Of all the developments currently under construction in New York City, none have been in the making for longer than Essex Crossing, which is rising on the site of several long-vacant lots on the Lower East Side. With the master-plan’s first new buildings just about fully complete, YIMBY sat down with Charles Bendit of Taconic, and asked the co-CEO ten questions about the New York City real estate market.
YIMBY in bold.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
With our partners L+M Development Partners and BFC Partners, we’re developing Essex Crossing, a 1.9 million-square-foot mixed-use development with residential, office, retail, cultural and community components on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Often referred to as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA), the project includes nine sites that sat mostly vacant since 1967, and represent the largest development opportunity south of 96th Street with the exception of Hudson Yards. The sites will be connected by a new park and green space above ground, in addition to a world-class marketplace below ground called The Market Line, which will complement the historic Essex Street Market.
We’re particularly excited about Essex Crossing’s first condominium, 242 Broome, which is nearing completion and will open to residents in the spring. Designed by SHoP Architects, the building will also serve as the new home of the International Center of Photography, a highly respected cultural institution that will provide a wide range of exhibitions and programming for the community to enjoy. ICP also offers classes and workshops that residents can take part in.
Outside of those, what’s your favorite new development currently under construction within the five boroughs?
I’m very impressed with the Hudson Yards and World Trade Center sites. These are world-class developments that will be recognized around the globe for their scale, architecture and mixed-use nature.
Which neighborhood are you most optimistic about going into 2018, in terms of impending price appreciation?
The Lower East Side is an area that’s been underserved by luxury residential buildings in the past. It’s a lively neighborhood with a rich history that is poised to evolve as Essex Crossing takes shape. Here, apartment prices are still relatively low compared to the rest of the city, and the area offers a great value proposition. The Lower East Side also has a vibrant art and cultural scene unmatched anywhere else in the city, which Essex Crossing’s offerings will complement.
Which neighborhoods are you most pessimistic about?
I think all of the city’s neighborhoods have the potential for growth to some degree. The success of these areas, however, depends on whether or not the City embraces new development and redevelopment opportunities that will enhance and improve the existing neighborhood.
What’s your favorite borough and has this opinion changed over time?
I can’t say that I have a favorite borough—we’ve had success in Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx. I like any borough where we can build successful projects that create lasting value for the community, which is of utmost importance. We saw the opportunity to help transform the Meatpacking District into a thriving office, tech and retail hub. We’re now seeing parallels between the Meatpacking District of years past and the Lower East Side of today, including the emerging residential and office markets, and ease of access to other downtown neighborhoods.
What’s your favorite existing building?
Our favorite building is 111 Eighth Avenue, which we acquired in 1997 as part of a portfolio of assets. This building represented our first major bet on the Meatpacking District. In 2010, Google—one of the building’s tenants—purchased the building from us for $1.77 billion. Our offices are located in the building, and it’s still very special to us.
What is the worst architectural abomination in New York City?
Abomination is a strong word, but I’d say Port Authority and Penn Station are the city’s most functionally obsolete mass transit hubs. They could certainly use redevelopment.
Which neighborhood needs zoning reform the most?
A housing shortage has contributed to the crisis surrounding high-priced rentals and condominiums in Manhattan and the outer boroughs. To remedy this, the City would be best served to adopt a comprehensive plan that allows for development with housing and retail components centered around mass transit, including the subway system and commuter rail. These areas would be great candidates for upzoning.
Congestion pricing or Millionaire Tax?
That’s a bit of a loaded question. The city needs better traffic management and more investment in mass transit. As a community, we’ll all benefit from these changes and we should all contribute to their costs.
What’s your overall sentiment on the market for 2018?
We’re particularly optimistic about the city’s residential and office markets. There’s been a lot of residential development in recent years across all of the boroughs, particularly in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and we expect that 2018 will be a time of absorption. As for the office market, we expect to see continued migration to newer products as the year continues.