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The Top 10 Real Estate Stories of 2014 with Jews Involved

Midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building

Here it is! JBN’s list of the ten biggest real estate news stories for 2014. The order is based on a number of factors, not just the price tag of a project or sale. The most important issue for us was the significance of the story.

10) Gary Barnett – Habonim Synagogue NY

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Synagogue Habonim 44 West 66th Street

First Gary Barnett’s Extell Development spent $45 million to buy a development site at 44 West 66th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, which came with 75, 000 square feet of development rights and also just happened to be the current home of the Habonim Synagogue.

Then it secured a $96 million loan from Natixis Real Estate Capital for the development of three parcels of adjacent land on West 66th Street.

The loan was for 18 months with an option for a six month extension. Part of the funds borrowed will be used to retire some of the debt that was accrued when the lots were first purchased.

Habonim will also have a $30 million share in the project, including its new location, leaving it a total of $75 million from the sale of its building. The synagogue expects to open its new home by 2019.

The other parcels included in the development site are located at 36-40 West 66th Street and have a total of 74, 880 square feet of development rights.

No details of the new building have been revealed yet, but it could have up to 180, 000 square feet of space. If Extell acquires another neighboring parcel owned by the nonprofit Jewish Guild Healthcare then it could go up to as much as 400, 000 square feet.

9) SL Green Pays $275 Million For Extell’s Gem Tower Space

International Gem Tower

In September SL Green Realty Corp. acquired commercial condominium units in the Midtown Manhattan Gem Tower located at 55 West 46th Street for $275 million from Gary Barnett’s Extell Development.

The company took 319, 000 square feet there consisting of vacant office space on the building’s upper floors 22 – 34, a retail store on 46th Street and the building’s parking garage and fitness center. As part of the agreement, the seller has the option to include the 2nd floor in the transaction, which consists of 28, 000 square feet, for an additional purchase price of $20 million.

Owned by Extell, 55 West 46th was designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill and completed in 2013. The glass and steel structure provides highly efficient column free space and floor-to-ceiling windows on all office floors with sweeping views of the New York City skyline. The centrally located property includes on-site parking, a fitness center, and bike storage.

Extell’s website boasts that the office tower is, “an environmentally sustainable, cutting-edge tower filed with abundant natural light and breathtaking views that complement the building’s column-free interiors, 10′ perimeter ceiling heights and floor-to-ceiling windows.”

“55 West 46th Street has been designed to cater to the demands of today’s leading businesses while providing the finest conveniences of the modern workplace, including high-speed destination dispatch elevators, a private health & fitness center, on-site valet parking and state-of-the-art security.”

8) Jared Kushner’s Jersey City Trump Bay Street Tower

Trump Bay Street

The son in law of legendary NY real estate mogul Donald Trump made a number of headlines this year. His biggest, perhaps, came when the thirty-three-year-old member of the Kushner real estate family announced plans in May to partner with Trump on a new residential development in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The 447 unit apartment building will be called Trump Bay Street and is expected to cost $193.5 million. The site went through a series of owners during the recession before being purchased by the Kushner and KABR partnership. Kushner chose to use the Trump name due to the success of the neighboring Trump Plaza. They bought the debt on the property for $6 million in 2011. It was valued at $35 million at the time.

Kushner-KABR will be putting up $38.5 million of its own equity for the project, according to reports. Another $90 million will be acquired through a construction loan and another $65 million will come from a mezzanine loan tied to a Federal visa program.

Then in June he sold a penthouse in Manhattan’s Puck Building for $28 million, or more than $4, 500 per square foot.

The second largest unit in the ten story building, at nearly 6, 000-square feet, was sold to the HNZ Group. The penthouse has three bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms. The penthouses in the building range from 4, 895 to 7, 000 square feet. All of the penthouses include barrel vault brick ceilings, cast-iron columns and oversized windows.

7) Jeffrey Berkowitz’ SkyRise Miami

SkyRise Miami

At the end of August developer Jeffrey Berkowitz announced plans for a new $430 million SkyRise Miami tower. Miamians approved the plan for the observation tower by a margin of more than two to one.

He and his partners in the development, General Growth Properties, spent a reported $300, 000 on promoting their plans with the voters of Miami.

SkyRise Miami is intended to give the city’s skyline a standout feature like the Empire State Building in New York and the Eifel Tower in Paris. To date, Miami has not been known for its skyline.

“Miami is a world class city. And I think an iconic structure downtown will firmly cement Miami on the global stage. It’s going to be Miami’s Eiffel Tower, ” said Berkowitz.

The 1, 000 foot high tower is expected to be completed by 2018.

6) Narkash holdings’ Setai Hotel in Miami Beach

Setai Hotel in Miami Beach

Announced just in time for 2014, The Narkash family, founders of the Jordache fashion empire, purchased the luxury Setai Hotel in Miami Beach located at 2001 Collins Ave for almost $90 million. The price included the next door residential tower that is also part of the hotel complex.

Nakash Holdings, which is owned by Joseph, Avi, and Ralph Nakash, now owns the 120 room hotel known as a local hideaway for visiting celebrities. That includes 85 hotel suites for rent and 35 condominium suites.

The Art Deco landmark building was originally built between 1936 – 1938, as the famed Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel. Next to the hotel is its 40-story residential glass tower that, “surpasses all around it in elevation, views and design.” The Setai was voted as the #1 hotel on Miami Beach in 2013 by U.S. World & News Report and the #1 Best Hotel in Miami and Miami Beach, as well as the #2 Best Hotel in Florida by Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s 2013 “Reader’s Choice Awards.”

From its website, “Serene and intimate, The Setai is an experience all its own. An oasis of tranquility amidst the energy of South Beach. Its design and vision artfully combine the rich architectural history of South Beach’s Art Deco District with the multi-faceted cultural history of the International Art Deco movement, particularly its influence in Asia.”

5) Saperstein’s Fleur de Lys  Mansion 

Fleur de Lys,   Los Angeles,   Real estate,   Life style,   house

First it sold in April for a record $102 million. Then it was put up for sale again at the end of July for $125 million. The estate, known as Fleur de Lys, which once belonged to Texas billionaire David Saperstein and his ex-wife Suzanne boats a 50, 000 square foot mansion custom built by the Sapersteins in 2002, before their divorce.

It has 12 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a 50-seat, satin-lined private cinema, a two story wood paneled library stocked with first-edition books and garage with parking for nine cars. Its gilded ballroom features mirror-clad arches based on those in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, as well as impressive chandeliers and a ceiling fresco.

There is also a gym, Italian marble walls, French limestone floors and gold embossed leather wall coverings, very Versailles.

There’s a spa pool with its own kitchen, an ornamental garden, 1, 600 yard running track, a championship tennis court and private quarters for as many as ten live in domestic staff.

At the entrance, a 200 yard driveway leads into a massive, open courtyard.

4) Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities $3 Billion Willets Point Queens Project Gets Green Light
Willets Point Queens

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities got word at the end of September that attempts by local activists to block their proposed $3 billion development for Willets Point in Queens had been dismissed by the courts. Opponents of the project claimed that it is planned for land which is reserved for parks, but Judge Manuel Mendez did not agree.

Wilpon plans to build a 1.4 million square foot megamall on the site, which is located opposite the Mets’ home Citi Field where a slew of body shops for cars now sit.

3) SL Green’s One Vanderbilt
One Vanderbilt


SL Green unveiled plans for a new 67 story office building opposite Grand Central station in Manhattan to be called One Vanderbilt. The company promised to spend $210 million on upgrades to Manhattan’s most important transit hub as well as include a new entranceway to it in the building’s lobby.

TD Bank has signed a long-term lease to become the office and retail anchor of the new tower. It will occupy approximately 200, 000 square feet of space in One Vanderbilt, including a flagship retail store on the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Madison Avenue.

One Vanderbilt will feature 1.6 million square feet of open and efficient LEED-certified Class A office space on the entire block of Vanderbilt Avenue between East 42nd and East 43rd Street. As part of the development, SL Green will deliver a $210 million package of public transit infrastructure improvements which will create critically-needed transit connections to Metro-North and 4/5/6/7 and S trains, as well as future East Side Access LIRR lines.

With the vast majority of funding allocated to upgrading the commuting experience in the over-burdened Grand Central 4/5/6 station, this private investment will significantly improve pedestrian flow, allowing for more trains to enter the station, as well as alleviate crowding and circulation on mezzanine and platform levels.

One Vanderbilt is currently undergoing the City’s formal public review process, expected to conclude next spring.

2) Swedish Firm Skanska and SL Green Dispute

Skanska moduloar housing project in Seattle

Where to begin with this story?

First there is the originality of the project. The 336 unit, 34 floor residential tower currently under construction at the corner of Dean St. and Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn at the heart of the dispute was to be the first prefabricated building of its kind. The apartment building is part of the multibillion Atlantic Yards development right next to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center where the Nets Play.

What happened?

Skanska suspended work at the nearby factory where the prefabricated components were being made, accusing SL Greene of reneging on an agreement to build another three buildings with materials from the plant. This left 150 people out of job.

Of course the two companies sued one another.

The story does have a happy ending, though. Skanska agreed to sell out its share to SL Green and the work has already been restarted on the project.


1) One World Trade Center

New York Commemorates The 12th Anniversary Of The September 11 Terror Attacks

Of course the Durst Organization’s new 1, 776 foot tall, 104 story One World Trade Center tower made the top of our list. What else could have been our biggest real estate story for 2014?

13 years after the 9/11 attacks, the replacement for the Twin Towers finally opened for business as the media firm Conde Nast moved into the $1.3 billon building. At the start of November, 170 of the firm’s staffers moved in to some of the space which it leased over 25 floors of the building. Conde Nast will eventually have 3, 400 of its employees work there.

Was it worth the wait? Well NY area politicians and business leaders certainly hope so.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “One World Trade Center serves as a symbol of the resilience of the people of New York. Today, as we open its doors for the first time, we remember that strength and courage will always conquer weakness and cowardice, and that the American spirit, defended by proud New Yorkers, will not be defeated.”

But this did not go over without a hitch. The offices were found to be infested with rats. Vogue staffers had to move because of it and people were told not to eat at their desks.

And not everyone thinks that putting such a large tower in the same place was such a good idea, fearing that it will now become the number one target for another attack. Chris Rock joked in his opening monologue the same week on Saturday Night Live, “They should change the name from the ‘Freedom Tower’ to the ‘Never Going in There Tower’!”



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