The Real Deal New York

Stimulus money could help retrofit New York office buildings

By James Kelly | April 15, 2009 05:10PM

New York City’s slice of the billions of dollars in federal money outlined by the Treasury Department in the stimulus package signed by President Obama in February will come largely as incentives to improve energy efficiency and transportation infrastructure, according to Urban Land Institute President Richard Rosan, who spoke to a group of around 40 people today at a monthly Association of Builders and Owners of New York luncheon.

Since the city will have a maximum of only 15 percent new building stock by the year 2030, according to the institute, federal grants and tax breaks for environmental efficiency improvements are likely to come to New York in the form of renovations, Rosan said, referring to the retrofitting of existing office buildings to qualify for LEED certification.

He noted that of the federal government’s plan, in addition to the $10 billion in direct real estate investments to be allocated to city governments around the country, there will be $58 billion set aside for funding energy efficiency improvements and $27 billion for infrastructure improvements, including water and transportation. 

The non-profit institute will be publishing two books on the topic, “Retrofitting Buildings to be Green,” to be released this year, and its residential counterpart, “Retrofitting Houses to be Green,” slated for publication in 2010.

The Durst Organization’s One Bryant Park is currently the city’s only skyscraper to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest designation for energy efficiency, and Rosan urged more commercial developers to follow in Durst’s footsteps, with the help of available federal funds and tax incentives from the stimulus package. 

The Hearst Tower, at 300 West 57th Street, and 7 World Trade Center both achieved the less rigorous LEED Gold certification.

Amid optimism about coming investment from Washington, Rosan seemed realistic about the gloomy realities of the current market. 

“I don’t think there’s a very pleasant year and a half ahead for commercial real estate,” Rosan said, “but somehow I think we’ll make it.”

Rosan, who served as president of the Real Estate Board of New York for six years, did not know how much money would be granted specifically to New York City infrastructure projects, but noted that improvements to the city’s transportation system were long overdue.

Rosan did say, however, that the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Second Avenue subway project could be among the projects to receive funding. 

“I was 26 when they started the Second Avenue Subway,” Rosen said. “I’m now 67.”

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