Interview: Market Trends with Douglas Elliman’s Clifford Finn

Go East! Long Island City and Brooklyn are booming.

YIMBY sat down with Clifford Finn, Executive Vice President of Douglas Elliman’s new development marketing team, to discuss his thoughts regarding what’s up and coming in New York City, the latest happenings in NoMAD, and the continued ramifications of Hurricane Sandy. YIMBY in bold.

Have you heard anything about Journal Square, and do you see it becoming more like Downtown Jersey City or Long Island City? How quickly is it going to develop?

It’s interesting. You know, in the past, Jersey City was more of a suburban mentality; that goes for the people building there, and the audience that was going there. Although many Manhattanites found their way there, a wide audience was filling those buildings; it was a little bit different than crossing the other rivers. But that’s changing, because now everybody is looking there due to the increase in land costs. Brooklyn is not a huge discount to Manhattan anymore, and Long Island City is not far behind it; everybody is looking for the next great, convenient, commutable destination, and they are setting their sights back on Jersey City and the surrounding area.

Journal Squared

Journal Squared – image via Handel Architects

Moving back to Manhattan, YIMBY attended 1182 Broadway’s opening, which is a converted building in NoMAD; what are some features that make conversions in NoMAD stand apart from new developments in the neighborhood, and what’s special about The Centurian?

In the past, conversions of this type were typically larger buildings that go condo — like 10 Madison Square West. But for rent, you either had the Sixth Avenue high-rises and the few hot buildings off that corridor, or much older conversion stock that doesn’t have the luxury standard of today’s market. And I think what sets The Centurian apart from the rest is that it’s rental, but was built with a condominium sensibility and comparable finishes.

The Centurian

The Centurian — image from the Museum of the City of New York

It seems geared towards wealthy bachelors in technology.

Well, some units were; on the typical floor-plates before you get to the upper, larger apartments, we have two loft-style layouts that don’t have a formal bedroom. And then we have two [layouts] that have formal bedrooms, and they’re all similar in size. So I think it’s not just about singles; definitely couples too, and more established people. In that neighborhood, we’re seeing a cross-section of different types of people; it really speaks to a lot of audiences.

And do you think the broad appeal of NoMAD heralds its emergence as one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city?

I think that it’s one of them, because there’s a lot of similarities between NoMAD and neighborhoods like SoHo and Tribeca — but you have a park, and you’re more centrally located. It’s convenient to Midtown, Uptown, and Downtown, and it’s a great spot if you have to get out of the city quickly because it’s so close to the bridges and tunnels. You’re a little bit more centrally located, but you still have the flavor and feel that you’re not in Midtown.

1165 Broadway

A new building set for 1165 Broadway — image from Spector Group

Where would you say the neighborhood’s boundaries are? Because it’s still emerging.

Madison Square Park ends at 26th Street, so up to about 30th. I think once you cross 30th it gets much more Midtown-like. And then down to 23rd Street; below 23rd people consider it to be Flatiron. And it extends between Broadway and Park Avenue.

Sandy devastated sections of the city; do you see prices being affected in areas like the West Village and the Seaport, if measures to mitigate future events are not taken? If there is another event, do you think the double-whammy could result in a sustained drop in prices?

Not in the immediate future, I mean I myself live in a Zone 1 neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, and it didn’t affect the market for those neighborhoods at all.

But if there was another one?

I think it depends on if they get worse. I think that everybody feels like what happened was very inconvenient, but there was nothing truly devastating. I think the Seaport was much more affected, and that neighborhood is a little more sensitive to future impacts than the West Side. We have a lot of projects that are in flood zones, and plans have remained the same, it’s just that some components have been elevated. And that’s the way things need to be moving forward; you have to build for the tide to go through the property, and not disrupt the tower. We have to build to accommodate; I don’t think people are scared as long as they know that the issues are being addressed.

What about insurance companies?

It’s hard; again, I’m in a Zone 1 building, and our insurance premiums doubled. And that’s unfortunate, but if you have a house on the ocean, it’s a risk you take to be on the ocean. And it’s the same with living in these prime neighborhoods.

As prices in Manhattan rise, Brooklyn and Queens are becoming go-to destinations for luxury real estate. What do you see in the future for Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City; will the impending development boom keep prices steady, given the amount of supply that will soon be coming online?

No, prices are climbing, and I think they’ll continue to rise. Everything that we’ve been touching has been climbing, and I believe that the bulk of the rental marketplace out there is really what isn’t being built in Manhattan, so it’s not like it’s in addition to anything going up in Manhattan — so there isn’t an abundance of new product. Those price-points won’t exist in brand-new developments on the island, so people have to go to Queens and Brooklyn for these buildings, and I don’t see supply hitting demand — at least in any of the studies we’ve looked at. And the discount, even with future conservative growth, is respectable.

CityPoint phase I and 388 Bridge Street

CityPoint phase I and 388 Bridge Street

What about Harlem? It seems like people neglect it even though prices there are also increasing.

I think people focus on where the obvious discounts are, and when those go away, they set their sites on the next ones. It’s like Bushwick; is that the next one? No, now it’s Bensonhurst. It keeps moving farther out, and farther up; everything is cyclical. I think people were hot on Harlem a few years ago; people caught on, then the obvious discounts were gone, so the momentum shifted elsewhere. But now everything has elevated, and they are re-visiting Harlem, because what might have not seemed like a discount previously is now well-priced. I think we’re going to see a lot of movement in East Harlem in particular.

But what about all the public housing? Don’t you think that will prevent revitalization?

Yes and no. Anything that’s a destination — a building’s presence will overshadow that. I think people in New York City are accustomed to public housing being all around them. If you look at the West Side, you have the Amsterdam Houses by Lincoln Center; twenty or thirty years ago, you would never walk around back there. But now, it is completely surrounded on all four sides with extremely expensive luxury housing, and neighborhoods that didn’t exist back then. I think people are accepting, and if it’s a neighborhood on the verge, people are likely to take the discount. You don’t have to twist anybody’s arm to buy near the Amsterdam Houses today.

So, finally: If you could pick the top three neighborhoods to invest in today, which would they be?

I think one of the best — and I’m not just saying this because we have a building going up there — but I think Inwood is one of the very few sleeper neighborhoods still around, and I really like it. I still think, for different reasons, that FiDi is still comparatively undervalued. You’re starting to see the trickle-down effect from the Village and SoHo, as it heads Downtown. With North FiDi, especially; all those buildings on the border of Tribeca.

Like 56 Leonard?

Yes, 56 Leonard, 101 Leonard; they’re on Broadway, or Worth, or Leonard. They’re at the cross-roads of entering the Financial District, and we’re seeing those numbers shoot up. And as we see businesses populating the World Trade Center — plus the Fulton Center and the new malls — basically they’re going through the process of building an infrastructure that never existed Downtown, so that it can compete with other residential neighborhoods. It always catered to the business community, and I think the FiDi has been around for long enough as a residential destination that we’re just now seeing the makings of a true residential area in terms of amenities. So I like it for those reasons; it still has a lot of room to grow.

It would be difficult to pinpoint a neighborhood in Brooklyn, but I love Gowanus; I think it’s like a case-study.

56 Leonard

56 Leonard

Have you been there?

Yes, we’re working on projects there. The thing about Gowanus is that it’s the epicenter of many other neighborhoods. It’s between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, which are two fabulous neighborhoods.

Isn’t it centered on a toxic canal?

For many years the canal was toxic and polluted, and not very attractive –

So it’s basically like Greenpoint-lite.

Yes, but that’s changing; it’s being cleaned-up and redeveloped. There is a population of young artists and creative types that have been living in that area, and it’s been one of those sleeper neighborhoods for a long time. And as pricing continues to escalate in adjacent established neighborhoods, Gowanus is on the verge of major change.

And why has it remained so undervalued; the pollution?

Well because it had a very old stigma attached to it because of the canal, so people stayed away. But at this point we’re out of land, and it’s there, and it is a very good location — and the pollution is being addressed, and re-mediation has been ongoing for years, though it has not been obvious to people. But it’s really on the way. And Whole Foods is opening a Gowanus location, and I think that says a lot.

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Posted in 1182 Broadway | Clifford Finn | DoBro | Douglas Elliman | Downtown | FiDi | Gowanus | Jersey City | Journal Square | Long Island City | Midtown | New York | Residential | The Centurian

Construction Update: 35 XV

35 XV

Exterior work is nearly complete at Alchemy Properties35 XV is nearly complete, and cladding has wrapped up along the majority of the structure; the only side of the building that remains semi-bare is the tower’s east-facing wall. The architect is FXFOWLE.

35 XV

35 XV

YIMBY toured 35 XV back in January, and the views from the building are impressive; the ‘Skymark’ stands relatively alone, at 35 West 15th Street. The development’s mid-block location on the southern edge of Chelsea ensures it is removed from structures that would otherwise obstruct views, and the vistas from upper floors are comprehensive.

35 XV

35 XV

From the ground, 35 XV offers a refreshing take on contemporary architecture, and its sleek, jewel-like form is enhanced by the contrast with surrounding pre-war structures. While modern buildings are relatively rare in the surrounding blocks, Alchemy’s tower does an excellent job of integrating into both the street-scape and the skyline; the metal accents along the windows give the appearance of beveled edges, and the facade bears a similarity to Extell’s International Gem Tower, located thirty blocks to the north.

35 XV

35 XV

Clearly, the Gem Tower and 35 XV are from different worlds — and the towers are dedicated to different uses — but taken together, the buildings could herald a new trend in contemporary design. Improving technology allows much greater versatility with glass, and the progression of modern architecture towards texture-driven facades could re-humanize cutting-edge design; another example of ‘window depth’ can be found in 475 Park Avenue South.

35 XV

35 XV

Completion of 35 West 15th Street — which stands 24 stories in total, and has 55 residences — is slated for later this year.

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Posted in 35 West 15th Street | 35 XV | Alchemy Property | Architecture | Chelsea | Construction Update | FX Fowle | New York | Residential

Demolition Imminent: 3 West 29th Street

3 West 29th Street

The green fencing of doom has risen around the base of 3 West 29th Street, which will be torn down to make way for a mixed-use development by HFZ Capital. The Real Deal reported on the building’s impending demolition last week, which will vanish along with adjacent structures at 11 West 29th Street and 8 West 30th Street.

While YIMBY supports new development, the existing 3 West 29th Street — aka The Bancroft Building, which was built in 1896 — is one of the best remaining examples of nineteenth century New York City in the neighborhood. The facade’s brickwork is remarkable, and the structure adds significantly to NoMAD’s character.

3 West 29th Street

3 West 29th Street — the fencing of doom

Demolishing the interiors would be one thing, but the facade merits preservation. The adjacent structures will be no great loss, but The Bancroft Building is a definite gem, and — if anything — integrating its brickwork into the future skyscraper would boost potential pricing. Projects like the Hearst Tower and 111 West 57th Street prove that incorporating legacy buildings can be both aesthetically pleasing and cost-effective, and it often results in pricing premiums.

Plans for the future development are vague, though a massing diagram — via Curbed — outlines the site’s potential. With air rights totaling 350,000 square feet, the replacement will likely make a mark on the skyline.

Given NoMAD’s surging profile and cache, it is entirely possible that HFZ’s development will be aesthetically superior to The Bancroft Building; progress is not possible without sacrifice. The neighborhood is no stranger to change, and even The Empire State Building — located four blocks to the north — came at the cost of the old Waldorf Astoria.

3 West 29th Street

3 West 29th Street

Regardless of sentiments for historic architecture, it does appear that 3 West 29th Street will be coming down. Permits confirm the green fencing of doom is here to stay, as demolition was approved on February 12th. While HFZ’s project will put the land to a higher and better use, it would still be nice the exterior of The Bancroft could remain. No completion date for the new building has been announced.

3 West 29th Street

3 West 29th Street

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Posted in 3 West 29th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Demolition | HFZ Capital | Midtown | New York | NoMad | Residential | The Bancroft Building

Permits Filed: 292 Fifth Avenue

292 Fifth Avenue -- image via Google Maps

UPDATE: Per DDG, the firm involved at 292 Fifth Avenue is a different DDG, so the comparison to 100 Franklin Street and 345 Meatpacking is invalid.

Fresh permits reveal a 20-story hotel and residential building is about to begin rising at 292 Fifth Avenue, in the booming NoMAD neighborhood. The existing structure will soon be demolished, with permits for that portion of the job filed in early January. The architect of record is Rawlings, and the developer is DDG.

The site is currently occupied by a 6-story low-rise, which is of no architectural significance; 292 Fifth Avenue’s block has several nicer pre-war buildings that will hopefully be saved from future development, but the building to be demolished will be no great loss. As NoMAD continues to develop, much of the district’s historic legacy will be bulldozed to make way for new hotels and condominiums, which is fine, as long as the new structures are better than the old.

Given DDG’s involvement in the project, a stellar design is likely, and Rawlings’ track record is also impressive. DDG’s recent developments include 345 Meatpacking, which has a brick and bronze facade; the firm’s vision for 100 Franklin Street is similarly fantastic, and DDG’s collective portfolio signals a bright future for 292 Fifth Avenue.

The development will total just over 52,000 square feet, with the bulk of space to be utilized by the new hotel, which — per the Schedule A — will span the building’s first fourteen floors, with 130 rooms. Approximately 10,000 square feet will be dedicated to twelve residences on the top four floors.

No completion date has been announced, but with demolition and construction permits pending approval, work is likely imminent. DDG’s latest project will add another feather to the neighborhood’s proverbial cap, and confirms NoMAD’s continued evolution into one of the most desirable areas of Manhattan.

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Posted in 292 Fifth Avenue | Architecture | Construction Update | DDG | Hotel | Midtown | New York | NoMad | Rawlings Architects | Residential

Re-Designed: 41 East 22nd Street

41 East 22nd Street - massing diagram

Bruce Eichner’s future tower at 41 East 22nd Street has new diagrams and drawings indicating the height will be 795 feet, making it the tallest residential tower between Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The building is off the southeastern corner of Madison Square Park, and will rise in a space currently occupied by low-rises. In addition to its height, it will have a 17-foot cantilever over the adjacent 33 West 22nd Street.

41 East 22nd Street

41 East 22nd Street – Cantilever

With approximately 80 units, the project’s closest comparison is the neighboring One Madison, though that tower is nearly sold out. Together, the buildings will extend Midtown’s skyline south to 23rd Street. 41 East 22nd Street’s re-design is 77 feet taller than the original filings, and will rise 60 floors.

41 East 22nd Street’s ‘neighborhood designation’ is up in the air; the location is at the cross-roads of Gramercy and the Flatiron, though the ‘Madison Square Park’ label could also fit. What’s certain is that pricing will be astronomical, given the large floor-plans and relatively unobstructed views.

41 East 22nd Street

41 East 22nd Street – Site Layout

No completion date has been officially announced, but given the latest progression in plans, a 2014 groundbreaking seems probable.

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Posted in 43 East 22nd Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Midtown | New York | Residential

Penthouse View: Related’s One Madison

One Madison, Northwest View

YIMBY had the opportunity to tour the penthouse at Related’s One Madison, and the unit offers everything one would expect from a $50 million apartment perched 600 feet above Madison Square Park. The sky-manse takes up the building’s top three floors, and spreads over 6,850 square feet, offering the ultimate in views and space – especially for the neighborhood, which is chiefly dominated by pre-war buildings that lack the latest in modern amenities.

The penthouse begins on the 58th floor, which hosts the ‘common areas’ – and they are anything but. The great room, dining room, kitchen, and library are on this level, as well as the 586-square foot terrace, which is one of the highest outdoor spaces in Manhattan, and offers unobstructed vistas – a perfect compliment to the decidedly uncommon rooms.

One Madison's Great Room

One Madison’s Great Room – image from Dbox

Ascending to the 59th level reveals the staff quarters, a guest bedroom, as well as the media room. The 60th floor has the master’s suite, as well as the second and third bedrooms.

Currently a white-box, as buyers who spend $50 million tend to bring in their own decorating teams, Related also offers outfitting by designer Yabu Pushelberg, who is finishing the rest of the units in One Madison with his minimalist-naturalist touch. The penthouse comes in at just over $7,000 a square foot, which is a relative steal compared to the developments along 57th Street, especially as prices in the surrounding neighborhood continue to escalate with its conversion to ‘Silicon Alley’. The bonus amenity of proximity to Eleven Madison Park is also a major plus.

Besides the penthouse, several other units are also available; more information can be found at One Madison’s official website. Located at 23 East 22nd Street, the tower was designed by Cetra/Ruddy and acquired by Related and HFZ Capital. Completion is slated for early 2014.

One Madison

One Madison

One Madison, Southern View

One Madison, Southern View

 

Floorplan - Level 58

Floorplan – Level 58

Floorplan - Level 59

Floorplan – Level 59

Floorplan - Level 60

Floorplan – Level 60

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Posted in Architecture | CetraRuddy | HFZ Capital | Midtown | New York | One Madison | Related | Residential | Vista

Construction Update: 35 XV

35 XV

Alchemy Properties’ 35 XV is beginning to take its place as a ‘skymark,’ with the residential portion of the building now poking above adjacent structures. The base, which will be occupied by Xavier High School, acts as a podium, allowing the upper portion of the tower – the part that will contain residential units – to take full advantage of panoramic views.

Now passing the halfway point, 35 XV will eventually rise 25 floors and 355 feet, definitely earning the title of a ‘skymark.’ The development is especially remarkable given its location, at the cross-hairs of Flatiron, Chelsea, and the Village; NIMBYism is especially potent, and until the rise of 35 XV, nothing substantial had been built in the neighborhood for decades. More remarkable than its height is 35 XV’s mid-block location, as large towers typically rise along avenues, especially in NIMBY-dominated areas.

Indeed, 35 XV’s closest rival for prominence will be Walker Tower, though the two buildings will contrast starkly against one another; post-renovation, Walker Tower epitomizes the best of authentic, pre-war architecture, while 35 XV is decidedly contemporary.

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Posted in 35 West 15th Street | 35 XV | Architecture | Construction Update | Midtown | New York | Residential

Construction Update: One Madison

One Madison

Related’s building at One Madison continues to make progress, though the bigger story is Bruce Eichner’s recent acquisition down the block, at 43 East 22nd Street. Per The Wall Street Journal, the new tower will rise 800 feet tall – making it the tallest building in the skyscraper gap between Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

The developer has already stated that Kohn Pederson Fox will design the new tower, which will contain 90 residential units. Much of the block is dominated by older townhouses; in this case, the trade-off between history and new construction should be worthwhile, as KPF’s architectural prowess should guarantee that whatever does rise is a significant improvement in terms of aesthetics.

Flatiron/Gramercy is a current hotbed for new construction, with several super-luxury projects either under construction or on the way – One Madison is the most prominent example, but 400 and 404 Park Avenue South are also nearby, both of which will contain very high-end residences. Rumors of the expansion to the MetLife North Tower have also been floating, with SL Green’s President Andrew Mathias recently mentioning the possibility of a new 450,000 square foot addition to the building – previous renderings for that project showed a 937-foot tower by Daniel Libeskind, though the ultimate design will probably be different, as that iteration was conceived back in 2007.

What is certain is One Madison’s status as the first of this new development wave – and the building’s imminent completion, which was delayed by the financial crisis. The sales office is set to open this August.

 

Posted in 43 East 22nd Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Midtown | New York | One Madison | Residential

Construction Update: 10 East 15th Street

10 East 15th Street

The new school at 10 East 15th Street seemingly went up overnight – the site’s foundation was only completed this past March – and the steel skeleton is already at the building’s eighth floor, its final height. The project faced major neighborhood opposition in the design phase, despite the fact that it is a school. NIMBYs typically use things like schools as leverage to inconvenience developers, but in this case, the new building itself was the target – obviously NIMBYs do not actually care about schools, illustrated by the drama of the Hudson Square re-zoning.

Completion of 10 East 15th Street is expected in 2015. Once finished, the school will hold 800 students.

Posted in 10 East 15th Street | Architecture | Construction Update | Education | New York

Construction Update: 10 Madison Square West

10 Madison Square Park West

10 Madison Square West – located in the former Toy Building – is making strides in its conversion to residential space, and the project’s 5-story vertical addition is now taking shape. Located at 1107 Broadway, the development will eventually house 125 new condominiums, and marketing is geared towards families – current plans call for no studios, with units ranging from one to five bedrooms.

The project’s architect is Alan Wanzenberg, and Douglas Elliman is handling sales – the firm’s page on the development has renderings and further details, though the building’s official website is simply a registration page that looks like a Tommy Hilfiger ad. The Observer also covered 10 Madison Square West.

Adaptive re-use is an absolute necessity in cities like New York, where pre-war architecture not necessarily designed for residential use is still in enormous abundance. The old Toy Building was particularly nice, but its conversion to residential will result in something actually suited to the new Flatiron/NoMad surroundings – the neighborhood is at the center of New York’s ‘Silicon Alley’, and the demand for new housing is through the roof.

Preservationists should also be satisfied with the minor increase in 10 Madison Square’s height, which could easily be emulated in historic districts throughout the city. If a conversion can successfully blend a contextual addition with the old bones of the existing project – with no real visual difference between the two parts – there is absolutely no harm in renovating historic structures.

Though botched expansions certainly do occur, it appears that 10 Madison Square West will be a prime example of how to redevelop correctly, and the renovated building will still exude pre-war beauty – just with modern interiors.

Posted in 10 Madison Square West

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