Christine Quinn is emerging as the favorite mayoral contender among real estate professionals, if the donations to her (still unofficial) campaign are to be believed. And the City Council Speaker has one more industry bigwig to add to her list of supporters: Gary Barnett, the president of Extell Development.
Barnett was the featured guest this afternoon at a monthly luncheon held by the Association of Real Estate Women, where he entertained the crowd of at least 170 people with his take on politics, development trends and Extell’s growing dominance in the industry.
“Some talk one way, some talk another way in terms of business,” Barnett said of Quinn. “If you look at Chris Quinn you have an almost ten-year track record in the council. You can see the way she governs, the way she works. She’s been a partner to the Mayor over the last 11 years, and the city has functioned from reasonably well to extremely well, so you got to give her the edge.”
The event, which took place at the swanky Club 101 at 101 Park Avenue at 40th Street was moderated by Joel Leitner, president of appraisal and consulting firm the Leitner Group, who told TRD he had prepared extensively for the day. “I’ve got it covered,” he said, since he had thoroughly researched his subject.
Barnett, meanwhile, made a late entrance to the affair and briefly mingled and took photos with AREW’s hosts. Stopping shortly for press inquiries, Barnett quipped to TRD that AREW “bugged the hell out of me” to get him to speak at the lunch.
Leitner asked Barnett a wide range of questions, some of which the elusive developer answered with silence or a coy smile.
As far as the residential development arena is concerned, Barnett said there was a “tremendous” unmet demand for homes priced in the middle of the market, noting that much of what is getting built is priced at $2,000 per square foot.
“There’s nothing that’s affordable, or at least something that’s at least a little more down-to-earth,” he said. “That’s an opportunity for us to add to our supply, and be one of the few suppliers to that market.”
Barnett also spoke about some of Extell’s well-publicized projects, including the International Gem Tower at 50 West 47th Street and One57 at 157 West 57th Street, as TRD and others have covered.
“I think we’ll be substantially sold out by the end of the year,” he said of the International Gem Tower, which has commercial condos at its base and office space for lease above it, and noted that One57 is 70 percent sold, with about half of the contracts signed by North American buyers.
Although Extell’s nearby development at 225 West 57th Street is expected to be the tallest residential building in the city, Barnett was more skeptical. “I don’t think it will turn out to be the tallest building,” he said.
Barnett also joked to the audience that everyone would receive 20 percent off at Nordstrom, which is taking over the building’s commercial space, when construction is finished in 2018.
And he laughed off his recent success, quipping, “If I had time to enjoy it, it’d be good.”