said.

Among the new developments embracing the public-private model is BAM South, a 32-story tower being built by Dumbo developer Two Trees Management.

In addition to 300 apartments, 20% of which will be set aside as affordable housing, the base of the building will contain 50,000 square feet of cultural space owned by the city.

"Before there were lingering questions about the area's attractiveness after work and on weekends, but the successful opening of Barclay's Center, the growing array of first-rate cultural institutions and more interesting retail options have driven up demand," said David Lombino, Two Tree's director of special projects. "More people want to live in downtown Brooklyn because it's a diverse and vibrant New York neighborhood and the market is responding to that."

Another 80/20 project, The Dermot Company's 47-story project on Flatbush Avenue, known as 66 Rockwell, will be the first to market since the bust, with 327 apartments coming to market in a few months. The Hub, developed by Doug Steiner, owner of the eponymous movie studio in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, will soon rise a few blocks away. That 52-story tower is slated to boast 750 units.

"We called it The Hub because there are so many great neighborhoods radiating out from our site, it's got great transportation, it's got great shopping and restaurants, and now it's going to have the best-in-class buildings," Mr. Steiner said. "Downtown Brooklyn really is becoming the heart of the Brooklyn everybody's talking about."

Related Articles:

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Mar 4, 2013]
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

New York Contractors Reeling From Huge Insurance Hikes

A huge upward spike in the cost of insuring construction projects against claims by injured workers is pushing up the cost of development, and at the same time eating into profits for an industry still struggling to bounce back from the recession. Construction companies and their subcontractors, which work under state labor law that puts absolute liability on the employer for injuries sustained on high-rise projects, say that their premiums have as much as tripled in the past year. 

Insurance companies, squeezed by low asset yields on one side, and big payouts for catastrophic events and soaring medical costs on the other, were hiking premiums even before Superstorm Sandy blew into the area.

Premium hikes are also being driven by a growing number of multimillion-dollar settlements for crane accidents and other lawsuits.

"In our New York City, the average claim involving New York Labor Law is approaching $4 million per lawsuit,” said Tom Grandmaison, executive vice president at AIG Property Casualty.

Traditionally, the cost of insuring a New York project for workers' compensation, general liability and excess liability is "3% to 4% of the value of the construction," he said. "Today, that number is 8%-plus."

Much of the increase is in the ballooning cost of reinsurance, or secondary layers of coverage. Typically, a re-insurer has to pay only after the first $1 million of coverage is used up, but that level is being hit much more frequently these days. Because of the number and size of claims, now the secondary carriers are suffering huge losses.

As a result, most insurers are now requiring a "buffer policy" of up to $5 million -- at a cost of nearly 10 times the previous rate for that intermediate level of coverage.

Brooklyn-based Skyline Steel Corp. got the bad news last summer.

"We were required by our customers, who are some of the larger contractors, to increase liability coverage from $1 million to $2 million per occurrence," he said. Skyline is paying the equivalent of 11% of sales after adding the additional coverage, up from 3.7%.  Skyline's bill jumped despite an "above average" safety record.

The Law behind the Costs

New York State's so-called 'Scaffold Law' - which holds the subcontractor liable even when an injured employee failed to comply with the company's safety policies and training - is the main culprit for skyrocketing insurance costs, according to Lou Colletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association.

He said the higher cost resulting from the law—the only one of its kind in the nation—could put some smaller subcontractors out of business, and even prevent some contractors from moving ahead with projects.

Attempts to change the law - to hold an employee partly liable for injuries caused by his or her own malfeasance - have died in Albany amid lobbying by trial lawyers and unions, who argue against watering down worker protections.

Rochester Assemblyman, Joseph Morelle, is introducing a bill this year to reform of the Scaffold Law, and allow owners, contractors, subcontractors and insurers to cite an employee's negligence as a defense.

Posing additional uncertainty for insurers is something called the "horizontal exhaustion" issue. It stems from a 2008 New York appellate court ruling on liability for the death of a worker who fell down an elevator shaft during the construction of the Bronx Court House. In that case, the judge ruled that the excess coverage held by the worker's employer should not kick in until after the primary insurance policy held by the building owner and that of the construction manager, Bovis Lend Lease, had been exhausted.

Higher Premiums

Because of that ruling, some primary insurers say they have no choice but to raise premiums to reflect their increased risk from claims against other companies working on the same project as their own clients.

The bad news, however, is that in the wake of the estimated $60 billion in destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties alone, any hope of insurers cutting rates for contractors is more remote than ever.

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[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 16, 2012]
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cornell Tech Campus Plans Well Ahead of Schedule

By 2017, Cornell's New York tech campus on Roosevelt Island may have as much as 800,000 square feet of space built. That is more than twice as much as is required by the school's agreement with the city, according to campus planners. In its bid to create the new tech campus, Cornell agreed to build a minimum of 300,000 square feet by 2017, but the current plans well surpass that. Plans for phase one of construction is moving well ahead of schedule and calls for four buildings.

Current plans call for construction of four buildings: an academic building; an executive education center with a hotel; a so-called corporate co-location building; and a residential building for students, faculty and staff.

At a recent presentation hosted by Cornell, the university's real estate consultant Karen Backus said the corporate co-location building would be about 150,000 square feet.

Two thirds of it will be rented out to tech businesses in an effort to foster close relationships between those firms and the school.

"In a typical campus there are real boundaries between business and academia," Ms. Backus said, adding that Cornell hopes to do away with those boundaries.

Cornell is in the process of selecting a developer for the three non-academic buildings, and is considering using a master developer, Ms. Backus said. The academic building will be developed separately.

Meanwhile, the school is prepared to lessen any danger of flooding. Even before Superstorm Sandy, the team planning the Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island had planned to create higher ground on which to build. The school had planned to put all of the buildings at least 19 feet above sea level after studying the 100-year flood plain Mr. Whang said. After the storm, Cornell re-thought the positioning of equipment and decided to move it up from the basement level.

In addition to flooding dangers and all the other considerations the school is juggling, planners are also concerned about aesthetics. That is especially important, given that the campus will be clearly visible from both sides of the East River.

Campus Design Unveiled

The Cornell NYC Tech campus, which currently resides on the third floor of Google’s Chelsea headquarters, begins its march to a permanent home next week, with the start of the city's land use review.

The school has ambitious plans - and has not been shy about making that known.

At a briefing held at 111 Eighth Avenue, the university presented sketches designed by star architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects. Aside from meeting the school's requirements for a flexible interior space, the structures aim to use no more energy than it produces.

If it succeeds, the four-story, 150,000-square-foot main building would be the first academic building anywhere to do so, thanks to solar panels atop the structure and geo-thermal wells underneath it. The futuristic-looking building will be part of the first phase of construction, is scheduled for completion in time for the campus' opening in the summer of 2017.

Introducing the plans, Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell NYC Tech, described the institution as a new kind of applied sciences school. Other graduate research schools, including Cornell and its academic partner in the new venture, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, have all come out of the industrial age. The Roosevelt Island campus will be born of the digital era.

"It's the first graduate research institution where somebody's trying to design it from the ground up in the information age," Mr. Huttenlocher said. In this new age, research and practical applications happen simultaneously, in contrast to the old model in which research came first and practical uses followed.

The overall campus design aims to act out those ambitions.

A "tech walk" thoroughfare will run down the center of the campus, creating a north-south pedestrian spine, onto which all the buildings will open, according to architect Colin Koop, from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the master plan.

Across the tech walk from the academic building will be a co-location building, to be built in partnership with a private developer, where companies and nonprofits will lease space for proprietary research.

Scott Lee, a senior architect at Morphosis, described the academic building as designed for "interdisciplinary" use, with "walkable" open spaces that will encourage interaction between groups. There will be only six classrooms, with a lot of flexible space for teaching and research.

Once the project gets through the seven-month approval process, Cornell will begin demolition of the Goldwater Hospital that now stands on the site in early 2014, said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech.

The first class at Cornell NYC Tech will commence in January 2014.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Memorial Sloan-Kettering, CUNY Healthy Expansion on Upper East Side

Two new contemporary healthcare centers will soon come to the hospital corridor along the East Side of Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, CUNY announced plans to build a state-of-the-art cancer center and nursing school in a new million-square-foot building on the Upper East Side. The prominent waterfront location at 525 East 73rd Street will further highlight the city’s position at the forefront of the medical research. The project will create more than 3,200 construction jobs and nearly 830 permanent jobs, and is expected to be completed in 2017.

These two new facilities will allow both Memorial Sloan Kettering and CUNY/Hunter College to move into labs and healthcare units appropriate for the cutting-edge work and care that they both do—and they will look cool doing it.

In a deal with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the institutions will pay $215 million for a 66,000-square-foot city-owned site at 525 East 73rd Street, a move the mayor lauded as a prime public-private partnership.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the world’s oldest and largest private institution devoted to cancer care, which will construct a 750,000-square-foot state of the art cancer treatment facility, will take up most of the space. The aim of the project is to prompt the development of innovative outpatient treatment programs.

CUNY Hunter College will take up the balance of the space with a new Science and Health Professions building that cover some 336,000-square-foot. The project upgrades Hunter’s science and nursing facilities and enables its faculty, researchers and students to work in a location close to its main campus on the Upper East Side. It will also provide efficient and state-of-the-art science and nursing facilities.

The project reflects the Administration’s efforts to expand science and research activity in New York City at a timely moment when the city’s science, technology and research fields are flourishing.

“Thanks to our innovative approach to economic development, today’s announcement is yet another step towards making New York City home to the world’s most talented workforce,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Not only will these two great institutions play a critical role in creating great jobs in one of the city’s growing industries, but they usher in the innovators and medical advancements of tomorrow.”
“These new facilities will enhance New York’s already first-ranked standing in the areas of medical research, treatment and learning," he said, "and they’ll enable both Hunter College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to carry out their life-saving missions in state-of-the-art facilities in a beautiful location overlooking the East River."

The Department of Sanitation's East 73rd Street facility was demolished in 2008 with the intention of erecting a new garage. However, when budget constraints delayed the project indefinitely, so the city to capitalize on the site.

And, as well as offering physicians and researchers an inspiring and efficient environment in which to both work and provide care, the new building, designed by Ennead Architects and Perkins Eastman, will be a bold new addition to the Manhattan skyline.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another New High Line Tower Soon to Rise

A developer has finalized its vision for a new office tower it plans to erect next door to the High Line Park, at 510 West 22nd Street. Plans recently submitted to the city by Garden City-based developer Albanese Organization, for the 170,000-square-foot tower just west of the elevated greenway, are considerably different from last year's proposal— inside and out. What was originally to be a glassy nine-story, all-steel structure will now be a 10-story concrete one. 

Frank Gehry’s IAC building was a shot of glamour for West Chelsea when it was built in 2007, an almost ethereal assemblage of white, sail-like forms at 18th Street and the West Side Highway.

At 130,000 square feet, it is one of the largest commercial buildings in the neighborhood.

Now, it may have a rival, at least in size. The Albanese Organization just closed on a deal for a nondescript warehouse abutting the High Line elevated park that was once intended to be a hotel built by the musician Jay-Z. Albanese plans to replace it with a nine-story 175,000-square-foot office building.

The $140 million project, at 510 West 22nd Street and 10th Avenue, a few blocks north of the IAC building, is to have 160 feet of frontage on the High Line, 14- to 20-foot-high ceilings and floor plates of 15,000 to 20,000 square feet.

“The IAC Building was ahead of its time,” said Mr. Albanese, “but there is demand for another corporate headquarters-type development now in the neighborhood.”

Cook + Fox Architects is designing the structure and is hoping to obtain LEED Platinum certification as a sign of its green credentials. “It will have entirely new infrastructure, and from the interior you will feel engaged with the High Line and with nature,” said Richard A. Cook, a partner at the firm. There will be terraces on the north and south sides of the second floor, as well as a penthouse-style setback on the ninth floor and a planted roof. The ground-floor retail space will most likely be for a gallery or events, Mr. Cook said. Ceiling heights will average 10 feet; column-free window expanses will offer far-ranging views.

The originally all-glass structure with non-opening windows will now include some operable ones, rare in an office building — architect Rick Cook of Cook + Fox “thought it was critical because of the uniqueness of the site for an office building.”

The 510 West 22nd Street address is now a vacant five-story garage, a small chunk of which will be retained to meet zoning requirements.

What’s now a blank wall abutting the High Line — one of the insanely popular park’s few eyesores, although largely shielded by trees until winter — will become a “reach out and touch it” glass facade, similar to those of apartment buildings astride the park.

The developers want to break ground as soon as it can to exploit the High Line corridor’s singular commercial appeal, a function of the park’s gravitational pull on fashion and media tenants, and limited office supply compared with apartments.

Friday, April 19, 2013

PSC Approves $2B Quebec-to-Queens Transmission Line

The New York State Public Service Commission has approved the construction of a 1,000 megawatt power transmission line stretching 330 miles from the Canadian border to Queens. The line would terminate at a converter station located in Consolidated Edison’s Astoria complex where a high voltage circuit will connect to the nearby New York Power Authority substation. From the substation, another set of HV cables will stretch three miles under Long Island City streets to Con Edison’s Rainey substation. The privately financed project is estimated to cost around $2 billion, and would transmit enough power to light a million New York City homes.

The 330-mile line would pump 1,000 megawatts downstate—increasing the city's energy supply by around 10%, state regulators said. The subterranean line would wend its way from Canada, under Lake Champlain, the Hudson River, highways and railroad right-of-ways, to a Consolidated Edison converter station in Astoria, Queens.

The project will be privately financed, and regulators said they approved the project because they said ratepayers would not be at risk of seeing their payments go up, should the project go over budget. 

Some obstacles, however, remain. Champlain Hudson Power Express, which received state Public Service Commission's approval Thursday, must still get federal permits and secure private financing. The company behind Hudson Power is Transmission Developers, a Canadian concern backed by New York private-equity group The Blackstone Group.

The project, several years in the making, also faces some opposition from a coalition that is pushing for the creation of power sources downstate. New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, made up of several business and labor groups, criticized the state's decision to connect the line to Canadian power, most which is hydroelectric.

"It's long term not going to generate any jobs in New York," an Electricity Alliance spokesman said. "It's just a dedicated line where the power will be produced in Canada, and payments sent to Canada."

The power lines are slated to start operating by 2018. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made rebuilding the state's energy infrastructure a priority for his economic development plan, partly because transmitting electricity hundreds of miles across old lines means much of the energy produced upstate is lost before it can be distributed to New York City users.

The Electricity Alliance argues that power should be produced locally. Environmentalists had also voiced some opposition to the project. As part of the deal, Hudson Power Express agreed to create and fund a $117.15 million trust "for the enhancement of aquatic habit

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Catholic School Nabs Space in Ultra-Luxury Condo

At a time when many Catholic schools are being cut back, Xavier High School in Manhattan is expanding with a new six-story wing, adding classrooms, a gymnasium and recital space in an unusual real-estate gambit with a local developer. The new granite-clad school annex adjacent to Xavier's current campus will be topped by a cantilevered glass condominium that will rise 300 feet above 15th Street, just west of Fifth Avenue. Already angled steel struts have begun to poke above surrounding low-rise buildings.

The new 35,000-square-foot wing will enable Xavier, a prominent preparatory school for boys that dates back to 1847, to have more space for its growing student body that will total more than 1,100 students next year. The school's graduates include Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.

"We are bursting at the seams," said Jack Raslowsky, a former school superintendent in Hoboken who has been president of Xavier since 2009, the first lay person to head the school. In recent years, the school has moved to three lunch periods because of its limited space and required some teachers to rove from classroom to classroom, because of space shortages.

The new building will include a gymnasium with a 25-foot-high ceiling and music practice and recital space with a 17-foot-high ceiling. But just above the sixth floor's chiseled granite walls, there will be a 75-foot-wide private terrace for use by owners of the 55 glass-walled condos above, along with a fitness center, lounge and dining room.

The new condominium, known as 35XV, is now listed with unit prices ranging between about $1.55 million for a spacious, 938-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, and $11.5 million for a four-bedroom near the top of the building. There are marble slabs in the kitchens and bathrooms and many apartments will have open views north to the Empire State Building.

Alchemy is developing luxury condominiums near the top of the Woolworth Building downtown, with about 40 condos due to go on the market early next year. But the 35XV is the company's most expensive project to date, with large layouts, high ceilings and lavish interior designs. About 40% of the apartments are listed in contract.

The collaboration between the school and the developer grew out of the collapse of an earlier deal near the peak of the real-estate boom.

In that deal, Xavier had agreed to the outright sale to Tishman Hotel & Realty of unused air rights it owned to build a hotel on the site of a union hall next door to its campus. Under that plan, the school was to get more than $20 million for its endowment.

When the union hall came back on the market in 2010 in a weaker real-estate market, Mr. Raslowsky said he and the board tried to find a way to "have some control of our destiny and meet some necessary needs."

It turned out the union property was far more valuable with the school's air rights, and the school's air rights were potentially worthless unless sold to the buyer of the union hall.

Rather than selling the air rights to the highest bidder, Mr. Raslowsky and the Xavier board joined forces with Ken Horn, the president of Alchemy Properties.

Mr. Horn had put up a condominium across 15th Street from the school a few years earlier and developed a good working relationship with the school during construction.

"We were on the block longer than anybody," Mr. Raslowsky said. "We couldn't say we are going to work with anybody. They needed to be people we trusted. They needed to be ethical."

That deal on air rights gave Alchemy leverage in bidding to buy the union hall at a better price. Working with Angelo, Gordon & Co., Alchemy paid $13.77 million for the air rights, which covered the cost of the school's new wing as well as part of the cost of furnishing it.

By putting a school in the base of the building, Alchemy was able to qualify for a "community-use" zoning bonus to build a larger building.

The unusual design for the two-part building was created by FXFOWLE, while the school space was designed by Beyer Blinder Belle. Mr. Horn said that the unusual angled glass facade of the building followed the line of the "sky exposure plan" a slope that limits how much the front of a building needs to be set back on narrow street as it goes higher.

Two brokers involved in the air-rights deal at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, David Noonan and Jennifer Schwartzman, won an award from the Real Estate Board of New York for the "most ingenious deal of the year" in 2010.

In order to push Alchemy to bid higher, Mr. Noonan said he found another buyer to sign a letter of intent to buy the property at a higher price, with or without the air rights. In the end the building sold to Alchemy for $16.6 million, according to property records. Back in 2008, it had been in contract for close to $30 million, according to Mr. Horn. A spokesman for Tishman Hotel & Realty declined to comment.

Xavier is one of 50 Jesuit high schools across the country and is run independently of the Archdiocese of New York, with tuition this year listed at $13,600.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Despite Building Boom, Unions Labor for Traction

In another sign of a rebound in the housing market, Zeckendorf Development are building a 44-story, $500 million condominium tower across from the United Nations. Given the location and the company's track record as one of the most successful ultra-high-end residential developers in the city, the units are expected to fetch tens of millions of dollars apiece. What is surprising is that the apartments are being built under PLA wage concessions -- which shave as much as 20% off labor costs— and putting millions of additional dollars in the developer's pocket.

Project Labor Agreements became common during the recession. Their continued use as the market recovers, especially by developers of some of the city's priciest projects, marks a departure from past recoveries, when labor costs typically have bounced back with a vengeance to drive construction costs to new highs. This time around, early indications are that the old, notoriously volatile pattern may be changing—a shift that most observers credit to the striking rise of nonunion contractors in recent years.

"A developer today has options," said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, a group that represents union contractors. Instead of simply "take it or leave it," these days developers of all but the very largest of projects can opt to hire nonunion contractors, or use that option as a threat to negotiate lucrative concessions from unionized ones.

Among the current rising crop of gold-plated condos whose developers have negotiated such special project labor agreements, are the tower at 56 Leonard Street in Tribeca, the 16-story condo at 150 Charles Street in the West Village, and at 432 Park Avenue, the city's tallest residential building - an 89-story, $1 billion project.

Not surprisingly, as the construction market heats up, the continued use of PLAs is raising some eyebrows.

There have been murmurings by some of the trades questioning the continued use of PLAs. Project Labor Agreements help stimulate construction, but there are many who believe they should be nixed."

The situation is especially noteworthy against the backdrop of the recent rise in construction orders. According to the New York Building Congress, roughly $30 billion of such work was done in 2012, a total second only to that of 2007, a year, when union builders were able to negotiate generous wage increases.

No Time Soon

Such increases are unlikely in negotiations this year, like those that will begin this month with the electrician's union IBEW, Local 3, or the following month with the ironworkers union Local 580. Instead, the pressure will be on the two unions, which boast a total of over 20,000 members between them, to make the discounts given in the PLAs a permanent fixture of their work contracts going forward.

"We're about to enter another round of bargaining, and while the market has improved, it's still choppy for the unions," said Paul Salvatore, a labor attorney who negotiated a huge PLA for the huge $15 billion Hudson Yards project. "We'll have to see how the round of bargaining goes, but there are definitely those who would like to see the work-rule changes in the PLAs rolled into their contracts."

For labor-cost savings of as much as 30%, a growing number of developers are simply going whole hog and hiring nonunion contractors. Those projects include City Point, a multiphase complex of retail and residential buildings being developed by Acadia Realty Trust in downtown Brooklyn, which will include, at more than 60 stories, the borough's tallest spire.

Less than a mile away, Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital are planning to build a nonunion 550,000-square-foot development that will include a residential building and a hotel on the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Similarly, developers Joe Moinian and Starwood Capital are building a 34-story Hilton hotel on West 54th Street in Manhattan nonunion, a project that drew fierce blowback from organized labor, especially as it is rising next to two union projects.

"It's like they were just spitting in our faces," said one union spokesman.

Even developers who prefer to build union; reckoning that the quality of the work and timeliness of the execution will be worth the additional cost, increasingly have misgivings. A case in point is one of the most prolific builders in recent years, Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development. He said he would like to build union but is being forced to consider nonunion labor because of competitive pressures.

We Have To Compete

Developers may reap a 30% savings by electing to use nonunion contractors. "I am losing land purchases for the simple reason that the buyer who will do the project nonunion can pay more than I can," Mr. Barnett said. "We're definitely going to have to look to build some of our projects nonunion in order to compete."

No one, however, is counting construction unions out long term, especially not if construction activity should continue to heat up.

While the overall market has risen, large projects like the Second Avenue subway, the East Side Access project and construction of Water Tunnel #3 (exclusively in the union's domain) have wound down in recent years. If big infrastructure and development jobs begin again, such as Hudson Yards and the Tappan Zee Bridge redevelopment, union workers could find themselves flush with work and back in the driver's seat against those who employ them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

City Council Approves Pier 57 Redevelopment Plan

As New Yorkers' minds turn toward the waterfront for the season, the City Council has granted unanimous approval to Youngwoo & Associates to begin its ambitious plans to redevelop Pier 57 at the foot of West 15th Street. The plan involves renovating the existing building that encompasses the entire pier and turning it into an urban mall. The conversion includes a two-floor public marketplace, a two-acre rooftop open space and a 115-slip marina, along with the installation of re-purposed shipping containers stacked three to four stories high, which will serve as retail space for a collection of tenants.

The proposal won unanimous approval from the City Council afternoon after having successfully negotiated the city's public review process. The redevelopment will give Hudson River Park a major shot in the arm.

Malls and buildings made out of shipping containers aren't really anything new. What is new about the latest shipping container mall coming to the city: it will be at Pier 57, where the development plan from Youngwoo & Associates is finally in motion.

The developer will set up shipping containers as stores for about 60 retailers. Each store can rent a shipping container for $3,000/mo. until the rest of P57 - as the pier's makeover is now known - opens in spring 2015, when the Incuboxes will rise in price to $5,500/month.

Youngwoo will also lease about 20,000 square feet of more traditional retail space to one or more anchor tenants on the 61-year-old dock. The plan also includes the creation of about 100,000 square feet of public space at on the property's roof. The Tribeca Film Festival will use the roof as an outdoor theater, a major part of the firm’s proposal for the site.

The Tribeca  Film Festival will establish a permanent outdoor venue on the roof of the pier, offering a mix of film, music and arts-based programming and promoting cultural connections between New York’s artistic community and the general public. In addition to hosting parts of the annual film festival itself, the P57 “Sky Park” will be the year-round backdrop for a variety of exhibitions and performances to educate entertain and inspire independent artists and audiences alike.

The redevelopment will generate much-needed revenue for the Hudson River Park at a time when it is searching for money to renovate the neighboring Pier 40, which needs up to $100 million of renovation work to refurbish its wood pilings. Plans have been floated for that pier, too, including adding office, residential or hotel space to the existing sports fields.

 Youngwoo’s proposal also calls for a 90,000 square-feet “Contemporary Culture Center” on the ground floor, envisioned as a unique mix of auction, exhibition, gallery and entertainment space centered on the contemporary arts. Seasonal docks will be provided for kayaks, canoes and other small craft. Other features include a two-acre rooftop park, restaurants and an “Underwater Discovery Center” in one of the piers historic caissons.

Youngwoo & Associates recently developed a Chelsea condominium tower with a car elevator that allows owners to bring their vehicles up to their doors and, during the recession, they snapped up AIG’s art-deco headquarters downtown.

Redevelopment of the pier, a National Historic Registry structure containing approximately 375,000 square feet of buildable waterfront space, is estimated to cost a total of $210 million.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another Tall Apartment Tower Slated for the Far West Side

The boom is back on the Far West Side. In addition to the Related Companies Hudson Yards project and Brookfield Properties Manhattan West complex, Larry Silverstein is moving forward with a new 60-story residential tower at 514 Eleventh Avenue.  Silverstein is roughing out designs for the new tower that will rise across the street from his twin Silver Towers, which also rise to 60 stories, and will make for an interesting trio on the skyline.

Silverstein Properties has developed two large residential projects on the West Side with more than 2,000 units combined in Silver Towers, the twin-towered rental buildings at 600 West 42nd Street, and the 41-story tower at 1 River Place. The development firm is currently building the 72-story 4 World Trade Center, the retail base of 3 World Trade Center and 2 World Trade Center to street level.

The new Silverstein building would be part of a residential construction boom on the West Side. Brookfield Office Properties has even changed plans at its Manhattan West project at Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street and is now considering adding as many as 900 residential units to a formerly entirely office project.

Extell Development owns the adjacent parcel at 502 West 41st Street, and The Atelier II – a 61-story condominium at 605 West 42nd Street - has just begun construction right around the corner. Piece by piece, a new community is finally coming together.

The project is also down the block from the 62-story MiMA, meaning things sure are getting crowded by the river. The retail portion of the project is expected to be between 150,000 and 250,000 square feet, the developer’s said.

The ground floor is important to driving development, apparently, because Mr. Silverstein is also eager to get his old friends at the Port Authority to take space in another neighboring tower project, where he hopes they would park their buses, and presumably provide some money to help get the project of the ground and persuade banks in making the necessary construction loans.

Silverstein will partner with Mercedes-Benz of Manhattan, which owns the land. The site is the former showroom for the luxury automaker, which relocated to 555 West 53rd Street last year.

Now, if only they could open that extra 7-Train stop at 42nd Street...

E-J Electric Flying High at JFK’s Terminal 5

E-J Electric Installation Company is in the midst of a multiyear project for Turner Construction at New York City‘s John F. Kennedy Airport. The contractor is wiring the newly constructed $875 million, 635,000-square-foot JetBlue Airways terminal, which includes 26 gates.
The terminal has begun servicing 360 flights in and out daily. E-J Electric is providing the electric installation, including switchgear, feeders, low-voltage data and fire safety, and supplemental power from three generators. 

The Y-shaped Terminal 5 building connects to JetBlue’s previous location, Terminal 6, once the Trans World Airlines Flight Center used by TWA. T5 offers modern facilities and room for growth, as the airline continues to expand its operations and both domestic and international flights.

JetBlue, JFK’s fastest growing airline, started flying in and out of the airport a decade ago with just one gate for a handful of flights. Since then, JetBlue grew a gate at a time, reaching the 13 gates maximum that were available to it at Terminal 6.

In 2005, the airline added seven temporary gates in a separate facility, requiring passengers to take a JetBlue bus to access their planes. As a result, the airline needed a permanent space and began planning T5, making allowances for continued expansion.

The airline’s architect designed T5 to include 26 gates, with 13 on each end of the Y and room for 10 more. The company’s T5 master plan included up to 20 security lanes, the departure and arrival gates, free Wi-Fi access throughout the entire terminal, 22 restaurants and food outlets, retail stores, and large children’s area.

JetBlue hired Turner Construction as general contractor, and Turner employed a total of 80 subcontractors, including E-J Electric for the electrical portion.

E-J Electric and Turner already have completed numerous projects together, including Yankee Stadium, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Interfaith Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

E-J Electric, whose electricians have worked at JFK for years, was selected to do electrical wiring tasks, including both normal and emergency power in addition to low voltage.

Since E-J Electric’s workers already had considerable experience in airport work, getting them to comply with Federal Aviation Administration and Port Authority regulations was fairly straightforward. For instance, each electrician must gain security clearance on a job-by-job basis. This project required all workers to take a safety training class before starting work on the project. They also had to carry a picture ID badge at all times.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Recessed Downlighting Fixtures for LED and CFL’s

  Topaz Lighting & Electric is proud to announce their newest division, NextWave 
  Recessed Downlighting. Nextwave offers  a select line of recessed downlighting 
  for Commercial and Residential applications. Our line of 4” and 6” recessed 
  housings are perfect for LED and CFLs, in both new and remodel construction.

Nextwave™ is considered a leader in the production of first-rate Recessed Downlighting and Fixtures for a wide range of applications in the commercial, industrial, institutional, and consumer markets.  Our fixtures are made with the highest quality materials available to ensure years of operational reliability and they are value priced. We are an excellent alternative to the giant manufacturers.We offer a broad range of products for every application including:

  • Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Cans for Sloped Ceilings
  • Universal Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Dual-Purpose Cans
  • Trims for All 6-1/4”. Line Voltage Cans
  • Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Cans for Sloped Ceilings
  • Trims for 6-1/4”. Line Voltage Sloped Ceiling Cans
  • Low Voltage 4”. Recessed Cans
  • Trims for All 4”. Low Voltage Cans
  • Low Voltage Mini Trims 3-1/4”. To 4-1/2”. Diameter
  • Electronic Transformer For Use With Mini Trims
  • Line Voltage 4”. Recessed
  • 4-7/8”. Trims for 4”. Line Voltage Cans
  • Downlighting for Compact Fluorescent Lamps Trims for Compact Fluorescent Cans
  • Fluorescent 6”, 5”and 4”

Nextwave™ recessed down lighting fixtures are sold exclusively through authorized Nextwave™ wholesale distributors.

Click here to view our complete line of products, or Contact Us for more information.